The Norman Transcript

May 12, 2013

Remembering George Nigh


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — George Nigh was sworn into office four times and served longer as Oklahoma’s chief executive officer than any other person in the state’s history.

He was serving as lieutenant governor when J. Howard Edmondson resigned to become a U.S. Senator and again when David Boren did the same. Later, he was elected to his own two terms as governor.

Gov. Nigh wore a white hat and campaigned on the OU campus in my undergraduate days. A few years later, my first role in the Oklahoma City Gridiron Show was to play the part of the Nigh’s daughter Georgeann. (Thankfully, women journalists were soon admitted to the club).

Gov. Nigh presided over boom times and bust years of Oklahoma. He once told me he would like to write a newspaper column, much like Will Rogers.

His life’s story will be the focus of an OU symposium this week at the Oklahoma History Center. The Nigh Symposium follows last year’s conference looking at J. Howard Edmondson. Next year’s candidate is Henry Bellmon, followed by Dewey Bartlett in 2015.

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Until 21 gunshots pierced the afternoon air Friday, the memorial honoring our local fallen law enforcement officers was just another civic event to attend. Those three shots, fired by seven uniformed officers, was a wake-up call to those in attendance.

“We never know when we leave our house every morning if we will be home that night,” said Sheriff Joe Lester.

He said he had seen dozens of fellow officers die in his 40 plus years of law enforcement, including military police and Tulsa police service.

Police Chief Keith Humphrey said it matters not whether the officer was a victim of gunshots, a car wreck or if they were killed in a terrorist attack, they “should never be forgotten.”

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The brothers of OU’s Kappa Sigma fraternity took one last trek through the old chapter house Friday night. Alumni deemed the red-brick, two-story Colonial at 1100 College to be so much more than a fixer upper. It’ll come down soon, making way for a new chapter house.

We posed for photos. Some grads from the 1950s and 1960s came through but it was the 70s contingent that had the best showing at the tear-down party Friday.

So many memories of the house, my college home and first bed away from home. It was built in the late 1940s and was believed to be the first fraternity or sorority south of Lindsey Street. Others soon followed as Greek houses developed and outgrew their homes.

OU’s Greek system remains strong, with several organizations building new chapter houses. Next door, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity has a beautiful new house and the Alpha Tau Omega chapter is building a block south where the Sigma Nu house once stood.

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On a somewhat related note, an astute former colleague corrected my reported blood alcohol content from last week’s column. After a two hour drinking binge under the supervision of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, my blood alcohol content was .088, not .88, as written. The latter would have resulted in an obituary, not a Sunday column.