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October 9, 1998

One of Perry's most distinguished citizens has been chosen to receive a unique honor from the Oklahoma State Senate, an assembly that he helped mold in the earliest years of this century. Henry S. Johnston came to Perry only a few hours after the great land run of September 16, 1893, and stayed to become a key figure in writing the state's constitution, presiding over the constitutional convention, becoming the first president pro tempore of the state Senate, and eventually governor of his adopted state. Now he is in line for special recognition from the legislative body he partially created. You and I can help make that possible.

Mr. Johnston has been chosen to become the subject of an oil painting that will be hung in the lounge of the State Senate at the capitol, or in an adjacent public area of the Senate. His selection was made by State Sen. Charles Ford of Bartlesville on the basis of Mr. Johnston's significant role in fashioning the history of the Senate and, indeed, the state of Oklahoma itself. The honor is part of a grand plan to prepare for the state's Centennial Celebration in 2007. Sen. Ford's efforts are being supported by State Sen. Robert Milacek of Waukomis.

The plan's objective is to present 18 paintings and two bronze statues for display in the Senate Lounge and other public areas of the Senate in time for the Centennial. Thus far, four paintings have been committed. Each of the paintings and bronze pieces will be privately financed and donated to the state. The artist's fee and associated expenses for Mr. Johnston's portrait will total approximately $5,500, and contributions are now being requested to provide that amount. Sen. Ford has asked Charles Hall of the Perry Exchange Bank & Trust Co. to head up the effort in this area, and Hall is now receiving funds for that purpose. It is hoped that contributions can be received by November 1. All gifts will be acknowledged and a commemorative plate will be attached to the portrait to explain Mr. Johnston's role in the development of the state.

Mr. Johnston's career ended with his death at the age of ninety-seven on January 7, 1965. During his long lifetime he experienced enough highs and lows to provide the basis for a good novel. He was loved, honored and respected by thousands, but there also were detractors who saw him in a different light. When he was ousted from the governor's office by impeachment in 1929, it was a moment of dark despair. But a cheering reception from home folks followed a few hours later when he returned to Perry from the gloomy halls of the state capitol, and his spirit was instantly refreshed.

There's more to this story and I'll try to bring part of it to you in ensuing installments. Meantime, check with Charles Hall if you want to help with this project to pay tribute to Henry S. Johnston. Checks may be made out to the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund.