covering Oklahoma’s and the nation’s historic moments
The story of Oklahoma politics from statehood to today has been written by many men and women who became inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
I was among at least 20 Hall of Famers who covered politics during our careers. They included name such as “The Country Boy,” Frosty, Otis, Barbara, the dean of state Capitol reporters, and Ralph, who kept a “Capitol Spotlight” on our state lawmakers.
Here are brief summaries about many of them:
- Cullen Johnson opened The Oklahoman’s Washington Bureau in 1946 and covered the news there for five years before returning to Oklahoma City to work for The Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times.
- Roy P. Stewart, known as “The Country Boy,” told readers what was happening in politics at the nation’s capital, including what Oklahoman’s delegation was doing. His “Country Boy Column” ran in The Oklahoman every weekend, along with stories about the issues facing Oklahomans and the Oklahoma delegation.
- Chuck Ervin of the Tulsa World was the quintessential reporter, staying up late at political events, picking up tips that led to “page one” stories. One of his many awards was for covering the 1973 prison riot.
- The Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock has served at the Capitol for more than 25 years, longer than any other reporter in recent history. She covers the Legislature, governor, state agencies, courts, and elections. Her state prison stories led to the Legislature appropriating money to correct deficits. She was part of a team covering the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the subsequent trials.
- Lilian Newby worked for the Tulsa Tribune’s Capitol bureau. Concurrently, she led a fight resulting in a state shield law to protect reporters’ sources.
- Ed Montgomery, chief of The Oklahoman Capitol bureau, was a steady influence on young reporters. He could find a story where others couldn’t. He broke a story about a labor commissioner who falsified travel claims, leading to the commissioner’s resignation.
- Harry Culver headed the United Press International’s Capitol bureau. He was an expert on explaining complicated state budget and state retirement issues.
- Chris Casteel moved from being The Oklahoman’s police reported to the state Capitol and from there to the Washington bureau, excelling on each assignment. He continues to cover state politics, national politics and the courts.
- Ron Jenkins, The Associated Press Capitol reporter, made sense of major state issues while providing daily coverage of House and Senate sessions, Oklahoma politics and national politics. He traveled the state with Oklahoma and presidential candidates. Jenkins could spot election trends and had a knack for predicting election winners.
- Tim Talley has faithfully covered the Oklahoma statehouse for The Associated Press since 1995. He helped cover the criminal trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. He retired in 2019 after nearly 25 years.
- Otis Sullivant set the standard for political coverage. He was The Oklahoman reporter for 44 years. In 1963, the Society of Professional Journalists cited him for his contributions to public understanding of government. He covered the impeachment of governor Henry Johnston in 1929. Sullivant covered 15 political conventions and 10 presidential campaigns.
- Ray Parr’s peers considered him Oklahoma’s greatest writer. He covered the state Senate and state courts, coupling coverage with a humorous Sunday column, “Parr for the Course,” which often detailed state senators’ dealings behind closed doors. The Hall of Fame said Parr “easily is one of the best newspapermen Oklahoma ever produced.”
- From 1929 to 1938, Irvin Hurst covered the Capitol for the Oklahoma City Times. He covered the Oklahoma Legislature and Oklahoma Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, one of the state’s most colorful governors, and the administration of oil man Governor E.W. Marland. When Hurst died at 90, his obituary said he had talked with every man who served as governor since statehood.
- Jim Young covered the State Capitol for The Oklahoman and later the Oklahoma City Times. He was well-versed in politics, its history, and legislators’ tricky ways.
- Frosty Troy was a tireless reporter who covered the State Capitol and reported from Washington for the Tulsa Tribune. When Frosty returned to Oklahoma, he took over the Oklahoma Observer, a journal of commentary that continues today. Troy also broadcast “Fridays with Frosty.”
- Carter Bradley worked for the Ponca City News and the Oklahoma City Times. He then joined United Press International in 1943, serving as state manager from 1947 to 1960.
- Ralph Sewell, an editor at The Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times, taught journalism at the University of Oklahoma for 11 years. Sewell’s arrangement with the Oklahoma Press Association allowed his students to report on Oklahoma politics for small newspapers in the state, giving students the opportunity to sharpen their journalism skills. Sewell’s “Capitol Spotlight” ran in 56 Oklahoma newspapers.
Capitol Press Corps members in 1986 gathered around Governor George Nigh, front row, center, further hit this photograph. Standing, from left: David Zizzo, Harry Culver, Paul English, Chris Casteel, Elaine Johns, Joan Biscupic, Chuck Ervin, Ron Jenkins, unidentified, Samme Chittum, unidentified, Peter Maize, John Greiner, Jim Myers, Jan Lovell, Howard Phillips, Charlie Newcomb, and John Reed. Front row, sitting, from left: Bill Johnson, Jennifer Jones, Nancy Mathis, Denise—, Governor Nigh, Tracy Bryan, Marie Price, Jennifer Reynolds, and Dan Mahoney.
Oklahoma’s lawmakers and government officials were under the watchful eyes of the press in this undated photo.