Oklahoma Governors: Martin E. Trapp (1923-1927)
When Martin Trapp’s father staked a claim a few miles west of Guthrie in the Land Run of 1889, his twelve-year-old, Kansas-born son came with him as an Oklahoma Territory pioneer. Educated mostly by his parents, neighbor cooperatives, and himself, the younger Trapp taught school and wrote for Frank Greer’s Oklahoma State Capital newspaper as a young man. He then won election as Logan County clerk, state auditor, and three terms as lieutenant governor. From there, he ascended to the governor’s office in late 1923 upon the removal of John C. Walton.
The politics of an Oklahoma full of pioneers, frontiersmen, and trailblazers of every stripe makes its modern counterpart look tame. Threats, impeachments, martial law, and the National Guard regularly festooned the front pages of state newspapers. During an impeachment cavalcade that brought down successive governors and assorted other office holders, Trapp’s impeachment as lieutenant governor by the state house for supposed improper private business practices was overthrown by the senate.
Trapp was the consummate salve for an Oklahoma torn by near civil war during the short governorship of John C. Walton. He immediately launched a purge of Walton’s suspect appointments, including the nearly 3,000 special law enforcement officer commissioners. The legislature respected his wise, poised leadership and passed no bills over his veto. He utilized his expertise as a municipal securities dealer to restore the state’s credit, which entailed quashing numerous of Walton’s spendthrift projects. To finance a greatly improved and expanded state highway program, he spearheaded a modest tax increase, financed only by those citizens who drove on those early-day roads. And he and his new McAlester State Penitentiary Warden appointment W. S. Key led the prison into economic self-sufficiency for the first time ever.
“When he appointed a man, he clothed him with absolute authority to run the office to which he was appointed,” recalled Trapp Administration official Edward M. Box, “and never in my three years of experience in that office did I know of him making any department head make