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January 21, 2000

Continuing our personal list of nominations for "Top Ten" status during the past century in Noble county, pretending that such a list exists:

Henry S. Johnston. The former governor of Oklahoma and part of the mechanism that brought this territory to statehood cannot be omitted from any list such as this. He was a colorful character, a Cherokee Strip pioneer, a deep thinker, a visionary, and a martyr to his personal creed. He was impeached by the state house of representatives and ousted from office on the basis of a single questionable issue - general incompetence. More reasoned minds have since declared the process was vindictive, motivated by political hatred and spite from within his own Democratic party. Gov. Johnston, an attorney, later returned to the capitol as a state senator. His unique role in the development of the state of Oklahoma will continue to be his crowning virtue for years to come. He served this community and this state in many distinguished roles.

Ethel L. Johnston. She was dearly beloved in this community, her adopted hometown, and indeed anywhere else she touched. As the wife of Governor Henry S. Johnston, she was Oklahoma's first lady during the closing years of the 1920's. The present governor's mansion was built during the Johnston administration and Mrs. Johnston was largely responsible for choosing the interior decorations. Her family was the first to occupy the mansion. In later years she was grand secretary of the Oklahoma Eastern Star. She was an active clubwoman and a vigorous proponent of women's rights.

Sen. Henry Bellmon. His place in Oklahoma history is secure. He was the first Republican elected governor of this state since statehood was granted to Oklahoma in 1907. After his first term, he left the office and two years later was elected to the U.S. Senate for two consecutive six-year terms. After his second term, he returned to Oklahoma and was again elected governor. He is credited with the conversion of this state to two-party government by building a strong and focused Republican party, largely through his personal integrity and rugged determination. He is widely respected by friends and political foes alike. Sen. Bellmon has largely devoted himself the past few years to operating the wheat farm he loves in an area east of Billings.

Shirley Bellmon. As Oklahoma's first lady when her husband was governor and later as the official hostess and active wife of U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, she captured the imagination of others by assuming an active role in business. Before her husband served as governor he had a term in the state House of Representatives from Noble county in the late 1940's. While also rearing the couple's three daughters at the state capitol and later in Washington, D.C., she found outlets for her creative energy. She teamed with another Congress member's wife in the operation of a home decorating business in Washington. Later came a doll-making enterprise in Billings where a "First Lady" line of premium dolls is manufactured and marketed in this area. She now is also the operator of a cafe' in Billings.

More nominees for this make-believe list will follow shortly.