November 12, 1999
Recently, in a series of columns about Perry's first physician, Dr. Thomas McIntyre Cullimore, reference was made to the Chronicles of Oklahoma, a publication of the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1960 the Chronicles had a piece about Dr. Cullimore and that same edition also told about Robert Cunningham, the Stillwater photoengraver and collector of historic Oklahoma photographs. W .S. Prettyman, a pioneer Oklahoma photographer, also was a subject of that article. Now I have a more current edition of the Chronicles (Summer, 1999) with a story that surely is of interest to folks in Perry.
This one is about Mrs. O.O. (Mamie) Hammonds, who played an important part in the administration of former Gov. Henry S. Johnston, the Perry attorney who eventually was impeached from that high office. Many believe Mrs. Hammonds was the pivotal figure in the controversy that raged around Gov. Johnston when a rebellious, Democrat-dominated legislature voted to oust him when his term of office was barely half over. Gov. Johnston also was a Democrat but his opponents in that party showed him no mercy or even party loyalty. He faced 11 specific charges but was found guilty of only one -- general incompetency. For that he was removed from office on March 20, 1929, with two years remaining in his term as governor.
Mrs. Hammonds was a former worker in the Democratic party and the women's division of the Ku Klux Klan. At that time, the Klan was not held in low contempt as is generally the case today. Still, it was a divisive issue in Gov. Johnston's election campaign. Mrs. Hammonds became his confidential secretary after he was sworn into office on Jan. 10, 1927, and her subsequent treatment of legislative leaders probably played a major role in the troubles that plagued the governor. Bizarre stories cropped up concerning Mr. Johnston and his secretary. Some claimed that the governor belonged to the Rosicrucian philosophical group, and that Mrs. Hammonds "traveled through space" to investigate the character of applicants for public office, while still physically at her desk. It also was claimed that Mr. Johnston signed legislative bills by the signs of the zodiac and requested Mrs. Hammonds' help in consulting with the dead.
Much of this is covered in "The First Generation," a history of the first half century of Perry and the Charles Machine Works, Inc. Much more is offered in the Chronicles of Oklahoma article written by Janel A. Mattingly, museum educator at Omniplex Science Museum in Oklahoma City. Her piece contains many interesting sidelights and insights to the aborted term of office of Gov. Henry S. Johnston. Find a copy of Oklahoma Chronicles at a book store or elsewhere and read it for yourself. Better still, become a member of the Oklahoma Historical Society and receive a copy of the Chronicles four times a year as a bonus.
The article concludes thusly: "The administration of Henry S. Johnston brought to a close the decade of the 1920s. Undoubtedly, it will long be remembered as the end of one of the strangest decades for politics in Oklahoma, due in no small part to Mamie Hammonds." (Copyright 1979. Reprinted from "The Chronicles of Oklahoma" Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Histori¬cal Society, 1999).