By: Tom Fink | Category: Rogers County | Issue: April 2022
Wayne McCombs, Director, J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum
Sometimes, the most enduring legacies can come from the least likely of places.
Like many towns in Oklahoma, Claremore has its share of distinguished current and former residents, but it wasn’t until J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum Director Wayne McCombs was coming off the turnpike one day that the idea was born to honor them in a lasting way.
“Several years ago, maybe in 2011, I was coming into Claremore from the Will Rogers Turnpike,” McCombs said. “At the time, there was a small display there, which had brochures about the city – our museums, restaurants, etc. – and to the side (of the display), it had a ‘Claremore Hall of Fame’, which recognized noteworthy citizens.
“I got to thinking to myself ‘Why is that there? Most people coming off the turnpike are in a hurry to get somewhere else, so why isn’t that somewhere people can see and enjoy it?’,” he said. “When I came to the (J.M. Davis Arms & Historical) museum in 2009, I was saddened because so many people would tell me that they hadn’t been to the gun museum in years, and they were almost all people from Claremore or the Tulsa area.
Dr. Bob Blackburn was the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society for 22 years.
“It got me to thinking: How can I get local people to make the gun museum a regular place to visit?, so I thought we could have the Claremore Hall of Fame in the museum,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, the local hall of fame was moved to the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, housed in the Claremore History room, where it remained for several years, until, with the addition of new members, it grew to the point that it had to be moved to the Claremore Conference Center to accommodate all the hall of fame members.
This May, three more will be added to the local hall of fame: Dr. Bob Blackburn, P.S. Gordon, and Lt. Colonel Lee F. Gilstrap.
“The selection process is a collaborative process between us, the other museums in town, the Claremore Chamber, the Convention & Visitors Bureau (now, Visit Claremore), and people involved in the tourism and promotion of Claremore,” he said. “Once someone is nominated, we keep their names on file and select from all the suggestions we’ve been given each year. This year’s selections are an excellent example of the kind of people that come out of Claremore.”
Dr. Bob Blackburn is the recently retired executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society – a position in which he served for 22 years.
Patrick (P.S.) Gordon is an artist whose diverse works reside in distinguished private, corporate and museum collections throughout the United States, and his print editions have been popular with collectors internationally. After living, working and celebrating success in New York for nearly a decade, Gordon returned to Oklahoma, where he maintains a private studio in Tulsa. He is a recipient of the Living Legend Artist Award, presented by Living Arts of Tulsa.
Lt. Col. Gilstrap began his military career as a bugler for the Oklahoma National Guard. In WWI, Gilstrap was involved in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He began rescuing fallen soldiers and pressed German soldiers he had captured into carrying wounded U.S. soldiers to field hospitals.
After the war, he became principal and coach at Putnam City High in Oklahoma City. In 1927, he joined the staff at Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore as an instructor and coach, and later became commander of OMA.
“All three of these men have outstanding records of service during their lives,” McCombs said, “and the city and residents of Claremore are very proud of these native sons and their achievements.
Upon their induction, Dr. Blackburn, Gordon, and Lt. Col. Gilstrap will join the ranks of other Claremore Hall of Fame luminaries such as Dr. Keith Ballard, J.M. Davis, Maggie Culver Fry, Darnell Jones, Elizabeth Gordon, Clem McSpadden, Dr. Richard Mosier, Paul Neely, Patti Page, Andy Payne, Bob Portiss, Lynn Riggs, Frank and Ludmilla Robson, Clem Rogers, Will Rogers, Stuart Roosa, Stratton Taylor, and others.
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This year, the Claremore Museum of History, the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum and the Oklahoma Military Academy (OMA) have joined together to present the Claremore History Legends & Hall of Fame Induction. The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. May 6 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa. The ceremony will be preceded by a reception.
The Claremore Hall of Fame is located at the Claremore Conference Center at 1400 W. Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore, with a video essay about the Claremore Hall of Fame on permanent display in the Claremore Room at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, also in Claremore.
For more information, contact the Claremore Museum of History at 918-923-6490.
Lt. Colonel Lee F. Gilstrap was involved in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in WWI. In 1927, he joined the staff at Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore as an instructor and coach, and later became commander of OMA.
Patrick (P.S.) Gordon is an artist whose diverse works reside in distinguished private, corporate and museum collections throughout the United States.
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