oklahoma - American Farmers & Ranchers

oklahoma - American Farmers & Ranchers

OKLAHOMA FARMERS. Oklahoma Farmers Union A History of the First 91 Years Smee 1905, through good years and hard times, the Oklahoma Farmers Union ...

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Oklahoma Farmers Union A History of the First 91 Years

Smee 1905, through good years and hard times, the Oklahoma Farmers Union has worked for and served the family farmer. Here, for the first time, that story of service and dedication unfolds against the dramatic backdrop of farming and ranching in Oklahoma. This history is more than the tale of one institution, however. It is the story of the men and women who have made the Oklahoma Farmers Union one of the most respected farm organizations in the country. Through years of dedication, countless rural citizens have served their fellow Oklahomans by serving th� Farmers Uniori. It is this spirit of giving that comes through in every chapter. The other theme that emerges is leadership. Like John Simpson, who rallied the forces of farm families to affect national farm policy. Like Z.H. Lawter, the tireless worker who gave thousands of speeches in small commu­ nities and crossroads spots where there were no communities. Like Dora Barney, who dedicated her life to serving young people so they, too, might enjoy the benefits of rural living. This is a grassroots history, the history of an organization and the people who founded it, nurtured it, and kept it growing and adapting to new and changing times. This is the history of the Oklahoma Far;mers Union.

About the Author Dr. Milligan is a native of Golden, McCurtain County, Oklahoma. As a graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant in 1965 and Arkansas State University in 1966, he received his doctorate from Texas Tech University in 1975. He taught history at Southeastern Oklahoma State University for 28 years until his retirement in 1995. Currently residing in Atoka, Oklahoma, Milligan is the author of a number of state histories and articles and a member of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, and the Oklahoma Historical Society.

OKLAHOMA FARMERS UNION A History of the First 91 Years James C. Milligal) ��


Cottonwood Publications 1997

Dedicated to the members of the Oklahoma Farmers Union.

First Edition © Oklahoma Farmers Union All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, tran­ scribed, stored in a retrieval system, or translated into any language in any form without the written permission of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. Published by Cottonwood Publications Editor: Dr. Bob L. Blackburn Design: Bill Siemens Printed in the US.A. 11


President's Preface



Chapter I

The Founding of the Farmers Union

Chapter II

A Militant Voice for Oklahoma Farmers


Chapter III

A New Deal for Oklahoma Farmers


Chapter IV

A Fair Deal for Oklahoma Farmers


Chapter V

Fighting for the Family Farmer


Chapter VI

Facing the Farm Crisis


Chapter VII

Education, Legislation, and Cooperation


Chapter VIII

Still Serving Rural Oklahoma








For almost a century Farmers Union has been part of our states' landscape-during both territorial days and statehood. While issues brought the union of rural people together, the strength of the organization has always been in its people. We have come from humble rural grassroots beginnings to an organization of 110,000 family members that today includes both rural and urban membership. It is these members and their contributions that we celebrate in this book, contributions that made a difference in the history of Oklahoma and the United States. Since becoming President of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, and before, it has been my desire to preserve the history and contributions of our organization before that information, photographs and other memo­ rabilia are lost. I think you will find in this book that we have been successful in capturing the essense of the Farmers Union. Because none of our original founders are alive today to recount the earliest days, we have relied on printed resources to a great degree. Personal interviews have been done with as many of our older members who we could identify. They have provided great insight into the first fifty years of the organiza­ tion. People like Howard Metcalfe-whose mother and artist Augusta Metcalfe personified the hard-working and family-oriented membership­ provided enriching interviews. As with any organization and people, we have experienced the best of times and the worst of times. There have been times of prosperity and times ofrecession and depression. The leadership of the organization has had presidents and boards who were builders while others served as caretakers. Each has had a place in continuing the Union. Early fireballs IV

like President John Simpson and Secretary Zed Lawter will long be remembered for their vigor in promoting the Union. Perhaps what has served the union best is continuity of leadership. Since this organization was founded, fewer than ten men have been honored by the membership to serve as president and lead this great organization. The Farmers Union has always been a family group beginning with its support for family farmers and support for youth and education programs and other worthwhile initiatives. It is within this family context that the organization has had many "lively" discussions, particularly involving elections and setting policy. The Oklahoma Farmers Union has a very colorful past as you will soon find in reading this book. While our members' views have differed at times, their motives have remained pure to the Union for what they thought was right and what was good for agriculture and rural areas, families, youth and to morality. Time will tell if this organization holds to the principles which made it great and have passed the test of time. The Oklahoma Farmers Union is much bigger than just a farm organization sprouted from its grassroots. Today, the Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. is an integral part of the group. Both are complementary to each other. With a surplus of $23 million and growing and an eye to the future with automation and system process studies underway, this company is positioned to make its mark in the next century. While this book was my dream to see such an effort accomplished, the project would not have been possible without the financial commit­ ment of the Board of Directors, the writing skills of Dr. Jim Milligan, the editing and publishing expertise of Dr. Bob Blackbum, the artistic talents of Jack Wells, the overall project coordination of staff member Paul Jackson and the contributions of materials, photographs and stories by individual members. People on the local level-grassroots membership-is the foundation of an organization such as Farmers Union and the principles for which it stands. Most assuredly the future rests with this same group as to the future of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. We hope this book not only serves as a window on the past but as a guide to the future. Phillip Klutts, President





The dream of creating a national union for farmers began in 1902 in a small town in northeast Texas. Here, with the assistance of a few of his neighbors in the community of Point, in Rains County, Isaac Newton Gresham, a visionary newspaper editor and farmer, funded the o

first branch of the Farmers Union. The movement spread quickly and within months the philosophy of unionism crossed the Red River into Oklahoma and Indian Territories where it became the Oklahoma Farmers Union. The momentum toward cooperative organization in the "Twin Territories" was caused by the growing economic plight confronting farmers at the end of the nineteenth century. As early as 1781, Thomas Jefferson, an enlightened farmer in his own right, had written that farmers were "the chosen people of God" and for more than two centuries Americans had agreed. However, the rapid industrialization of America following the Civil War had created a world that threatened the farmer's very existence. Thousands of Americans were affected.1 Statistics clearly illustrated that farming was still the lifestyle preferred throughout the nation by the 20th Century. According to the Census Bureau, there were 2,044,077 farms in 1868 with an average size of 199 acres valued at $6.6 billion. By 1900 agriculture had expanded to the point that farm acreage amounted to 879 million acres. And, the number of farms had increased to 6.4 million by 1910.2 American farmers produced a flood of crops and millions of head of livestock. As an example, cotton reached 4.4 million bales in 1880-81 and 2


Family farming was the preferred lifestyle of Oklahomans in the 1900s.

CHAPTER 1 increased again to 6.6 million bales in the 1900-01 season. Simulta­ neously, foreign markets were found for farm goods as production quickly outdistanced domestic demand. Total exports for the United States in 1880 was $836 million, of which seventy percent was farm products. 3 Despite this phenomenal growth, the financial position of farmers declined in direct proportion. Reports in 1880 measured income per farmer at only $252 annually, compared to $572 for non-farm workers. By 1900 the average annual income of non-farmers increased to $622, while those on the farm had only grown to $268. Oklahoma, representing the best part of the agricultural frontier still remaining in 1890, was severely stricken by this national downward trend offarming profitability. Government officials estimated that the bare subsistence level of living for a family of four was approximately $600 per year. Since the American farmer was making only $200-300 annually, it was obvious that farmers were going deeper into debt with each passing season. Farmers needed help badly, and it was that plight that ushered in the creation of a number of farm organizations devoted to their assistance. 4 As early as 1867 a group of clerks in the agriculture bureau in Washington, D.C., had formed the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry for the purpose ofhelping farmers organize to deal collectively with their economic problems. More commonly known as the Grange, this organization was arranged along fraternal or Masonic lines. Designed to

Threshing outfit of E.L. "Lee" Lemon, near Nash, Ok., about 1897. Lee at steering wheel.


THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION provide social diversions for its members, the Grange also provided educational and cooperative services. Originally, the Grangers did not contemplate using their organization for political activities. Rather, its goals were mutual benefit and improvement, commercial success, and resistance to monopolies. Its major objective was the establishment of cooperatives that would enable farmers to receive higher prices for their crops. While it was the first serious effort ever attempted by farmers to organize on a national level, the Grangers achieved extraordinary success. Granges were established in more than thirty states, where their leaders claimed to have an enrolled membership of over 800,000. But their early victories were fleeting ones. In the 1870s the Grange movement was devastated when the nation experienced one of its periodic panics. Characterized by a particularly severe economic depression that practi­ cally destroyed the national economy, the few organized Grange coopera­ tives suffered extreme financial setbacks that eventually led to the collapse of the movement. The Granges were soon replaced by a more militant organization known as the Farmer Alliance. Created in 1875, the Southern Farmer Alliance was formed as a mutual marketing association in Lampasas County, Texas. Sponsoring social, economic, and educational programs for farmers, in particular the Alliance supported business cooperatives, usually grain elevators. Also, the Alliance called for more aggressive actions against the railroads and "middlemen," both considered tradi­ tional enemies by farmers. Alliance members rightfully accused the railroads of charging exorbitant fees for freight and transportation services, while the processors and sellers of farm products were charged with demanding and receiving too much of the profits from the labor of farmers. Like the Grange, the Farmer Alliance grew rapidly in strength and numbers for a few years. In 1890 their leaders claimed approximately 400,000 in memberships, but almost as quickly as they had risen to prominence, the Alliance suffered the same fate as their predecessors. The few cooperatives that had formed were soon forced into bankruptcy after a few years of success. This caused irreparable damage to the Alliance crusade. While cooperatives failed for a variety of reasons, the primary blame could be placed largely upon the farmers themselves. Because they lacked sufficient business experience, farmers had neither the knowledge



Oklahoma wheat fields.

nor the managerial skills needed to run successful cooperative enterprises. They gave credit too easily to their friends and neighbors, while not allowing for sufficient profit margins for their goods. The results were disastrous. In essence, most farmers did not understand the complex workings of the international free market system. Another weakness in the movement had been the desire by some of the Alliance leaders to tum the associations into political organizations. These members believed that by political cooperation state and national representatives could be elected that would correct the ills that seemed to constantly plague farming. Despite admonitions from their colleagues, they entered candidates in numerous political races. All too often, their efforts proved disappointingly unsuccessful, a development that only caused more controversy. By the end of the decade of the 1880s, the Alliance, tom by division and dissension, disintegrated as its members looked elsewhere for solutions to their problems. The idea of political organization which so many had fervently supported as Alliance members was not dead, however. Many farmers, long tired of repeated rhetoric and promises by the two major parties, decided to seek answers through political means-but with a new party. At first discussed only as an alternative option to the Democratic and Republican parties, the notion of a separate, independent third party gradually took hold among farmers. Two years prior to the presidential election of 1892, the farmers finally took action. Leaders, with the fervor of an old-time evangelistic revival meeting, gathered in Omaha to estab6

THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION lish a party of their own. They called it the Populist, or People's, Party. Officially supporting James B. Weaver against incumbent Ben­ jamin Harrison and his opponent Grover Cleveland, the Populists fielded a full slate of candidates for both national and local offices. Leaders such as Ignatius Donnelly and "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman crossed the South and Mid-West preaching a redress of grievances, as had the Grange and Farmer Alliance movements before them. Their political platform specifi­ cally called for a number of reforms: the coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to l; the use of postal savings banks; a national paper currency; the governmental ownership and operation of telephones, telegraphs, and railroads; a subtreasury (warehouse) plan for storage of crops; and the use of initiative and referendum in political elections. In an effort to attract the general public to their party, the Populists also sponsored plans for the direct election of senators, the secret ballot, graduated income taxes, and even an eight-hour work day. Because the Populists attracted only farmers, they made few gains in the political field. The radical arm of the Party received most of the headlines, frightening the more conservative voters in America. Leaders such as Mary Ellen Lease, known as "the Kansas Pythoness" for her sharp-tongued advice to farmers to "raise less com and more hell," caused the Populists to be considered a radical movement. During the 1892 election the party received only twenty-two electoral votes. In Oklahoma the movement did elect James Y. Callahan as a territorial delegate to Congress for a two-year term, 1897-99. Nevertheless, the Populists declined quickly because they had failed to attract followers outside the farming profession. Their main service had been to make the middle class in America aware of the farm problem. Also, they had educated farmers to the idea that organization was needed to secure any achievements, either locally or nationally. The Populists had successfully taught that one farmer could do nothing-organized they could be a formidable force. 5 The lesson of the movement was not lost on a young farmer and newspaper editor living in Point, Texas, a small farm community in northeastern Rains County. Isaac Newton Gresham, known as "Newt" to his friends, was a former member of both the Grange and the Farmer Alliance. He also had sided with the Populists in their political campaign. In the late 1890s, after the other movements had failed, Gresham took up the task of organizing the farmers into a union. 7


Newt Gresham, founder of the Farmers Union, at Point, Texas.

Born February 20, 1858, in Florence, Alabama, Gresham moved with his family to Texas after the Civil War. Not long afterwards both his mother and father died leaving Newt and his two brothers to be cared for by neighbors. Living with different families until the age of nineteen, Gresham took a train to Ft. Worth en route to Thorp Springs, where he would attend school. Walking the last forty miles because his last seven dollars had been spent reaching Ft. Worth, Gresham enrolled in Ad Ran 8

THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION College, where he slept on the floor of a dormitory because he could only afford to rent sleeping space. To earn extra money, he worked for a local farmer and became involved in the Farmer Alliance. In 1881 Gresham returned to his home county of Lauderdale, Alabama, as an organizer for the Alliance. Married by then he took his wife and spent a year in the state, organizing more than 1,500 sub­ alliances. He soon transferred to Tennessee, where he stayed only a few months before returning to Texas due to the ill health of his wife. In Granbury, Texas, Gresham went into the newspaper business with Ashley Crockett, a grandson of the famous Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo. First buying the Grandbury Graphic, Gresham eventually bought out his partner and began publishing his own paper that he called The Graphic Truth. Primarily a local farm newspaper, the venture had little financial success and Gresham sold it and moved to Greenville, Texas, to start The Hunt County Observer in 1898. This paper also proved to be a failure, and Gresham moved his family of three daughters and a son to Point, where he started the Point Times. Meanwhile, he tried to supplement his income by doing a little sharecropping. Gresham finally decided to use his small newspaper to convince his readers of his vision to create a permanent farmers union in Texas. As he saw it unionism was the only solution left for the farm problem. And, since workers in the cities were successfully moving toward unionism as a means of achieving their goals for a better living, he believed that it was only logical that the farmers should take the same road. Although perceived by many ofhis readers as only a five-feet three inch, one hundred thirty pound, handle-bar mustached "crackpot" who could barely peck out a decent paper let alone organize a national farm union, Gresham would not be discouraged. If anything, the ridicule and doubt only caused him to work harder. When he could not sell his papers he gave them away to get his ideas across. With good humor he often stated that he had never cancelled· a subscription. By the fall ofl 902 cotton had fallen to the lowest price farmers could remember. With selling prices far below the cost of production and the cost ofliving higher than ever, the average farmer was sinking deeper and deeper into debt. Thousands of farmers across the South were losing their homes. Gresham finally decided that something must be done to relieve their condition, and that it might as well start with him. Since he was as broke as his neighbors, starting a union without 9


John Robert Courtney of Wheatland, on the South Canadian River, purchased a share of the Farmers Union Co-op in 1907.

money was no easy task for Gresham. Local merchant W.A. Harris later remembered that Gresham at that time was in such financial shape that he came to him once almost in tears, claiming that no banks would extend him credit and that he did not have money to buy food. After securing a promise from Gresham that he would repay his bills once his new organization was started, Harris staked him to flour, sugar, and sowbelly to feed his family. Nevertheless, his friends recalled later that "Newt," as he preferred to be called, never doubted that his union would be a success. W.S. Sisk, who sometimes boarded Gresham and his family, stated that Gresham would stand in his yard on a hot Texas summer night, staring at the starry sky, and predict that someday the world would remember Point, Texas. Slowly, he began to convert his neighbors into true believers supporting his dreams. Using a mule to go from farm to farm, Gresham talked constantly with his friends, telling them that "a farm organization must have enough members so that it would give farmers power in Congress and the State Legislature":


THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION Laws are made which hurt us and we never know when they are passed. We need an organization so we can keep a representative at Washington and at the State Capitol. But we need more than that. Look at the price of cotton here in Rains County. A man works all year to raise a crop, works his family like slaves, planting, hoeing, chopping, and picking cotton. Then we all dump it on the market at once and the price goes down to nothing. We don't have enough to buy mush and molasses, and you can't even buy a calico dress or jeans for the kids. We need an organization to do something about that, too.6

The Original Ten-founders of the Farmers Union movement.

Through daily conversations under the summer shade of a big liveoak in the middle of town, which he later used as the symbol for his union, Gresham preached the virtues ofunionism. Whether working main street or sitting on his front porch, he constantly searched for converts. Finally, he convinced a handful of friends to join him. Numbering only ten men originally, they formed the nucleus that became the Farmers Union. The group included a teacher, J.S. Turner; a county clerk, O.B. Rhodes; a doctor, Lee Seamster; an editor, Gresham; and six farmers, J.B. Morris, W.T. Cochran, W.S. Sisk, T.J. Pound, T.W. Donaldson, and Jesse Adams. Politically, they admitted to being four Populists, one Independent, and five Democrats. 11

CHAPTER 1 In the summer of 1902, these men decided the time had come to found the Farmers Union. At this juncture, J.B. Morris was elected to be the first president, Jesse Adams was elected vice-president, and Gresham was selected as Secretary-Treasurer. They applied for a state charter, then signed their names to a promissory note to a local bank for $1,000. The small sum was all Morris was able to borrow to begin building the new union. The group also agreed to call their organization the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America. Gresham, as Secretary­ Treasurer, was selected to write a set of rules for the local. The charter was dated August 28, 1902. In the preface, Gresham listed the six objectives of the Union. These were: (1) to discourage as much as possible the present mortgage and credit system; (2) to assist our members in buying and selling; (3) to labor for the education of the agricultural classes in the science of crop diversification and scientific agriculture; (4) to constantly strive to secure entire harmony and good will arriong all mankind and brotherly love among ourselves; (5) to form a more adequate Union with those in authority for a more rigid and impartial enforcement of the law, that crime, vice and immorality may be suppressed; and (6) to gamer the fears of the distressed, the blood of the martyrs, the laugh of innocent childhood, the sweat of the honest labor and the virtue of a happy home as the brightest jewel known. Further, the constitution written by Gresham proclaimed that in no way was the Union a political party and would forever abstain from even the discussion of "partyism." Factionalism, Gresham believed, was the reason for the failure for the earlier farm movements, and he wanted to avoid the same problem for his Union. He did agree to allow Union members the privilege of "discussing" politics, but on the grounds that these would be necessary for "educational purposes." With their new constitution completed, the men called for the first local meeting at the Smyrna schoolhouse, located a few miles from Point, on September 2, 1902. While Turner and Cochran had traveled around the countryside asking farmers to attend, none of the founders expected the large crowd that actually turned out for the organizational meeting. To their great delight, the schoolhouse was packed; there was standing-room only. Gresham, thrilled by the reception, explained in glowing terms to those in attendance the new philosophy and his plans for the future 12

THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION unionization of farmers all over the country. The audience was instantly infected with his enthusiasm. In fact, they were all persuaded to pay the one dollar fee required to sign up as members, pledging also to pay five cents per month in dues. Warning them that the business of the Union was secret and any discussion of its affairs outside the official meeting would result in dismissal for the guilty members, Gresham gave them a secret password for the next meeting. The new members then selected officers, including a chaplain who would open each meeting with a prayer, a treasurer to collect the five cents monthly dues, and a conductor and doorkeeper to monitor the meetings so that only members who knew the password could attend. So many new members were enrolled that first night that the initiation ceremony lasted into the early morning. The Farmer's Union had been born. Gresham, ecstatic at the reception of the new Union, soon began organizing locals. On January 3, the second one was founded at his home. Meeting in the hay barn, the men used lanterns for light, and the minutes were kept on a five cent writing tablet. Sitting around on hay bales, the members discussed laws and by-laws for their new local. After considerable heated debate, it was decided to permit women to join without having to pay dues. Furthermore, it was agreed that persons sixteen and over could join as well. Comparing the young people to new growth on an old oak tree, the symbol of the Union, Gresham decreed that the membership should never grow old. Gresham was even more ebullient with the growth of the second local. As word spread of the new movement by countless organizers and enthusiasts, the little post office at Point became completely swamped by mail arriving from nearby states. Incredibly, the depot soon saw stacks of mail with requests for information and memberships pouring in from all over the South and Midwest. Gresham needed a wagon to haul it all. Unfortunately, the organization quickly outgrew Gresham's abili­ ties as a Secretary-Treasurer. Ill prepared and often careless with his bookkeeping, Gresham kept few records of the names of the new members, while money kept coming in. The few records that he did collect were lost in a fire when the old, wooden store where he kept them burned to the ground a few years later. Within a year the Union began to show its strength when it negotiated a contract with the ginners of Rains County that saved the farmers more than $6,000 in fees. Not only did this make news, but also Union attacks on excessive rates and severe terms in the credit and mortgage system 13



... THE .•.

.farmer� (fbucattonal anb C!Co=
�� {Z,,_,, have this day Granted, and do Hereby Grant, untn,:f},,e


,,(�J/��br :Zed«< ¼? :,.?� �/4#«: r(:Y%.rl'-£__,, 6;u-, -/4:i:U�:: ef£�� � '?&c;/=d.;:f,�aeef« 1;,.c� (;f'ufr£�c , Union, './2_,.. - ,, and desig ated This Charter for a Local Union to be kno ��

7 ,



U/7 �

rt:?z:l7t7'/.,;z � ,

located at ,fully constituting Jllo.2cj\;1 7 them a Local Unloa of The Farmers Educational and Co•Operatlve Union of America, with full powers to perform all the duties and Ceremonies appertaining to the same, whilst they shall conform to the rules and usage:, of the order.

THIS <2H1\RTER Issued by the �fflclals of the


u.thorlty, transferred to and vested in them by Charter from the Parent Corporation rd day of March, 1905,

In Witness Whereof, We have caused this to be signed by our President and Secretary, with Seal affixed and endorsed by the Organizing Officer at

-' --- :Jd

Indiahoma Union charter granted in-1906.


day of




/r:- ,.-,-

this the

THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION attracted attention. As the Union began to talk aggressively about "bringing farmers up to the standard of other industries and business enterprises," later known as parity, farmers around the nation began to hear of the movement and make inquiries about membership. On February 14, 1904, delegates from the organized locals met at Mineola, Texas, where the Texas State Union was organized with N.C. Murray elected as president. In June of that year, he presented a plan to the Texas members for withholding from the market one bale of cotton in five and to market the remaining four slowly rather than flooding the market and depressing prices. This became the first attempt by a group of farmers in the United States to market a product in an orderly fashion, and the movement spread even more widely as it was estimated that the plan probably saved farmers millions of dollars. Union efforts led to the organization of a national Union at a meeting of state Unions in Texarkana on December 5, 1905. Established under the laws of Texas, the constitution adopted by the new group was essentially the same one drawn up by Gresham and the "Original Ten." Before adjourning, the members chose Charles S. Barrett of Georgia as the first national president. By this time the movement had crossed the Red River into the "Twin Territories." Gresham and other organizers had taken the movement to their neighbors to the north within months of the organization of the first local. Here, they found their most receptive members. Among the most successful of the early organizers was "Uncle" Sam Hampton, a forceful orator employed by Gresham to recruit members. Hampton always opened his rallies with fiery rhetorical indictments of farming as a system that "preyed" on its people. Normally, he began his speeches by portraying the buyers of farm goods as "enjoying all the luxuries of life, obtained by sucking like leeches the blood of the farmers, while the farmers and their families were being cooked in the hot sun." By the end of his tirade his listeners were usually more than ready to become Union members.7 Others who helped organize the Territories were RD. King, hired exclusively for Indian Territory by Gresham, and Henry Worthington, a young farmer from nearby Emory, Texas. A member of the Union and a co-op builder, Worthington moved to Indian Territory where he became a farmer and politician, serving seven terms in the state legislature. Joining these men was a fellow Texan, who had actually enrolled in the Union 15

CHAPTER 1 before moving to Oklahoma, William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray. Still another important early member was Campbell Russell of Oklahoma City, who had been selected as one of the directors of the Texarkana convention in 1905.8 A convention of the Territorial membership was called to meet in Durant in September, 1904, for the purpose of organizing a territorial Union. Its leaders spoke against trusts, corporations, and landlords, among other problems for farmers, but the major focus of the meeting concerned the discussions for formally organizing a Union. Having the benefit of the earlier locals, the members also proposed to work to establish cooperatives, cotton gins, warehouses, grain elevators, and retail merchandise stores in the territories. There were soon two Unions in existence-one for Oklahoma Territory and one for Indian Territory. By 1905, the leaders of the two movements reported a combined membership of29,365 members in 839 locals to the national Union. The members further reported that their most popular password for meetings was: "Ten Good Men and True-Watch Them!" When the next national convention met in Fort Worth in February, 1905, the two territorial groups asked and received permission for charter standing as a Union with the equivalence ofa state Union. The combined unions were admitted as the "Indiahoma Union," a combination of members from Indian and Oklahoma Territories. The first meeting following the convention was held at Tishomingo from July 18-21, 1905. At the proceeding, watched by many visitors, the 109 delegates elected officers for the Indiahoma Union. These included S.O. Daws, President; J.P. Conners, Vice-President; J.S. Moore, Secre­ tary-Treasurer; Greene B. Patterson, Business Agent; A.J. Carter, Orga­ nizer; P.C. Estes, Chaplain; J.B. Koltner, Conductor; and D.A. Nix, Doorkeeper. The executive committee chosen was composed of A.F. Ross, W.H. Lancaster, R.J. Ward, Campbell Russell, J.W. Harrison, Leonard Johnson, and William H. Murray. Later that year the Indiahoma Union inaugurated what was most likely the first crop curtailment program in the nation. Trying to obtain higher prices for their cotton, the members were told to plow up a percentage of their cotton fields and plant other crops that season. The problem was this action was taken without support from non-members, and little was accomplished. Although prices for cotton remained low, it 16


Constitution written by President S.O. Daws and executive committee Member William H Murray.

did prove that members would stand together when necessary. The Indiahoma Union also was responsible for the first study ofsoils ever made by the United States Department ofAgriculture. In 1905, at the request of the Union the Bureau of Soils conducted a soil survey in the Tishomingo area. This marked the beginning of research into soil re­ sources in the country. 9 Despite its successes, the Indiahoma Union was soon seriously split. The question of whether to support single or double statehood divided its members into factions as one side argued for admission for the western territory as the state of Oklahoma while the eastern half, Indian Territory, 17


Original Farmers Union member William H Murray and his family, 1905.

wanted admission with equal status as the state of Sequoyah. The quarrel became so emotional and bitter that the Farmers Union was threatened with dissolution when Bill Murray and other Indian Territory leaders split off from the Indiahoma Union to form a separate group oftheir own. While Daws continued to try to hold the Indiahoma Union together, Murray busily organized and wrote "By-Laws" for what he called the Indian Territory Farmers Union. At a meeting in 1906 J.A. Malcom was elected as its president. 10 The Indiahoma Union meanwhile held its 1906 meeting in Shawnee. Attending the meeting as visiting dignitaries were O.P. Pyle, the Texas president from Mineola, and his friend Newt Gresham, shortly before Gresham's untimely death of appendicitis on April 18, 1906. 18

Tiffi FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION Officers elected at the meeting included J.A. West, President; E. Duffy, Vice-President; B.C. Hansen, Secretary-Treasurer; C.C. Lee, Chaplain; C.E. Sullivan, Conductor; and, J.D. Irvin, Doorkeeper. J.W. Houchin, W.J. Clark, M.B. Brown, O.H. Matthews, and J.A. Parkinson were elected members of the executive committee. That same year, The Indiahoma Signal, the official publication of the Union, which had been started in Cordell, was moved to Shawnee. Because Daws owned a principal part of it, he intended to make the paper a major propaganda journal for organizing farmers. But, like almost everything else involving the early Union, it proved controversial. Its first problem arose when the Assistant Post Master General refused to accept its second-class mailing status on the grounds that the paper carried paid advertising. Interestingly, The Daily Oklahoman, the major territorial newspaper at the time, reported that several Republican congressmen had applied pressure to the Postal Department to make the ruling. In any case, the decision made it necessary to pay first-class rates, and for a time subscribers sent in postage stamps to keep the paper going. Territorial delegate, Bird S. McGuire, took the postage fee case before Congress and finally achieved a second-rate status for it by an act of the federal government in July, 1906.11 The Enabling Act of 1906 settled the statehood question for the two Unions. Oklahoma was admitted as one state in 1907 and this ended the debate. At the next convention in Shawnee, held August 22-23, 1907, the two groups dissolved and then reorganized to form one Union with the name "The Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of the State of Oklahoma." At this juncture, J.A. West was elected president and J.P. Conners Vice-President. The Secretary-Treasurer, representing a com­ promise between the old Unions, was J.S. Murray, a member of the Indian Territory Union, and more importantly, Alfalfa Bill's brother. This compromise eased the argument between the two factions. Other officers elected included E.A. Griffin, Organizer; C.C. Lee, Chap­ lain; J.W. Scott, Doorkeeper; and, Thomas Roach, Conductor. The executive committee was composed of J.Y. Callahan, M.B. Brown, W.G. Vandiver, 0 .H. Matthews, and T.M. Jeffords. At the time the membership was estimated to total about 50,000, with each side having approximately 25,000. The newly organized Oklahoma Farmers Union selected as its symbol a triangle with the words, "Cooperation, Legislation, and Educa­ tion" forming the three sides. The insignia chosen represented the plow, 19


ii:his ,bmtcr, ornntcb O\' the antb.odt, ,,f tl,c So,•mion




Local charter before the State Union was founded.

the rake, and the hoe, traditional tools of the farmer. The Union emblem was the same as Gresham originally designed-a liveoak tree-symbolic of the idea the Union sought to replace each fallen leaf (member) with a new one. 12 The Farmers Union played an important role in drafting the new constitution written for the Sooner State. In fact, Union leadership represented almost half of the elected delegates doing the work at the Constitutional Convention held in Guthrie. William H. Murray, in particular, gave the Union credit for his selection as the convention's president. Basing his power on the earlier Sequoyah Convention in Muskogee in 1905, which had been extremely popular with the farmers in the Indian Territory, Murray was elected chairman of the convention by a large majority . 13 Extremely confident of his election even before the convention opened, Murray boasted that he had the support of"thirty Farmers Union men and thirty-four Sequoyah men" to a reporter who questioned him about the position. This represented a clear majority of the 112 delegates at the convention. Furthermore, the "Sage of Tishomingo" confided that he had known "Old man Daws in Texas," and was assured of his endorsement months before the convention was held. 14 20

THE FOUNDING OF THE FARMERS UNION Another important supporter of the Farmers Union at the convention was Vice-President Peter Hanraty from McAlester. The famous labor leader, and other members of the Twin-Territorial Federation of Labor and The Four Railroad Brotherhoods, actually had met in 1906 in Shawnee with Farmers Union leaders to consider the best procedures for securing both farmer and labor rights in the new constitution. Their meeting had resulted in "Twenty-four Demands" being presented to the convention's delegates for consideration. Among these "demands" were the right of recall, primary elections, the initiative, and referendum. Additionally, Union leaders called for legislation for an eight-hour work day, health and safety measures for miners, a corporation commission, compulsory education, free textbooks, the election of mine inspectors, a commission of labor and commerce, and a state commissioner of agricul­ ture. Almost all of these recommendations were in fact incorporated into the state constitution, which was submitted for approval by the voters. Adopted, the election victory enabled Oklahoma to become the forty-sixth state on November 16, 1907. 15 Since so many of their recommendations were indeed included in the constitution, the Farmers Union worked diligently for its ratification, as well as the election of Union candidates in the election of 1907. The results were indicative of the favor enjoyed by the Union. Not only did the Union elect forty-three farmers to the first House ofRepresentatives, William H. Murray became its first Speaker. Of course, tl:ie Union lost some fights regarding legislation in the First Legislature, such as a bill for a graduated land tax and another to restrict usury, but its representatives won almost as many as they lost. One major success for Union supporters was passage of the Blair Bill that established the State Board of Agriculture. Members were determined to continue the fight for a better life for rural Oklahomans. The victories in 1907 marked the high water mark of the Farmers Union in the first decade of the new century. Quickly after statehood, membership dropped dramatically to the lowest level since its inception. One major reason for the quick decline was a misinterpretation of the new state laws governing corporations. Many farmers understood one of the provisions of the new laws to mean that cooperatives were to be considered the same as corporations under the law, implying to many Union members that non-farmers would be allowed to hold stock in their cooperative business organizations. Because many believed this would allow non­ farmers into their cooperatives who would vote against their best interests, 21


Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, Guthrie, Feb. 6, 1907.

they simply began to drop out of the Union. Rumors and misunderstandings caused such a considerable drop in membership that the Oklahoma Farmers Union seemed on the verge of collapse. Incredibly, just as the movement had seemed secure, it suddenly lost its appeal to all but the very dedicated. Within a decade the Oklahoma Farmers Union was close to death. Another reason for its rapid demise was due to America's entrance into World War I. In particular, the Socialists in Oklahoma branded the conflict a "Rich Man's War," and protested American participation in it. Blaming it on munitions makers and arms dealers, Oklahoma Socialists called for a protest of the war that came to be known as the "Green Com Rebellion." So named because its participants planned a march on Washington, living on green com along the way, the tragically comic movement was quickly crushed by authorities. The protesters, greatly disillusioned and defeated in spirit, not to mention the stomach, returned to their homes with their revolt in shambles. Their actions were not soon forgotten nor forgiven. Along with the



Socialists, a large number oftenant farmers in the southeastern part of the state had joined in the "rebellion," and when the United States did enter the war these groups were tainted as being unpatriotic, cowardly oppo­ nents of the great "Crusade for Democracy," as President Woodrow Wilson called the war effort. Many were even considered enemies of the state.16 The Socialists never overcame their reputations as suspected trai­ tors. The Farmers Union suffered equally by association. As a result, by 1917, the Farmers Union had dropped to its lowest point ever. There were only 231 dues-paying members in the entire state. In 1908, William Garrison had been elected president, but he could do nothing to slow the decline. He had been replaced in 1912 by W.O. Taylor, but Taylor could find no way to halt the disintegration ofthe Union either. On the very edge ofcollapse, a leader appeared to salvage the Union and revitalize its direction. He was John A. Simpson-teacher, lawyer, and banker who had moved to Weatherford to pursue a career in the new, young state. Simpson would become famous as an Oklahoma farm leader.17 23


A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS John Andrew Simpson, a tall, distinguished teacher, banker, and lawyer, was born July 4, 1871, on a farm near Salem, Nebraska. He began farming at the age often by helping his mother after his father was killed accidently by lightning. A determined youngster, Simpson had gone to Auburn High School, where he completed the entire four-year curriculum in only one year by taking advanced tests prepared by his teachers. Simpson made the highest grades of any graduate that semester. He became a teacher for a few years following graduation, then decided to enroll at the University of Kansas, where he excelled in academics and sports. As an athlete, Simpson won a championship cup as a wrestler before graduating not only with a college degree but also with a law degree. Returning to Nebraska, he practiced law for a year then became an accountant in the State Auditor's office for four years. Simpson supported the Populist movement before his pioneer spirit led him to migrate to the newly-opened Oklahoma Territory. In 1901 he and his wife, Millie, moved to Caddo County to take a claim on a farm near the town ofAlfalfa. After four years offarming he was persuaded by a friend, Thomas Kearse, to become a partner in a banking venture. Simpson became an officer in a small country bank, the Fort Cobb Washita Valley Bank, then sold his interest in it in 1907 and moved to Weatherford, where he purchased another bank and organized two more at Colony and Com. He also bought another farm near Weatherford, where his family grew to include two sons and four daughters. Successful as a businessman, he entered politics in 1914 as a 24


Picking cotton near Cordell, Ok., 1924.



John A. Simpson

Democratic candidate for the State House of Representatives. Simpson won his race, but attracted little attention in the Legislature. He was defeated for re-election in 1916. He had caught the interest ofthe Farmers Union, however, by often being seen with a number oflegislators who had reputations for being members of the "Farm Bloc" at the state capitol. After he returned home, he joined, among others, Zeddie A. "Z.H." Lawter, a neighboring farmer with 400 acres, in the local Union. At the time he joined the Union, most meetings were secret and a password had to be given to a doorkeeper in order to gain admittance. J. Earnest Woods, founder ofboth the Bray local and the Central High local in Stephens County in 1944, recalled that when he first joined in 1911 the password was often "cabbage" and those who did not know it had to pay a quarter to the doorkeeper to get inside. Becoming involved in the Union with his usual enthusiasm for any project, Simpson was soon appointed by the Executive Committee as the Union's legislative representative to the next Legislature. Simpson found the prospect of being a farm leader to his liking and quickly demonstrated that he was a true believer. By the time the state solons adjourned, the membership and the public knew his name and associated him with the Union. When theBoard met again on January 8, 1916, in Oklahoma City, they immediately arranged the resignation of President W.O. Taylor to allow Simpson to fill out his unexpired term. Taylor was placated by being named chairman of the Executive Committee. At the next convention in 26

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS Oklahoma City in August, 1917, Simpson was elected president in his own right, a position he would hold until he voluntarily relinquished the presidency in 1930. His old friend and right-hand man, Z.H. Lawter, became Secretary-Treasurer. Simpson's chief task was to rebuild the Union membership as best he could. By holding meetings, reorganizing locals, and making contacts with former members, Simpson was able to convince many farmers to resume their meetings and to bring new members with them. 1 Simpson was uniquely suited for the job, an ideal choice to put new life into the movement around the state. He was entirely convinced of the need for farm unionism, and he worked tirelessly in its behalf. A brilliant thinker and forceful orator, he possessed a thorough knowledge of farm problems and was never reluctant to express his opinions. Determined to make the Oklahoma Farmers Union the best one in the nation, Simpson used his experiences in the Legislature, both as a member and a lobbyist, to issue virile, hard-hitting, independent statements and public pro­ nouncements on behalf of farm rights. He was convinced farmers were

Farmers Union headquarters located at 18 N. Klein, Oklahoma City, in 1926.


CHAPTER II being cheated in the national economy, and he willingly accepted the position of being their champion. Simpson's revival of the Union was aided by the economic condi­ tions plaguing farmers by 1917. Elvin Barney, who joined the Farmers Union in 1917 wrote, "I had a bale of cotton I couldn't sell, so I joined the Farmers Union." It was a simple explanation, but it was a condition endured by all farmers who found themselves in poor economic shape as the United States joined the war effort. Farmers had always been at the mercy ofbuyers, and World War I only exacerbated the situation when the government set prices for farm goods as a war measure. Simpson, always quick to seize upon an opportunity, traveled by train to small communities around the state, speaking wherever he could find audiences willing to listen. He often spent the night in the home of one of his members, then caught the train to the next town to "preach" on any subject that piqued his attention, but particularly the plight of Oklahoma farmers and their need for organization.2 It was exhausting, sometimes dangerous work, but Simpson tire­ lessly kept up a demanding schedule. His speeches were dramatic and full of fire and emotion. In 1920 he stated: It is our purpose to here outline a plan by which any community can organize. We do not intend this for those farmers so far behind the times that they do not believe in organization. We are addressing the hundreds of communities in this state where the live, wide-awake, reading, thinking farmers realize that their only means of betterment and protection is through organization. In comparison to the number of farmers in this state, the Grange and Farmers' Union are a handful; yet we are consulted by government officials, state and national, and we are the ones who present the farmers' side of the case before those tribunals. The unorganized man has no more to say in affairs ofgovernment than his horse or mule. We receive many letters asking us to come to that commu­ nity and give a lecture on the need oforganization. We don't want to have anything to do with a community so ignorant that they do not know the need of organization .... 3 Simpson's strong opinions, which he always liked to express openly, soon caused state and national officials to decide to keep a closer watch on him. His bitter denouncements of the government's wartime price­ fixing program for agriculture immediately got him into serious trouble. 28

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS He insisted that farmers should get a higher price for their commodities than set by the government, and he lambasted the national leadership in his speeches. Since it was practically illegal by the Alien and Sedition Acts to even criticize the government during World War I, Simpson was soon suspected of "un-American" behavior. The controversy only seemed to inspire him. His criticism grew in volume, but his reputation suffered as he refused to be silent. With most of the state almost hysterical in its super-patriot sentiment, Simpson's loyalty was brought into question. He found himself being investigated by national attorneys and at home by the "State Council of Defense," an organization formed to check on Oklahoma citizens suspected of anti-war activity. A number ofcommunities even refused Simpson permission to make speeches. One Washita County farmer who came to his defense by protesting his county's refusal to allow Simpson to speak was tarred and covered with grass. The farmer, John Bolinger, a member of the Bessie Lutheran Church, was incapacitated for weeks after being dragged from his bed at three o'clock in the morning and beaten because he had dared defend Simpson. At the state level opponents exerted an enormous amount ofpressure to oust Simpson from the presidency. Only after a long, stormy meeting with the Executive Committee was he re-elected in 1918.4 Simpson refused to lower the tone of his attacks, and he remained a vocal anti-militarist after the war ended. In 1920, when a proposal was made to establish·· compulsory military training for young men for the purpose of creating a large, standing army for the United States, Simpson quickly launched a tirade against the idea:

If you want your boy to be compelled to serve time in a military training camp, then just go on about your work of production, doing all your growling to your wife and it will come to pass. If you do not want your boy forced to serve time in this way, then write a letter of vigorous protest to ...our ten members of congress.... If you are so lazy and indifferent that you will not write these...letters, then your boys ought to serve military time and you with them.5 Although Simpson's patriotism sometimes came under suspicion, his devotion to the ideals of family, the Union, and Christianity was never in doubt. Old timers recalled that when Simpson or Lawter visited their town to speak, both insisted that each meeting begin and end with a prayer, 29


r< .

"' ����TiJ;r�]t-a:1t��I �:ittr r�·�:-t':Jrk��,.�:��;�rr.i;:u i Etlcteationnl :nul Go-OporaliYl� l uiou:i/·��.

0 �ig�Jl!��if�li���if}�_� ���;;;;��m1r:;1���j���1:��;till:l� ··Ju


TM11t:1 r:u ..n//,i/. UnU::,; und /11 All Tl,tu,:s. 'Cl:o,·/111.''

0:he Jl!armrrs (!j�ttrn!iitttal au� (li,,��lpcrati\oc ltuhttt 1tf �m1·�ira

Charter granted to Luther Local by President John Simpson in 1923.

and their speeches always pertained to family values as well as the virtues of Union membership. Members came by the hundreds, sometimes thousands, to hear Simpson. They came by buggy, wagon, horseback, or on foot to hear him and he never disappointed. After the opening invocation, Simpson always led the meeting in a pledge of allegiance to the flag and then sang the national anthem. Then he would speak for about two hours, and the meeting ended with another prayer. Aware that many of the farmers came for entertainment as well as business, Simpson or the local leaders normally tried to arrange for someone to play a fiddle, a piano, a Jew's harp, or whatever could be found to make a little music after the meeting. Sometimes the locals tried organizing small bands to play and sing for the visitors. Simpson always believed that the farmers needed a little time for socializing, and food, if the ladies could be persuaded to prepare a meal and refreshments after a business session. He never failed to 30

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS impress his audiences. Leon J. "T. Bone" McDonald, Jr., of Edmond summed up Simpson as "a highly intelligent man, a forceful speaker...who lived by the Golden Rule!" 6 One of Simpson's major interests and financial successes for the Union was the establishment of cooperatives around the state. He person­ ally supervised the organization of many of the 55 cooperatives that were started in the decade of the 1920s. Among these were the Farmers' Union Exchange at Anadarko, the Farmers Union Cooperative Exchange at Binger, the Farmers Union Exchange at Isabella, the Farmers Union Produce Company at Bakley, and the Farmers Union Exchange at Weatherford. Simpson took particular pride in the co-op at Hydro. He reported to his members that after only three months the figures there were: Cream bought, Eggs bought, Poultry bought, Hides bought, Total

$40,299.16 $19,494.20 $15,421.52 $ 539.99 $75,754.87

Sold for Sold for Sold for Sold for Sold for

$42,147.44 $21,166.85 $16,565.93 $ 723.94 $80,604.16

Simpson, proudly praising the approximately 300 members in the local, declared, "These boys at Hydro are a good example of what the farmers of any community can do if they want to." By the end of Simpson's presidency there were 110 cooperatives organized, most of them cotton gins, but many were combined into gins and grain elevators. The Oklahoma Farmers Union, in cooperation with the locals, called meetings of the farmers and listened to their interest and need for a cooperative. If convinced of the desirability of one, legal and technical information was provided and the manner explained in which the cooperatives could be financed and operated. It was possible under the guidance of state leaders to organize, finance, and build a cooperative gin within sixty days. The financing of most was accomplished by W.F. Varnum of Seminole. A Farmers Union member, he organized and operated a cooperative store in Seminole, where he also became quite wealthy when oil was discovered on his land. With the revenue from the oil operation, he would finance up to fifty percent of any cooperative in the state, and the gin manufacturing companies financed the remaining fifty. All this was prior to the formation of the Wichita Bank of Cooperatives, which was organized in 1934.7 31


Oklahoma Farmers Union Convention, OKC, 1927.

Another accomplishment of the Simpson presidency was the es­ tablishment of an official newspaper for the Farmers Union. At the 1919 convention in Clinton the delegates passed a resolution instructing the Executive Board to accomplish two tasks during the next year--found a Farmers Union newspaper and organize a Farmers Union cooperative mutual property insurance company. The Board took immediate action on these two projects by naming Z.H. Lawter head of the insurance depart­ ment and Simpson editor of the newspaper. In reality there had been earlier Union papers. After a year at Shawnee, thelndiahoma Signal had been rechristened theFarmers Union Advocate by its editor, H.H. Stallard. It, and J.K. Armstrong's periodical entitled the Advocate and Union Review, edited in Ardmore, espoused the Union's program of organization, cooperation, and education. But by 1910 the two papers had declined in popularity and for financial reasons they combined into the Union Advocate Review. This effort also failed. Consequently, the Union had no official voice until after World War I. In time the first official state newspaper for the Union became Simpson's The Oklahoma Union Farmer. The first edition was published January 1, 1920, in Weatherford. Simpson printed two issues monthly, on the 1st and 15th, with the first subscription fee listed at $1.00 annually. The paper, more accurately a periodical normally twenty pages long including advertising, was Simpson's major vehicle for membership recruitment and reporting news of the state and national organizations. It became, along with John Fields' Oklahoma Farmer, the most widely circulated farm paper in the state. In some cases it was the only communication the rurally isolated farmers could afford to maintain.8 Simpson naturally used the The Oklahoma Union Farmer as his own personal newspaper. He was never reluctant to profess his beliefs or 32


propagandize his philosophies, although in fairness he always published any letters of criticism from his readers. He estimated that he personally received upwards of 8,000 letters monthly from around the state, and, as his fame grew, the nation. Simpson, as a matter ofpride, always answered each one, sometimes in the The Oklahoma Union Farmer. An example of Simpson's editorial skill was seen in an early issue of April, 1920, in a discussion of his proposals for a legislative program to present to the next state Legislature. He suggested locals talk about his program in preparation for the next state convention to be held in August where Union delegates could meet and make recommendations to their legislators. Specifically, Simpson asked his readers to consider legislation for a free textbook law; a closed season for quail for five years; official sampling, grading, and classification of cotton; a dog law in the interest of sheep raising; an anti-discrimination law to cover the purchase of farm products; an amendment to the co-operative law permitting co-operative banks; and a law to forbid the use of the words "farm" or "farmer" in the name of any co-operative business not directly owned by farmers. Further explaining his positions, Simpson argued againstthe "School­ book Trust" that he saw operating in the state, because it charged higher prices for books than states like Kansas which had free textbook laws. Second, regarding the quail season, Simpson argued that because farmers had little time to hunt quail anyway, there should be a ban on killing the "little bug eaters" who were "one of the farmer's best friends." The third question concerning the grading of cotton he stated was necessary in the interest of fair play. The official grading of cotton, stated the editor, would give cotton producers the same knowledge and advantage as the buyers in the sale oftheir crops. The fourth issue, a dog law, was needed, as Simpson saw it, because "Sheep are profitable. It's time we were raising more sheep and fewer dogs." 33

CHAPTER II Legislation to establish anti-discrimination measures was impera­ tive, Simpson continued, to prevent big business from using unfair methods in the fight to destroy Union cooperatives. The crusading editor further pointed out that some corporations were paying higher prices to farmers than cooperatives did in order to drive the co-ops out ofbusiness. Their plan was to raise their prices when the cooperatives failed. Next, Simpson argued for cooperative banks because they would be more accommodating to farmers and provide better service than the regular banks. Finally, he characteristically lashed out at what he considered "fraudulent" business practices by some companies. He stated, "We are tired of seeing signs over business places proclaiming "Farmers Gin," "Farmers' Elevator," etc., when an investigation shows that not a farmer had a dollar invested in the institution." 9 At this time the editorial staff of the newspaper consisted of Simpson, Vice-President C.H. Hyde of Alva, Secretary-Treasurer Z.H. Lawter from Weatherford, and the Executive Committee composed ofEd Reger and L.N. Cody from Hydro; E.E. Norman, Weatherford; Henry Snow, Arapaho; and, W.D. Henry, Putnam. This small group all partici­ pated in the publication of the paper, but the bulk of the work was done by Simpson. These same men also served as organizers with Simpson. One or another of them would go into a community upon request to organize a local, but on the condition that fifteen members had petitioned the state president for a charter. Simpson always insisted that the charter members had already paid their $3.00 annual dues before he or one of the officers would attend an organizational meeting. Much of their time was spent organizing in these years. When Simpson, particularly active, was once criticized that he not done enough for the Union, he reported that he was home only three days a month for the entire year. One of the incentives used for recruitment of new members was the newly formed Farmers Union Insurance Company. Other states had already established such companies which issued policies for farm buildings of members at approximately fifty percent of the "old line" company rates, and Simpson decided that it was time to inaugurate an Oklahoma company. After securing passage of a law that enabled a farm organization to insure the properties of its members without capital or outside control by the Commission oflnsurance, the Union leader went to work. This legislation meant that the Union could make its own rules, fix its own rates, and settle its own losses. 34


VOICE OF THE FARMERS UNION From the beginning, Farmers Union leaders have emphasized good commu­ nication as a means of achieving their goals. An important tool in that struggle has been the Union's newsletter, edited by a long line of outstanding men, from John Simpson and Raymon Martin to Lee Streetman and Orville S. Allard. Born October 19, 1906, in Shawnee, Indian Territory, Orville Scott Allard was the son of Lou S. Allard, who estab­ lished the Shawnee News, now known as the Shawnee News-Star. In 1915 the fam­ ily followed the oil boom to Drumright where his father published the Drumright Daily Derrick. The younger Allard graduated from Drumright High School in 1926, then attended the University ofOklahoma and Oklahoma City University. Both before and after serving in the Navy during World War II, he worked for the Seminole Producer, the Holdenville News, and as a reporter for the Tulsa Tribune. In 1958 Allard joined the staff at the Oklahoma Farmers Union as editor of the newspaper. He left the Union four years later, but returned in 1967 and worked until his retirement eleven years later when he was 72 years old. While serving the public relations needs of the Farmers Union, Allard found time to write for the Oklahoma Planning and Resources Board, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and the Oklahoma Department of Public Wel­ fare. He also was one ofthe founders ofthe television program, "Outdoor Oklahoma." It has been people such as Orville S. Allard who have made the Oklahoma Farmers Union such an effective force in fighting for Oklahoma's farm families. 35

CHAPTER II By giving lower rates and making it cheaper to belong to the Union company, the insurance business attracted a great number of new mem­ bers. And because the insurance was invalid if a loss occurred while the member's dues were delinquent, fewer members ignored their dues notices. Simpson's friend, Lawter, moved to Oklahoma City to take charge of the company officially named the Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Fire and Lightning Insurance Company. Before being chartered, however, Lawter had to find 1,000 members who would apply for a policy, and no policy could be for less than $500. The policy covered losses by fire and lightning on all farm buildings, household goods, farm implements, farm products, and livestock. In these early days the secretary of the local served as the insurance agent. Each agent received a policy fee of$1.00, plus upon delivery of the policy a further fee of twenty-five cents per $100 of its face value. It was a small sum, but the agents worked hard, and by 1921 the membership rolls for the state were back up to 23,000.10 As time passed more coverages were offered by company policies. A tornado clause was soon added, followed a few years later by a death benefit policy. Simpson, calling the latter program "Helpers," introduced a plan to provide up to $200 in burial expenses at a cost of ten cents for each member of a family. The "Helpers" plan moved slowly in the beginning, but Simpson's continuous pleading and cajoling got the program underway. The unusual luck that several years passed before a loss had to be paid assuredly helped the plan survive.11 The first beneficiary did not actually receive the full $200. On February 27, 1922, thefamily ofBrotherW.A. Townsend ofBrokenBow, who died at the age of eighty-six, became the first recipient of the death benefit clause. At the time only 243 members had registered, which meant that the family was paid $24.30, the total fund in the treasury. State officers added another seventy-five cents to the amount, and Secretary Lawter sent Townsend's son a check for $25.05. 12 The first loss for the Farmers Union Mutual Fire, Lightning and Tornado came only a few months later. Brother Ed Roesley of the Cottonwood Local, No. 298 in Custer County filed the first claim when a heavy wind storm on April 10, 1922, unroofed his barn. After a proof of loss was verified by the president, secretary, and another member of the Cottonwood local, Lawter sent a check for$55, the full amount of the loss assessed by them.13 36


$ 675 00

Jlfcmncrz tEourm:innal & filo-op.ernti&.e ,nicm of @klaqonm Mutual Insurance Department 402 CAMPBELL BLDG., OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. IN CONSIDERATION 01<" THE STIP�LATI��S bercin namctl, Clntl lhe payment of $.3 .•. 0.0. P.olicy .Fe.e ..& ..

�l . • :.!i5 ..Los.e.. R?.$:e:l'.Vfind an ngreemcnt to pay

.Pro .. ratio

of all losses by Fi·1·e, Lii,htnins- ot· Tornado that mo.y be

sustained by sai!l Association while this policy ls to force, Docfl Insure VL ..A ...St.one., .. By.axs, ..Okla�-for the term or FIVE YEARS from the . . . l St....... day or ..Januar_y.. tlay of ...J.9nU?.l".Y...

. .. , 192.2., at Noon, to the ..l.s.t....

.., 1!!2 7 . at Nuon: Against all Direct Loss or Damngcs lly Fire, Li;;hlning or Tornado, oxcept as

bereinaftcr 11ro,·lded, to an AD1ounl Not E.xceeding- ..Six..hundr.ed .. and ..sev.enty,,.,,five ..-..� ............ DOLLARS, to the following described Property; while located llnd contain ed :ui Described Herein, and not Elsewhere: CASH TA.LUE SUJI INSURED On ..... story , •..... building, including ad dltlona attached thereto and toundatlons there.... as a. private dwellin;- only... under. now and to be occnpled by ... On household goods, clothing, fuel ,etc., while contained ill the above described house .. ....$400 •.0Q ... $300,QQ .. Private barn No. I.. Private barn No. 2 ... G:·annry . Garni;e .... Farm utensils, harness, saddles, vehicles, etc., (e:xcept hullers, she11ers, threshers, automo­ biles, tractors and auto trucks whlle in bulldinss on premlses) Oa bay and grains and feeds of all kinds while in buildings on the Dremlses, but this Association shall not be liable tor more than three�tourths value of any loss of products.. 2

:Iwl"i;.o11..oi:..Mules, over 3 years old, not to exccl'.!d $100 each...

5l001.00 .......i'.7.5 ,00 .. ... 2.00 • .00 .. ....150.0Q ..

Horses or !1111\el'I not over 3 years old, not to exceed $GS co.ch .. Cattle over 2 years okl, not to exceed $75 each.. ...3.00 ...00 .. ... .150,QQ,. Cattle not o,er 2 yen.rs old, DOl to exceed $35 each.... (And no stock to be paid for at more than three.fourths value)

Deing situated on ....�.•..VJ....... • Quarter, Section No..3l ........., Township No ...5.N.....Range No...3 ..East .. in .... J{Q.. Ql.a.tn.. . Cnunty, Oklahoma. THE APPL!.C!.'!'!':}!-! t!P0M "".'!H!C:S: '!'P.lS !'OLlCY -0:F JNSUP...A.NCB !S IFBUED. aud the Rull!!!, Rr.gnlaUom, n.nd f:,:,n. tract, arn hereby ma
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One of the first insurance policies was sold to WA. Stone, Jan. 1, 1922.


CHAPTER II The continued growth of the insurance business led Simpson to move Union headquarters to Oklahoma City in 1921. Originally, the state offices had been in Shawnee, but had been moved during World War I to Custer County. There, state officials had worked out of their homes in Weatherford until the volume ofbusinesses and the number oflocals, 150 in 1922, forced the move. Lawter was persuaded by Simpson to sell his farm and move to Oklahoma City to run the insurance business, while Simpson transferred his family to Stillwater for a few years before moving on to Bethany in 1924. Lawter dutifully set up business in the Farmers' Union State Exchange located at 801-06 Oil Exchange Building.14 Interestingly, Simpson's organizational efforts were not just con­ fined to white farmers. Originally, the Union had excluded blacks from the membership rolls, but in 1921 Simpson decided it was time for the Farmers Union to open its racial doors. Having attended the previous four national union meetings where the question ofrace had arisen, and having received requests from blacks for a Union from various parts of the state with large African-American populations, Simpson made the decision to a an opportunity. give black frmers After long consultations with the Executive Committee, Simpson announced that Local No. 1 had been organized at Lima for "a Negro Farmers' Union Local, District and County Union...with the Constitution and By-Laws prepared by them." On August 5, 1921, Simpson accepted an invitation to attend an organizational meeting of black farmers in Seminole County. Following a picnic dinner at the Johnson schoolhouse, north ofWewoka, Simpson presented the local leaders with a constitution and by-laws for eleven members. For the first time an African-American Union local had been founded in the United States. Afterwards, in an editorial in the Oklahoma Union Farmer Simpson wrote: "We hope that the colored farmers ofthe state, men and women, boys and girls, all over the state will organize into Locals ofthe Farmers' Union and thus do their part in helping to bring about a better solution for all farmers. " 15 This action was naturally controversial, as were many of Simpson's decisions. He endured threats, harassment, intimidation, and criminal investigations for his efforts. Often, he was badgered on the streets by ruffians who tried to force him into brawls. He was threatened at night with tar and feathers and whippings. And his family was attacked when he refused to be intimidated by the strong arm tactics ofhis opponents. In one instance his brother, a former Spanish-American war veteran, was fired as head of the Agricultural Department at Southwestern College in 38

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS Weatherford simply because Simpson was suspected of un-American activities. Simpson, the subject of several investigations by the Secret Service, was sometimes followed around the state by police and undercover agents. Until the United States District Attorney tired of the accusations and subsequently failed to find any evidence of misbehavior and thereafter refused to authorize further investigations, Simpson endured the harass­ ment as merely part of his everyday life. At one point Simpson was even accused of stealing from the Union by taking money from the newspaper. Characteristically, he defended himself as soon as he learned of the charges. In an editorial in The Oklahoma Union in 1922 he explained that the paper had been financed in the beginning by raising dues to $2.50, the fifty-cent raise to pay for the publication of the paper. Since its inception, he added, he had served as its editor, business manager, and publisher without a salary. Furthermore, he told his readers, the cost of the paper per year was sixty cents--the extra dime coming from his own pockets. Showing that the paper had not begun paying for itself until 1922, Simpson assured his readers that he had never made a dime from its publication. In fact, he added, "I have not drawn one cent from the state union and only $373. 63 for expenses, about $30.00 per month, the whole time I have been president. " 16 Besides defending himself, Simpson included support for his close friend, Z.H. Lawter. He reported that Lawter as Secretary-Treasurer had drawn no salary his first year; $200 the next; $225 the third; and he was not on permanent salary until 1921 when he was paid $2,325. In total, Simpson concluded, Lawter had received only $3,900 in five years of service. In truth, it was not the money that interested these men. They ate, slept, and preached unionism. Moreover, it appeared the more they were harassed by the opponents of unionism, the harder they worked. The field work was not without its benefits. The respect of the members of the Union kept the state leaders in good spirits, as a letter to the editor from J.F. Smith, the secretary of the Verden local, illustrated: "Say, could you come down, and be at our next meeting. Will pay traveling expenses if you can be with us. I will have your coming published in our local paper, write me. You can be at the meeting and return to the city on the next train if your wish. If you can come, and will stop with wife and I, I will guarantee a good feather bed in which to sleep." 17 39

CHAPTER II The sacrifice of their creature comforts for the good of the Union movement continued through the years. The early "Field Men" were "preaching the gospel" of unionism and completely convinced of their mission. They paid little heed to a few discomforts, and this tradition lasted into the future. Years later, Rex Miller of the Hail Crop Insurance Department, recalled the sacrifices of these early organizers. Given minimum expenses of four dollars per day to "beat the fence rows" for customers, Miller remembered that even that amount had to be carefully documented with receipts. For this reason he never visited an agency during the noon hour. Local agents thought the state representatives had large expense accounts, so they always expected the visitors to pay for lunch. Miller added that sometimes state officials might meet to share expenses to try to save a little money. On one occasion he, Joe Riggan, and John Stermer got together to split the rent only to discover there were only two beds in the room. As the smaller of the three men, Miller agreed to sleep in the bathtub. Miller managed to wriggle into the tub, but with water dripping down from the faucet, he found it impossible to sleep. Finally, he called out that he simply could not get comfortable without a pillow. This prompted one of his friends to take pity on him. He told the other, "It's just not right for Miller to have to sleep without a pillow, give him yours!"18 All the early officers and staff were organizers, but none surpassed Simpson in dedication and determination. Although married with a family of six, he seldom spent time at home. He was rewarded for his sacrifices. With the able assistance of Secretary Lawter, he carried the Oklahoma Union through the 1920s to a new decade of prosperity. In a speech given over the radio in 1924, Simpson proudly summed up the progress of the Union: Educationally, we have lecturers going all the time, attend­ ing regular and special meetings ofLocal and County Unions....We know we are making progress educationally, when a survey shows that 80 per cent of our members are doing some buying or selling co-operatively, and 50 per cent are carrying their fire, lightning and tornado insurance in the Farmers' Union Mutual Insurance company, although our mutual insurance company has just been in operation two and one-half years.19 Simpson's work was being closely watched by the National Farmers Union by now, and he gladly hosted the national convention in Oklahoma 40

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS City in November, 1924. Among the distinguished guests at the meeting were National President Charles S. Barrett, who had served in that office since 1906, and had established the national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Barrett brought most ofthe Union's top leadership to the convention with him. One of most publicly recognized was the virile and aggressive president of the Iowa Farmers Union, Milo Reno. The volatile Reno became a popular figure while in Oklahoma through his visits to locals around the state. On November 15, the locals ofCleveland County met at the Lone Star school house near Lexington to hear him speak. As the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Homer Duffy, the son of executive board member, E. Duffy, Reno spoke before a standing room crowd, giving the Oklahoma members a taste of his energetic leadership in Iowa.20 The state membership also began to attract a number of young, capable farm leaders as its reputation spread. In March, 1925, Tom Cheek, president of the Farmers' Co-operative Association, drew the attention of the Union for his work. Shortly afterwards he became involved with the movement, and soon moved into a position ofleadership in the Farmers Union as a protege of Simpson.21 The growing prestige and membership of the Union led to the building of a new headquarters to house its ever-increasing businesses. Encouraged by the rapid expansion of the insurance company, the executive committee composed ofE.E. Norman, Weatherford, C.F. Lee, Perry, J.M. Graves, Perkins, Homer Duffy, Lexington, and M.B. Eberhard, Pryor, approved the building of a new home for the Union in Oklahoma City in 1926. Simpson proposed the construction of a three-story office building on lots at 18 North Klein in the state capital to be paid for with donations from the membership. To start construction he asked for voluntary donations of $1.00 each from the state members, and soon had received sufficient funds to begin building.22 Within a few short months Simpson was able to announce that an open house for visitors would be held in June. Although only one story had been completed, sufficient funds had come in to pay for the entire cost of the building. At a cost of $8,000, including the lots, the new headquarters housed the newspaper and insurance operations. The entire work force consisted of six employees.23 Simpson's reputation was rising. Having already served one term as vice-president ofthe national organization, he was elected to a term on the 41

CHAPTER II National Board ofDirectors in 1927. He, ofcourse, was re-elected state president by acclamation each year.24 As the state Union grew, its business ventures increased in volume and scope. In 1928 the idea ofa cooperative royalty pool was studied for the membership. Basing their scheme on the Osage Nation's oil pool that had divided its mineral rights into 2,229 headrights, the Union formed its own pool with the objective ofeach member having a share in the oil found on other members' land. The Union limited its pool to members only, with �



Article I.-P1·eamble,

In the course of modern industrial develop­ ment of the farm, we find it necessary to organize our children into an Auxiliary of the Farmers' Educational and Co-operative Union of America; to enable them to understand the need of organization and co-operation.

Article II.-Purpose.


To promote the mental, moral physical and industrial welfare of our nation; to teach organi­ zation and co-operation among our members.

Article IH.-1\iembership.

Eligibility: Any person under the ag·e of six­ teen whose parents are eligible to membership in the Farmers' Union.

Yearly dues for youth was 25 cents.

one share traded for each one-fourth interest in the royalty rights on 160 acres or one-half interest in 80 acres, deeded to the company. The pool, officially called the Farmers' Union Co-operative Royalty Co., operated on the principle that one should not speculate on oil being found on one's own particular piece ofland, when each member could trade a portion of his royalty and have 3,000 chances. Simpson served as the first president ofthe royalty company with Campbell Russell as vice-president, Lawter as secretary-treasurer, and T.A. Witten and W.D. Housh as directors.25 In 1929 Tom Cheek moved up to the vice-presidency with Simpson, 42

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS and the officers of the Union quickly joined in the royalty pool scheme. Soon over forty-seven counties were included within the royalty roster.26 Under Simpson's control the Oklahoma Farmers Union became the largest state organization in the entire country. Ofcourse, his political star had risen with its growth. Although he never campaigned for state office, Simpson's stature as a formidable state leader was well established, and he was being talked of as a possible gubernatorial candidate. He was particularly discussed as a likely candidate for the elections of 1922. An organization known as the Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League was created by a group offarm and labor leaders around the state, and Simpson was an early personality considered by the group. At a meeting of the Democratic Party in Shawnee, his name was actually placed in nomina­ tion, but he withdrew his candidacy. He later explained that he believed state officers should not be candidates for election. Besides, he added, if he were a politician he would not be able to continue his criticism of the political process. Jack Walton, the mayor of Oklahoma City, received the Democratic nomination that Simpson turned down.27 After the Democratic primary, the majority of the membership of the Farmers Union supported the Walton ticket, but Simpson decided to back the Republican candidate, John Fields. Fields, a long-time farm leader and editor of a farm journal, preached the principles of farm organization and co-operation that were Simpson's views, chapter and verse. Therefore, Simpson wrote in the Oklahoma Union Farmer: There are one hundred and thirty thousand fool farmers in this state, that are at this minute out shouting their heads off, some of them for Jack Walton for Governor and some for John Fields for Governor.... Jack Walton in his advertisements and in the speeches that he has made has said repeatedly that he cannot help the farmer, if elected governor, only to the extent that they have organiza­ tions to work with him. Every speech that John Fields makes he preaches to the farmers that what they need most of all is organization and co-operation .... Brother, put this issue of the Union Farmer in your pocket and everytime you meet one ofthose hundred and thirty thousand fool farmers, read him this article. It may get his brain to working.28 Although Simpson had little interest in state political office for himself, he did covet the national presidency of the Farmers Union. His 43


19th Farmers Union convention, 1924.

success as a state leader made him a candidate for the position in 1927. He had long been a supporter of President Charles Barrett, whom he had served faithfully as vice-president in 1925-26. By this time, however, he realized that Barrett was due to be overthrown. Accordingly, Simpson went to the national convention in 1927 with a plan, and the support of Milo Reno. At the national conclave, Simpson gained immediate attention after rising to introduce an amendment to the national constitution which would allow a state president to be designated president but the individual would serve without compensation and use his own state office, thereby saving the national Union much needed funds. Simpson presented the p Ian in such a logical manner, and explained so well how it would save the expense of maintaining a national office and "return the organization to the member­ ship" in such a reasonable way, that it won him great support for his candidacy. Although the amendment was defeated, its proposal placed Simpson in line for the presidency.



Barrett retired in 1928, leaving his office to his chosen successor, Clarence E. Huff of Kansas. To many members of the Union, this appeared to be a "put-up" deal. Two years later, Simpson ran against Huff on a platform that demonstrated the Oklahoma farm leader was not only the senior state president in the nation but also a man with an organization equal to any in the country. Because his devotion to the Farmers Union went unquestioned, he won the national presidency by a two-thirds majority vote. 29 Simpson, who had long been an opponent of the national administra­ tion in Washington, now had a platform from which he could criticize two successive Republican Presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, on an equal basis. He had become convinced the solution to the farm problems in the 1920s was the McNary-Haughen Bill. Proposed in 1924 to create a two-price system for wheat, the plan was designed so that farmers could sell more on the international market and still protect prices at home. The McNary-Haughen plan gave farmers two prices for their 45

CHAPTER II crops--one protected price for the domestic market and the other allowed them to sell on the foreign market at the world price. The bill never became law. It failed in Congress the first time, then when it was passed, it was vetoed by President Calvin Coolidge on the advice of his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Later, the bill was again revised, passed by Congress, and vetoed a second time by Coolidge. This brought Simpson into the fray. He had been, in truth, a devoted Hoover-hater from years before. 30 At the next annual convention Simpson sponsored a resolution branding Hoover as an enemy of farmers and a "pawn" of Great Britain­ -a man who had returned to the United States after visiting England during World War I as Food Administrator for President Woodrow Wilson with a hidden agenda. Simpson claimed that Hoover was placed in this position by British sympathizers in order to obtain low-priced food products for the Allies. Including Hoover's Chairman of the Wheat Corporation, Julius H. Barnes, in his remarks, Simpson stated emphatically: Therefore, be it resolved, that the officers of every state organization and of the national organization of the Farmers Union give the widest publicity to these statements of facts to the end that no farmer in the United States may be deceived into believing his arch enemy, Sir Herbert Hoover, was his friend! 31

Simpson joined other agricultural leaders in a determined effort to prevent the hated "Englishman," as the Oklahoma farm leader referred to Hoover, from securing the Republican nomination for president in 1928, but it was a wasted attempt. Simpson supported Frank 0. Lowden of Illinois, a disciple of McNary-Haughenism, but his work on behalf of the Lowden nomination was useless. When Hoover became the Republican nominee, Simpson could only fume and furiously denounce the former Secretary of Com­ merce. As a member of the Democratic delegation to the convention in Houston in 1928, Simpson decided the best candidate was Alfred E. Smith of New York. It was a difficult choice for Simpson, because he was a devout Protestant and an ardent anti-liquor supporter, while Smith was Catholic and the Democratic platform contained a plank to repeal prohibition. But his hatred for Hoover overcame even these prejudices and he campaigned vigorously for Smith. Although probably expecting the sound defeat that the Democrats received in 1928, Simpson could never 46

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS forgive Hoover for his record on agriculture dating back to the Wilson administration. With Hoover's election Simpson became one of the most virulent opponents ofthe Republican national administration in the country. When the stock market crashed in 1929 and the nation entered a decade of depression, Simpson was sure he had been right about "Sir Herbert." His attitude became even more pronounced with the passage of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929. The act provided $500 million for loans to cooperatives for facilities and operating capital, and it created a Federal Farm Board to loan money to farmers to establish cooperatives. But the one principle that the farmers could not tolerate was the Board's persistent suggestion to curtail wheat and cotton production. Overproduc­ tion, argued Board Chairman Alexander Legge, former president of the International Harvester Company, was the true barrier to fair prices for farmers. His recommendations caused violent reactions from Simpson and other farm leaders around the country. On a trip through Oklahoma, Legge met his most critical heckling and questioning in Enid, where Simpson had organized resistance to the scheme. Simpson was convinced the Agricultural Marketing Act was only another means of burdening farmers with debts by "middlemen" and bankers, while the very idea of cutting production was alien to his whole philosophy of farming.32 It was in this atmosphere of controversy and division that Simpson assumed the national presidency of the Farmers Union. Huff, the incum­ bent president, had been appointed to head the National Grain Corpora­ tion, a subsidiary of the Farm Board. One of the major reasons delegates to the annual convention had elected Simpson was because of his outspoken criticism ofthe Board. Simpson's close friend, Milo Reno, had lined up support for the Oklahoman at the convention in November, 1930, in St.Paul. Simpson's election was a definite repudiation of Hoover's farm policies. As national president Simpson pushed through his entire legislative program. His policy was called the "Domestic Allotment" plan, although it was nothing like the policy ofthe same name advocated by John D. Black and Milburn L. Wilson of the later New Deal period. In essence, Simpson's program asked that the federal government guarantee farmers the cost of production for those portions of their crops sold domestically. This guarantee would be determined by the Department of Agriculture, according to Simpson.


CHAPTER II In addition, Simpson advocated a public works program along the lines of the earlier one proposed by Jacob S. Coxsey in the 1890s. Simpson also called for greater inflation of the economy by a graduated tax on land that was reminiscent of Henry George's "single tax" plan of the 1870s. In summary, Simpson's national platform was a return to the Populist ideas of earlier years. After the convention Simpson carried his demands to Washington, where he took an apartment for himself and his wife and daughter, Mildred, who acted as his secretary. His whole life he had been a staunch supporter of farm cooperation. Now, he was beginning to believe that political action was the best means to achieve that goal. In Washington he quickly found himself involved in a war of words with Farm Board Chairman Legge. In November, 1930, a conference was called with agricultural leaders in Washington, and Simpson, unable to attend, designated Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma as his represen­ tative. After the meeting the senator wrote to Simpson giving him news of the conference. Thomas told Simpson that Legge had admitted that the Board had a "practical monopoly" on the American wheat market and could set prices at any figure it wanted. And, continued the senator, Legge had said that the Board did not desire an increase in the price of wheat at the present so that the public could buy it in "depressed times." The reason for this policy, according to Thomas, was the Board's fear that farmers would flood the market should the Board increase the price of wheat. The letter brought a roar of indignation from Simpson. He accused the Board and Legge of intentionally depressing wheat prices and causing farm failures. When Legge learned of the charges he responded by calling Simpson an "unmitigated liar." This brought an appeal from Simpson for a Senate investigation of both Legge and the Board. The war was on. 33 It became a nasty affair in the nation's press, but it was the kind of leadership the national union had been seeking for years. Members around the country cheered their president to go on to greater attacks. In December, 1930, Simpson visited unions in Missouri and Iowa before taking a train for North Carolina, and in every state huge crowds came out to listen and applaud. In Des Moines, an audience of 3,000 was present to hear Simpson loudly assail the national administration, and the numbers grew larger as he traveled.34 In April, 1931, Simpson received an invitation to visit Europe as the guest of the International Institute of Agriculture, a conglomerate of 48 48


Z.A. Lawter, kneeling front row right, Homer Duffy, secondfrom right, and John Simpson,fourthfrom right, posefor Convention photo in Oklahoma City.

nations headquartered in Rome for the purpose ofgathering statistics and information on agriculture from around the world. Sailing with his wife for Italy, Simpson gladly attended the "world wheat conference," as it was billed, where he was hosted by dictator Benito Mussolini. Simpson came away from the conference with the knowledge that other exporting countries planned to increase production of wheat and importing ones intended to raise tariff walls, another indictment of the Hoover policies as he saw it, because ofthe higher Smoot-Hawley Tariff passed by the administration. Simpson, realizing the news boded badly for American farmers, renewed his efforts to change the Hoover agenda.35 As for the ruler ofltaly, Simpson concluded that Mussolini was "a man ofgreat personality and strong character," who was making progress in his country. While disapproving of the absolute dictatorship that "II Duce" had created in Italy, Simpson reported to his readers in the Oklahoma Union Farmer that Italians needed Mussolini because he was making "Italy a strong nation and a good place in which to live." 36 That news brought Simpson an official reprimand from the State Department, but he appeared not to even notice. He returned to Washing49

CHAPTER II ton just as popular with Union members as ever. He had never been intimidated by adverse publicity, and he was not about to start. While spending more of his time in Washington than ever before, Simpson never forgot his Oklahoma roots, returning to the Sooner State as often as possible. Although he had relinquished the state presidency to Tom Cheek and the newspaper to his son, William, he still took time to write articles for the paper which kept the Oklahoma membership informed of all his activities both nationally and internationally. Nor did he forget to encourage the state Union to support a new business or cooperative when he learned of one. For example, a new cooperative creamery in Waurika drew his interest and he praised the Oklahoma Union for its effort while making a personal recommendation for the support of the business. He proudly informed the state union that Oklahoma re­ mained the "top" state organization in the nation with 16,000 paid memberships in 1931.37 His major focus remained the Hoover administration and its damag­ ing policies for farmers. Branding the Agricultural Marketing Act, the Farm Board, and Hawley-Smoot Tariff as the "wicked Trinity," he launched his greatest tirade against these three Hoover measures in 1931. According to Simpson, the Hoover laws were "more responsible for the farmers' woes than all other evils combined." 38 By this time any proposal by Hoover was a target for Simpson's ridicule and scorn. When the President announced a moratorium on European war debts as an aid designed to stimulate international trade, Simpson leaped upon the idea as another Hoover mistake. Simpson joined with Senator Robert M. Lafollette, Jr., to label the proposal another intentional attack on American farmers for the benefit of bankers and rich industrialists. Simpson, writing to newspapers around the country, reported that thousands of farmers were going into bankruptcy each day and "I notice that he does not ask a moratorium on the interest and principal payment of the mortgages these farmers have on their homes." 39 Union members applauded Simpson's stand. In November, he was re-elected by acclamation to the national presidency. Oklahoma Gover­ nor, William H. Murray, the keynote speaker at the national convention, loudly praised Simpson and encouraged him to continue his work. Murray, to the relief of many that night who feared he would use the opportunity to further his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1932, spoke primarily on governmental affairs--attacking 50

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS big business and the bankers for the problems of the nation rather than the Republicans and politicians. Apparently Murray had decided that Simpson was doing a sufficient job of criticizing Washington all by himself. At this same convention, much time was given to a number of orations and speeches by young people from around the nation on such subjects as co-operation, democracy, and world peace. At the conclusion of their addresses, Simpson awarded prizes of forty dollars each to the winners as judged by the officers. This was the origin of the later speech contests inaugurated by state unions. At the conclusion of the convention, a resolution was introduced to give President Simpson the power to call a strike by farmers for January 1, 1932. This would mean that no farmer could sell any farm products unless Congress provided relief to farmers by that date. Although the resolution was introduced by Milo Reno, Simpson opposed it. Through his influence he managed to defeat the proposal. Simpson was careful to explain that he did not philosophically oppose the strike; rather, he did not agree with it as a workable solution. He believed that a strike would be an impractical effort at that particular time, arguing that such a stand would require the participation of all farmers, not merely a handful of Union members. In reality, he was not sure that Union members would give their wholehearted support. Simpson told his members: Do not make as big a fool out of your national president by forcing him to call a strike as the Farm Board made out of themselves by advocating the destruction of farm crops and property.When we cannot get our own members to write to their Congressmen and Senators, how can we expect them to strike? 40

After a heated battle, the resolution was rejected by the convention. After returning to Washington on November 15, 1931, Simpson appeared before a select Senate Committee on Agriculture to testify before Senator Albert Gore and numerous other solons on the plight of American farmers. In a dramatic demonstration he told the senators the story ofW.B. Estes, a Colorado farmer, who had recently sent Simpson a check earned from the sale of seven lambs at a Denver market. Holding the check for 75 cents aloft, Simpson explained that five lambs had brought $1.00 per hundred and two had sold for .50 a hundred, a total gross of $3 .30; after charges for inspection, yardage, and commissions, Estes received a check for only 75 cents, the total amount realized for his 51

CHAPTER II seven sheep. Simpson added that he had taken these figures to the Department of Agriculture and had been told that if the same seven animals were then sold to consumers it would be for $83.70. Continuing, he said that on the train to Washington he had ordered two lamb chops and paid 85 cents for his meal, ten cents more than Estes had gotten for all his seven farm animals. Simpson, blaming "middlemen" for farmers' problems, told the senators that the answer to agriculture's situation was farmers' support of organization and the passage of a cost of production policy by Congress. He further advocated a refinancing of farm mortgages at lower interest rates, a policy that was being recommended in the Frazier Bill before Congress at the time. To Simpson, this was a more workable solution than any bill thus far proposed by the Farm Board. In fact, ridiculing the Board's curtailment policies, he finally told the Senate Committee that the best possible action that could be taken by Congress would be a full investigation of the Farm Board and its entire leadership. 41 By 1932 Simpson had earned a recognizable national name. Not only had he visited the 26 states with Union memberships and testified before various congressional committees, but also he had become a nationally known radio personality with a monthly program on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). So popular were his speeches over NBC that one farmer from South Dakota wrote to tell Simpson of driving six miles just to get to a radio to hear him. The farmer explained that he had to go so far because all the radios in his neighborhood were "dormant owing to the lack of the upkeep price." 42 Simpson's speech on January 23, 1932, attacking the Hoover administration, was such a hit that it brought praise from around the country. More than 18,000 letters from supporters and well-wishers filled Simpson's apartment at the Cavalier Hotel in Washington. He had become a personality second only to Father Charles Coughlin of Chicago. Simpson's energy was aimed primarily at the removal of Hoover from the White House, while carefully securing a promise from the next administration to pass his legislative programs. He had become convinced that the so-called Three-Way Farm Relief Bill introduced by Senator Charles L. McNary was the only answer to the farm problem. This bill encompassed his "cost of production" ideas. The Frazier Bill provided for liberal financing of farm mortgages, and Senator Burton K. Wheeler's Bill called for the remonetization of silver for a more inflationary currency. These were proposals Simpson had supported his entire life, and 52


ANOTHER LOYAL MEMBER While John Simpson was building the early Farmers Union organization, he was supported by hundreds of men and women in all parts of the state. One of those loyal members was E.E. Norman of Elk City. Born in 1883 in Sullivan County, Missouri, Norman came to Oklahoma with his parents in 1894 and settled on a farm near Weatherford. One of the first stu­ dents enrolled at Southwestern Normal (Southwestern Oklahoma State University), Norman taught school for a time and allowed the Oklahoma Farmers Union to use his classroom for their meetings. In 1904, after one of the meetings the members covered the floor with tobacco juice, he went to see President John Simpson to complain. The two men were so impressed with each other that Norman joined the Union and Simpson stopped the tobacco chewing. Elected to the executive board in 1917, Norman sug­ gested the site of the first Farmers Union-owned headquarters at 18 North Klein in Oklahoma City. His name is one of those along with Simpson's on the cornerstone of the building. He would remain on the executive committee until 1929. As a delegate to the National Union's 1922 convention in Lynchburg, Virginia, Norman and some of his friends took a short side-trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the White House. "We went through a reception line with some Texas school teachers and President Harding shook hands and spoke to us just like we were part of the group," he recalled. 53

CHAPTER II he was crushed in June, 1932, when the Senate killed the farm relief plan and turned to other ideas. By this time most agricultural leaders were moving toward support of the domestic allotment plan proposed by Black and Wilson. Their plan promoted acreage restriction and taxes on processors of basic farm commodities. Most farmers and leaders were coming to believe in the plan simply because no better proposals could be passed by Congress; Simpson did not agree. Strongly opposed to the forced acreage reduction plan, he decided to consult with one of the leading Democratic candidates for president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Simpson hoped to convert the New York governor to his "cost ofproduction" ideas. Having known FDR since the Democratic convention in San Francisco in 1920, when Roosevelt was a vice-presidential candidate, Simpson willingly accepted Roosevelt's invitation on March 7 to visit him in Albany.43 After their conference in April at Hyde Park, Simpson happily reported to his followers that Governor Roosevelt had agreed to a plank in the Democratic platform supporting the entire Farmers Union farm. program--should he win the nomination. Simpson, absolutely certain that he had won the next president over to his plan, jubilantly told his radio audiences in July that the Democrats should be supported in November because Roosevelt favored the Farmers Union. Simpson campaigned hard for the Governor's nomination and was present at the Chicago convention that nominated him. About this, he wrote to his friend in August that: "I am over intensely interested in seeing you overwhelmingly elected and then after you are elected I want you to be in a position to start a new deal in this country...."44 Roosevelt, while publicly supporting the Simpson plan, was already leaning more toward the Wilson domestic allotment scheme. FDR had come to believe that any new farm program should provide for the producer, decrease production, and above all else, pay for itself. The Wilson plan met all these criteria. But Roosevelt was a practical politi­ cian. He refused to commit himselfto any specific plans. On one occasion on the campaign trail in September in Sioux City, he met with Simpson and other farm leaders and made the statement that he favored the cost­ of-production ideas. At this time at least he had Simpson convinced that he still supported the Farmers Union plan. Thereafter, Roosevelt pursued a course of political expediency throughout the campaign and refused to be cornered again into a promise to any specific legislative program.45 Simpson, gloriously happy with the election results of his candidate, 54

A MILITANT VOICE FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS along with his own re-election to the national presidency in Omaha on November 15, was mentioned as the probable Secretary of Agriculture in the Roosevelt cabinet. His name was often suggested by leading news magazines around the country, and he received endorsements from some of the most influential editors in the nation. Simpson probably expected the appointment himself when he was called to a meeting in Washington less than a month after the election. 46 At that meeting of farm leaders from around the nation, Roosevelt unexpectedly declared his support for the Wilson domestic allotment plan. Simpson became livid. Not only was he not to receive the appointment, but his whole program had just been abandoned. Making his feelings known in the same manner he always had, Simpson stormed at Roosevelt. In tum, the president-elect became angry and a shouting match followed. Simpson finally stalked out of the meeting, declaring his intentions to now fight the New Deal as hard as he had ever fought Hoover's Farm Board.47 Roosevelt subsequently appointed Henry A. Wallace as the new Secretary of Agriculture to administer the New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) in 1933. Aimed a achieving "parity" for farmers by curtailing production in order to create an artificial scarcity of farm goods, the cost of the program was passed along to processors in the form of a special tax. Simpson, defeated in his plans for a cost-of-production law, did not approve of the AAA in either philosophy or methods. Instead, he fixed his goals on passage of the Frazier and Wheeler Bills to remonetize silver to inflate the currency. He was convinced that farmers badly needed refinancing to prevent them from being driven from their homes. He seized upon these proposed inflationary bills as the best possible means of saving them. He told his audiences over NBC thatthe country's greatest need was "a bigger crop of money." 48 Simpson, ardently anti-New Deal in thought, became even more bitterly vocal as time passed. Although he refused to break personally with Roosevelt, he began to blame those around the President. He criticized FDR's advisors for the direction of the New Deal and labeled the "Brain Trust" as being "composed principally of hair-brained professors" com­ mitted to "DDB": drink, destroy, and bor.row. In his own mind Simpson could attack the Roosevelt administration without any personal bias toward the man. Within six months he had joined other anti-New Dealers like Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana and Father Charles Coughlin in verbal 55

CHAPTER II assaults upon the administration. Nevertheless, he tried to give advice to the President. In one of his letters to Roosevelt he wrote: There will never be permanent prosperity in this country until there is a restoration of the volume of a medium of exchange.... You could do no better thing than to cease issuing interest bearing bonds, and instead issue full legal tender non-interest­ bearing currency when the government needs money. Mr. President, I assure you there is no man in the United States more anxious to have your administration be a success than I am.49 Simpson had been re-elected to the national presidency at the Omaha convention in 1933. The Oklahoma Union Farmer had headlined this news by declaring that "Harmony Prevailed At Omaha National Union Convention." Behind the scenes it was a different story. A controversy between Simpson and A.W. Ricker, the editor of the St. Paul Farmers Union Herald, had erupted during the meeting and even led to a fist fight between the two men. Simpson, charging Ricker with being a supporter of the "old Farm Board crowd," had ordered Ricker removed from an executive session of the convention because Ricker did not have proper credentials to be seated at the meeting. Later in the evening Ricker made an attack upon Simpson in a nationally broadcasted radio program. When the two chanced to meet in the same hoterlobby a few hours later, Simpson confronted Ricker. A series of angry words followed and Simpson struck Ricker for calling him a liar. The fight only ended after the two had to be separated physically. Simpson's reputation was severely damaged by the affair. He suffered another setback when his candidate for vice-president, HG. Keeney of Nebraska, was defeated by E.H. Everson of South Dakota. It was obvious from this development that Simpson's grip on the Union was loosening. There were even rumors that he had imported Chicago gunmen to enforce his will and to intimidate delegates to support him.50 In January, 1934, the Nebraska State Farmers Union openly charged that Simpson had kept himself in office by forceful means; the Nebraska Union consequently voted to discontinue paying national dues until the executive board investigated him. Before the investigation could begin, Simpson suffered a heart attack on March 15 in Washington. He died later that night. 56


John Simpson's funeral in Oklahoma City, 19 34.

Earlier that morning he had gone to the Senate Office Building, as was his habit, and visited the office of William Lemke. After a short talk with the Congressman, Simpson left to give testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. From there he had gone to meet with friends in the corridor of the Senate Building, where he suddenly collapsed with the attack. He was rushed to the hospital, but doctors could not save him. 51 Simpson's body was returned to Oklahoma where he lay in state at the State Capitol. He was visited by thousands who acclaimed him for his years of service to the Farmers Union. In truth, he had died fighting for those things he believed would help the farmer. He was buried in Oklahoma City.




L 1930 the Oklahoma Farmers Union had a member­

ship of 20,000, a state headquarters valued at $100,000, a farm insurance organization carrying more than $30 million in policies, a system of co­ operative gins valued at more than $3 million, a co-operative royalty company with thousands of acres, a number of wholesale gas and oil stations, and a co-operative creamery. Despite this picture of success, the Oklahoma Farmers Union was threatened by the growing storm clouds of the Great Depression. Audits by experiment stations in Oklahoma presented a bleak outlook for the state. Personal incomes from farms in Garfield County, one of the state's better farm districts, would average $917 in 1931, then rise the next year to $1,044, but then fall to $416 in 1933. In the same depression years, personal income in the dairy-rich counties of Craig­ Mayes would be $418, $605, and $34. The figures clearly illustrated the predicament that faced the leadership of the Farmers Union. In 1930 there was a new vice-president, C.H. Hyde ofAlva, who was given the responsibility of being the Union's representative to the next legislature. Z.A. Lawter remained as Secretary-Treasurer. The Executive Committee was composed of Andrew H. Smith of Frederick; SH. Hendrickson, Okeene; J.M. Graves, Perkins; Homer Duffy, Lexington; and, M.B. Eberhard, Pryor. 1 All were supporters of John Simpson, whose last act before leaving office was to make certain these men succeeded him. At the state convention in 1930 the newly-elected national president used his tremen­ dous influence to insure that his handpicked candidate won the position of state president over his nearest competitor, B.L. Darnell. That man was Tom Cheek.2 58


Oklahoma faced hard times during the Dust Bowl.


CHAPTER III The new Oklahoma Farmers Union president was originally from Bush, Kentucky. Born on a farm on January 1, 1878, Cheek was reared in a typical farm environment. In 1889 he joined the army and served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Mustered out of the service at Ft. Sill in 1902, the tall, robust young soldier, who liked to part his hair in the middle, planned to go into the used clothing business. He had purchased all the old clothing and shoes of his former army buddies at the cheapest prices possible with the idea of starting an army surplus store. He soon changed his mind. Instead, he decided to move to Berlin in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma Territory, to file on eighty acres of land. A year later, he married with the intention of remaining a farmer. In 1904 he joined the first Farmers Union local in the county at Eden View school­ house. In 1905 Cheek helped organize the Roger Mills Co-operative Association, which grew to a membership of 2,200 farmers. Two years later a co-operative gin was started at Berlin, the first of its kind in Oklahoma, and Cheek was employed as its manager. In 1908 he was elected county secretary of the Roger Mills County Farmers Union. That same year the Farmers Union Broom Corn Growers' Associa­ tion was founded and Cheek was named manager of this organization as well. With his help the association opened a warehouse at Sayre in Beckham County. A few years later, at the annual convention in Shawnee in 1911, Cheek was named a state organizer for Roger Mills, Beckham, and Ellis counties. He continued to farm until 1914 when he moved to Sayre to work in a railroad shop. Cheek had decided that he could make a better living working for the railroad and also give his children the benefit of going to a bigger school. A natural mechanic, Cheek continued to be employed by the railroad during World War I. In these years he transferred his membership from the Farmers Union to a craft union where he worked. Later, he was named local secretary of the Federated Shop Crafts Union. In 1917, while still employed by the railroad, he was persuaded by a member of the Farmers Union to attend the state convention in Oklahoma City. There, he met President Simpson and Secretary Lawter, and was so impressed by the two farm leaders that he decided to renew his membership in their Union. After returning to Sayre, he turned his home into a headquarters for the Farmers Union movement. He quickly became Simpson's key man in Roger Mills and Beckham counties. For a while Cheek served as both secretary of the Crafts Union and as county 60


Tom Cheek.

president ofthe Farmers Union. Good humoredly, he told both groups that it was "one instance where labor and farmer were co-operating." In 1922 his shop men went out on strike and Cheek sided with them. Refusing to report to work as a "scab," he lost his job and never returned to work with the railroad. Once more he decided to concentrate his energy on the Farmers Union. In 1924 he made the decision to stay with the organization. Two years later, in November of 1926, he was employed as a regular organizer for the Union. His employment was due largely to his acquaintance with President Simpson. The hard-working president was so impressed with Cheek that he began assigning Cheek to represent him at meetings when he did not have time to attend. With complete confidence in Cheek, 61

CHAPTER III Simpson slowly gave him more power and duties. The enormous growth of co-operative cotton gins over the next few years was largely due to Cheek's work, although Simpson received most of the credit. Cheek was recognized for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Union by being elected vice-president in 1928. When Simpson announced his intention to step down from the state presidency two years later, the faithful Cheek was in line to succeed him. Elected president on January 21, 1930, Cheek took his election modestly, asking the membership for full support, even from those who had opposed him. He said that he regarded his opponents as sincere individuals who were only speaking their minds, and he believed they had a right to vote for whomever they wished. He told the delegates to the convention that he hoped the entire membership would accept him, and that he would allow any criticism or recommendations when the members felt that he was wrong. He stated simply, "I am not thin skinned." After the election, Cheek moved his family from his farm at Grines in Roger Mills County to Bethany--as close to Oklahoma City as he wanted to live. A farmer by nature, he sincerely hated "city life," and did not wish to live in town. He often stated his dislike for being "cooped up" in an office, but he willingly accepted the presidency and determined to continue the policies of his mentor, John Simpson.3 Cheek quickly made it known that he was going to be just as active a lobbyist as Simpson had been. In a personal letter to members of the Oklahoma Senate he voiced his complete support for House Bill 307, which the senators had voted down a short time earlier. The proposal provided that the administrator of the Federal Drouth Relief program in the state could take chattel mortgages on crops that were to be planted as a first lien on farm property. The bill had passed the House, but the Senate voted to postpone action on it, in effect killing the whole bill. Cheek, in an open letter published in the newspaper, chided the Senate for its action and emphatically demanded that the senators rescind their previous motion and reconsider the bill. By his action, Cheek was loudly announcing his determination to take up Simpson's role as the guardian of Oklahoma farm legislation. 4 Cheek continued to support Simpson at national meetings as well. On May 5, 1931, a meeting of the recently organized Com Belt Federation convened in Des Moines to discuss the activities of Hoover's Farm Board. The Com Belt organization, started in 1925, was composed of supporters of the McNary-Haughen Bills. Simpson called upon Cheek to bring a 62


Cheek, seated at front right, with Board Members and wives.

delegation from Oklahoma to support him at the meeting. Dutifully, the Oklahoma president drove with Hyde and Lawter to the conference. As expected, the organization quickly passed a resolution demanding changes in the Agricultural Marketing Act, while condemning the Farm Board. 5 Returning to the Sooner State after the meeting, Cheek and Secretary Lawter found a new problem had been created for the Union's insurance company. The weather, and as Lawter suspected, hard times, had placed enormous pressure on the insurance funds. Twenty-one fires for the month of June alone, preceded by months of abnormally high losses in hail and wind damage, had resulted in record numbers of claims being filed. There was also a growing concern for the company's financial reputation as business began to drop. Editorials by Lawter and appeals from Cheek stemmed the tide, but the insurance business suffered considerably in the next few years. 6 In July, 1931, Cheek announced that the Union's auditing depart­ ment was successful. He advised members to begin taking advantage of its many services. Nine years earlier, E.W.H. Falter had been hired to do the Union's audits, and through the years the service had been expanded 63

CHAPTER III for use by the membership. Charging the member institutions, gins, elevators, and stores approximately half the price of private accounting firms, the Union's audit department had established a system of daily audits ofbooks for its clients. The result was much lower prices for Union cooperatives around the state. Cheek, advising the membership of the "excellent service" that could be obtained at much lower prices, heartily expressed his support of the auditing department and appealed to his members to enroll in its program.7 Proving that he was just as determined as Simpson to make his sentiments known, Cheek became involved in a dispute in the state press with Professor W.C. Jamieson at Central College in Edmond. Cheek, a proponent ofgovernment public works programs as a means of alleviating the unemployment problems of the depression, was attacked by the professor for his views. The professor claimed that the only way the government could accomplish this task was by increasing the size of the military. This in turn, stated Jamieson, would only result in higher taxes and the creation of a "Soviet" style of government in the United States. Cheek quickly took exception to the charges. In a published reply, he stated that the government of the United States had "the right to use every power of the government to solve the problems which we are now facing...." Cheek added: "We believe that work rather than charity should be provided for the unemployed and that an immediate program of public work, such as roads, flood control, deep waterways, reforestation, etc., should be instituted by the state and federal governments to give employ­ ment to every American citizen, and we demand that in the financing of public works the evils of interest bearing bonds be done away with."8 Cheek suggested that the cost of public works could be accom­ plished by a federally issued non-interest bearing "bond currency." The money could then be returned out of the profits from federal improve­ ments. He added that this type of financing would create benefits to both labor and farmers by providing more markets and better business. Cheek argued that a public works program would benefit both producer and consumer.9 The time was not yet right for his proposal, however. Neither the general public nor the federal government approved of the idea of public works programs at this time. President Hoover, who had his own philosophic objections, also refused to support the plan. In August, 1931, Cheek proudly announced the inaugural of a new program for the Farmers Union. In conjunction with Dr. Michael M. 64


William C. McDonald receipt for membership in the Farmers Union Co­ operative hospital in Elk City.


This is to certify that dues have been paid

Mk,�-�.??.2_f_d_4R. F. D .............. . c2M. ..:: ... This card expires November First, 1941 N o •. .C.4.. .!//. �---·

of .. �7 ...

S. C. THOMPSON, Sec'y-Treas.

McDonald's membership card.

Shadid, who came originally from Syria, a Co-operative Health Associa­ tion was created to open a new community hospital for Union members in Elk City. The hospital had been started by Dr. Shadid, who had practiced medicine at Carter, Oklahoma, for twelve years before launching his Union hospital. A recognized physician in the western part ofthe state, and a graduate of St. Louis' Washington University medical school, Shadid was a cooperatist in philosophy. As the author of two medical books, The SelfPhysician and How To Live One Hundred Years, Shadid had decided to cut the high costs of medicine and eliminate the "great evil" of modem American medical treatment, expensive "unnecessary surgical opera­ tions." The doctor persuaded the Union Board to accept his proposal to charge members fifteen dollars per year, plus three dollars per day for hospital stays. Equally important, Shadid proposed that all operations would be the same as private hospitals, less fifty percent. In a drive to persuade the membership to begin buying stock in the 65

CHAPTER III hospital, Shadid offered free operations from August 24th to the 26th for any person buying one share of stock in the corporation for fifty dollars. Shadid soon interested other dedicated doctors in his work. Dr. J.A. Eckrich, a graduate of Creighton University who spoke at the dedication of the hospital stated: "I believe that a hospital should be owned by the people whom it serves for such a hospital will be ruri not in the interest of the private individuals who own it but in the interest of the people who patronize it. This is a great step forward in the evolution of medicine." 10 When the hospital opened August 14, Oscar Ameringer, the re­ nowned socialist author, was on hand to deliver the dedication speech. The audience heard Dr. Shadid describe his hospital as a "co-operative institution founded on the principles and ideals of the co-operative movement." The idealistic doctor did not realize, however, the contro­ versy he had begun within the medical profession. It would require years of work and dedication before his hospital was safe from efforts to destroy it. 11 Meanwhile, Cheek had passed through a successful term. He won re­ election at the annual state convention in January, 1932. There was a mild challenge from vice-president Hyde, but when the ballots were counted Cheek had received 150 votes to Hyde's 50. One major decision made at the convention was that all state officers and employees of the Union agreed to take a reduction in salary. This was to be done voluntarily as a means of combating the depression. The agreement was made that pay would be restored when business and farming conditions "got better." After this decision, a motion from the floor was introduced for a resolution endorsing Governor William Murray for president. "Alfalfa Bill" was still a name to be recognized by the loyal Unionists. The convention passed the resolution almost unanimously. 12 Only a few months later the Oklahoma governor repaid the debt. Murray responded to the fact that a large number of state doctors had voiced complaints against the Elk City hospital and had openly threatened to have the staff at the hospital investigated by the state medical board. Blaming the doctors' discontent on the fact that the hospital charged such low prices, Cheek and Lawter visited Governor Murray. The governor characteristically told the Union leaders that any attempted investigation by board members would result in their dismissal. Murray, who believed in chiropractors anyway, stated categorically: 66

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS So this is notice to the doctors of the state...that the farmers in Beckham County...have the legal, constitutional right to do so, and will be protected to the limit by the governor of Oklahoma....This is not the first instance where the "inner circle" have attempted even to thwart the execution of the laws. When I say the "inner circle," I mean those in control of these several class organizations, not alone of the physicians, but of the lawyers, dentists, barbers, et cetera.13 The hospital survived the challenge from private doctors, but Dr. Eckrich, so dedicated in the beginning, resigned from the staff. In essence, he had been ostracized by other members of his profession. Dr. Shadid struggled for years to make the hospital a success, and he finally achieved his dream. By 1935 he had added a second and third floor to his hospital with a staff of five additional doctors, making it a medical facility equal to any in the state. While keeping control of Union activities, Cheek soon became involved in a more militant movement that had been gathering steam in the Midwest. At the Farmers Union national convention in 1931, Milo Reno proposed a "Farmers' Holiday," a strike by farmers in the manner of withholding farm products from the public market until such time as farmers received a cost of production bill from Congress. As national president, Simpson had used his power over the Union to defeat the motion, but Reno had continued the movement on his own. In July, 1932, he organized the "Farmers' Holiday" in Iowa and called for a strike a month later. Soon, publicity caused by farmer pickets on the highways in Sioux City and Council Bluffs gave the strike national attention, and farmers in other states began joining the movement. That September, Reno was invited by Cheek and Lawter to organize Oklahoma farmers. With a recommendation from Cheek, the Iowa farm leader appointed R.L. Rickerd of Cold Springs, Kiowa County, to serve as president of the state Farmers' Holiday Association. Along with Rickerd, "Uncle Ed" Reger, a well known Farmers Union organizer, was named vice-president, and E.O. White, a legislator and Union member from Bryan County, was selected as secretary-treasurer. Shortly after his appointment, Rickerd sent out letters to 400 farmers around the state to test the strength of the movement. He was greatly encouraged when all returned pledges endorsing the holiday program. 14 Cheek, adding his support to the movement, published his views on the proposed holiday in The Oklahoma Union Farmer: "!fall farmers join 67

CHAPTER III the Association and remain loyal it will have the desired results. I wish you God's speed and that you refrain from violence, at all times, and carry on peacefully to a successful conclusion....May your efforts bring forth many, many blessings and good results." 15 At the organizational meeting of the association in the Bristol Hotel in Oklahoma City on September 8, more than 600 farmers from across the state convened to voice their approval of the Holiday. President Rickerd proudly told the members that thirty-five counties were represented at the meeting.16 The group decided to organize with the goal ofjoining the movement by calling a state strike within sixty days. Reno told the gathering to solicit farmer participation, even if they did not agree to withhold all their farm goods--only a ten percent contribution would help. The national head of the Farmers' Holiday Association called for a nation-wide strike for September 21. Rickerd immediately began a state tour to visit with farmers encouraging their participation. 17 Oklahoma farmers supported the effort, but the Holiday achieved little in the way of material success and it was soon called off by Reno. He had decided to give the election process time to work. Like others throughout the nation, not only farmers, the principle of going on strike was difficult to accept, and most decided to place their hopes on the democratic election of a new administration in Washington. The Holiday Movement contributed to the atmosphere that brought Roosevelt victory in 1932. It came at a time the public needed to be awakened. Incredibly, there were those who did not realize a depression was going on, much less the severity of the farm problem. The major success of the holiday was that its members had accomplished "raising more hell," as Mary Ellen Lease, the Kansas Populist, had advised more than forty years earlier. 18 In January, 1933, President Cheek was re-elected at the state convention. National President Simpson made an address that assured Cheek's victory. Simpson characteristically told the delegates that those who opposed the present officers "came with unclean hands." The fact that there were few legitimate opponents to the board or the president did not bother Simpson. Cheek's annual report to the convention listed 23 locals which had been added to the membership rolls in two counties during his term of office. The Great Depression, however, was taking its toll. Secretary Lawter reported that there were only 10,000 paid memberships, but he did 68


AN ORGANIZATION MAN James H. "Jimmy" Hays first heard of the Farmers Union by listening to a speech by President John Simpson over a battery-powered radio in 1933. When he learned that Farmers Union wrote insur­ ance he called Oklahoma City and was told that there was no representative in Garfield County and that he could write it himself. Simpson followed up and encour­ aged Hays to get 15 prospective members together to form a local, with dues of $1. 00 per member. Jimmy organized local 215 in Kremlin in 1933 at the community building. The speaker for the event was Ed Reger, followed by refreshments and coffee served in tin cups. Reger talked to his crowd in a language they understood. "When your missus puts food on the table, she doesn't put a cup of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, etc. No! She puts the combination into biscuits. We have to combine to get our laws for farmers passed." The local was formed that night. Z.H. Lawter often came to county meetings at Govern­ ment Springs Park armed with a bushel of oranges to pass out to the audience. Later, the Union built a feed store and a gas station in Enid. Jimmy wore out his first car driving around the county and the state recruiting new members. He argued that the success of the Union depended upon their combination of business with reforms in legislation needed by farmers. Hays served as county secretary and as secretary ofthe Kremlin local for more than 12 years. By 1946, when he was elected to the board he had written more than $100,000 worth of property insurance and adjusted thousands of claims for clients. 69



Ed.•c�tion.al and �o..oi,erati:ve Union.



®klalt:o:urn llni:o:n :o:f fh? JJ,armns (!ib:nrnfi:o:nal ait-h (!1:o:�®prnfi�? llni:o:tt :o:f 2-mni.rn nts �hall
Know ye, that the Farmers Educational and Co-Operative Union of America, Oklahoma Division.

by virtue of authority in its officers vested by Charter from National Farmers Educational and Co­


Operative Union of America, duly filed in the office of Secretary of State in compliance with law, have this day granred, and do hereby grant unto Harry �ykins, President; W. E. BosweU1 Sec'yTreas; W, H, Estes, V-Pres; Tony Hagel;; C. M. Grif.riths; Andrev, Estes;

M_,::.Jyip Estes; w. E. Johnson; A. J. Co<.11..::; Tony Ziibert; W. H. Steer:; R. )t.• !\:;olB�7 L Burgin; Otto Moyer; M. A, Hamilt?n; c. H. Brewer; Joe Cook; H.H.Goluk� Charley Stover, Oscar Lane and C. C � Calvin


-----------------�----�nd unto their associates and successors ,


i foe, Local Union to be known and designated as_ --'<"-<'JILI._____________ Union. located at Miami I ____.P O, County of_�O�t�t�a�w�a�----­ No 79 Oklnhoma, fully constituting them a Local Umonlff the Farmers Educational and Co.Operative Union

of America, with full powers to perform all the dut es and ceremomcs appertamrng to same under the

powers of said Charter whilst they shall conform to the rules and usages of the ordcr-tts Constitution and By-Laws, purposes and pnnc1ples

In Witness Whereo , we have caused this to be signed by our Prcstdent

and Secretary, wit� cal affixed and endorsed by the Organizing Officer ,Okiahgma City, at Oklahoma, chis the�-�dayof> September, 1935 ,A.O., 192__



(���--•.... �-r:-,

'c,rrt:; �-

Charter granted to the Miami Local by President Cheek, 1935.




A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS take advantage of the opportunity to praise Miss Lillus Bierman, who was in charge ofthe membership department, for personally doing all the work alone of writing and issuing memberships. He called upon the delegates to renew their efforts to pay dues on time and try to bring more members into the Union. As an example to members, both Cheek and Lawter agreed to another voluntary pay reduction. Each announced a $25 salary decrease due to the continued poor economic condition of state farmers.19 Cheek increased his own recruiting efforts. One of his new tactics was to start the "Uncle Dom" fund in honor of 91-year old O.F. Domblaser, who was visiting friends in Caddo County. This doughty Farmers Union organizer from Iowa had been a member of the organiza­ tion since its inception, and he was well known around the state. He had even attended the last convention in Oklahoma City, where the colorful old unionizer had led the delegates in a rousing dance to the music of a string band. Cheek also asked that locals send in a small contribution of $1.00 or more to help "Uncle Dorn" in his old age. He further asked them to get out and recruit members for the Union as this "grand old man" had done all his adult life.20 In March of 1933 Roosevelt, the long-awaited new president, took office. The Oklahoma Union Farmer proclaimed the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal with the headlines: "The Money Changers Are Fleeing From the Temple." Cheek immediately announced his support for the new administration and expressed complete faith that Roosevelt would meet the economic crisis of the depression. He categori­ cally declared that "Oklahoma is backing his program I 00 per cent." 21 Soon afterwards, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was passed by Congress, and it received a ringing endorsement from Cheek. In a state-wide radio address over station WKY in Oklahoma City, Cheek gave a detailed explanation of the new program of crop reduction and parity payments for farmers. He told his audience that "war-time powers" had been given to Roosevelt, and he advised his listeners that "We all should support the President. ..." 22 Cheek not only supported the AAA, but he also endorsed the National Recovery Administration (NRA), a program designed to estab­ lish labor codes, collective bargaining, an eight-hour work day, and minimum wages for workers. In a broadcast on his weekly radio show, Cheek stated: "I urgently request that every farmer in Oklahoma support the National Recovery Administration to restore the purchasing power of 71

CHAPTER III our people...I ask that you inform yourselves as to the details of this program, which is being explained over the air to radio listeners every day and night and which is being carried in the public press of the state." 23 Despite New Deal improvements, the economic situation in Okla­ homa and the nation continued to be a problem. Due to the sluggish recovery it was decided that the Union should divest itself of its gasoline stations. In a board meeting on July 14, 1933, it was proposed that "owing to the inability of farmers who are stockholders in these institutions to purchase gasoline and oil in large quantities," the business in the stations had diminished to the extent they were not paying overhead and should be disposed of quickly. Homer Duffy seconded the motion and the motion was approved. A committee was organized of Lawter, A.H. Smith, and W.O. Lawson to sell the stations to the best advantage possible before September 1. In August of 1933 Cheek and Lawter introduced a new idea to revitalize the membership rolls. While offering new members a discounted membership price of 75 cents for the balance of the year, it was announced that trips would be offered to one boy and girl, whose parents were members, to participate in an annual state oratory contest. The two state winners would be awarded free trips to the national convention in Omaha in November. The contestants' first subjects were to discuss "Cooperative Mar­ keting" and "The Money Question." Designed for youngsters between the ages of twelve and eighteen, the speech contests consisted of fifteen­ minute oral presentations. State winners would go on to participate in the national contest at the convention. Responding to National Chairman C.N. Rogers' invitation to join the program, Cheek enthusiastically remarked, "We are in it to win." Thus began the speech contests for younger members that have been held annually to the present day.24 In January of 1934, The Oklahoma Union Farmer proclaimed: "All Eyes Turn to State Convention." The major reason for interest in the annual meeting was the proposed change in the state organization's constitution allowing board members to serve three-year terms. With a five-member panel, four of the members were to be elected for longer terms. At the convention all the officers and board members were re-elected and given staggered terms in order to begin the adopted amendment of serving three years. It had been decided earlier that the two who received the highest number of votes would begin a three-year 72

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS term, third and fourth highest would receive two-year terms, and the lowest number one year. When the votes were taken, S.H. Hendrickson, Blaine County, and Andrew Smith, Tillman County, were elected to three-year terms; J.M. Graves, Payne County, and M.B. Eberhard, Mayes County, to two years; and Homer Duffy, Cleveland County, (and later president) received a one­ year appointment.25 On March 15 the state organization was deeply saddened by the news of the unexpected death of John Simpson, the man who had led the state Union for fourteen years before assuming the national presidency in 1930. Held in high regard even by his opponents, Simpson would be greatly missed by the Union membership. Tributes came in from around the state and nation. Even President Roosevelt was one of many who sent condolences to the family. Politically, Simpson's loss paved the way for state board member J.M. Graves to move up to the national board. When E.H. Everson, vice­ president of the national Union automatically succeeded Simpson, a vacancy was created that was filled by board member, C.N. Rogers. Graves was appointed to serve out Rogers' term. A country banker and Payne County Commissioner, Graves served with distinction until the national convention met again the following November, when he won the office by election.26 Cheek's efforts to raise membership rolls in the state had paid dividends. He had successfully convinced local members to propose farmers' names and then to visit those men to inform them that they had been voted "honorary members" in the Union. This tactic usually worked, and by September, 1934, Cheek could report that thirty-two new locals had been organized during the year. This raised the total membership to 17,874, meaning that Oklahoma was still the largest state Union in the national organization.2 7 Cheek also sent out membership invitations to actively recruit women. The Union had always allowed women, as the men's member­ ships included all family members, but Cheek realized that women were an untapped resource. He believed "the Union's potential legislative power will be doubled by such enrollment...." Also, because there were no separate dues required of spouses, the new policy would increase revenues by allowing women who owned property and carried insurance in the Union to become full paid members.28 More than 1,500 members attended the annual state convention in 73


Cheek, second from right, and Lawter, third from right, with staff at Farmers Union headquarters, 1935.

1935 to hear Cheek predict a better year for the Farmers Union and the country. As an indication of more prosperous times, Secretary Lawter reported that the insurance business had increased dramatically during the past year. Reminding the delegates that the company had been organized in January of 1922 with only 284 policy holders, Lawter reported the insurance company had grown to more than 13,000 policy holders, who carried more than $32 million in fire and tornado insurance. He further reported that the Woods County Mutual Insurance Company, with over 100 members, had just been acquired by the Union, adding another $200,000 worth of policy coverage. The secretary also came in for praise for his recent re-appointment to the State Board of Agriculture by newly-elected Governor E.W. Marland, the millionaire oilman and politician who had been elected in



1934 to "Bring the New Deal to Oklahoma." Lawter, who had been appointed to the board by Governor William Murray, was the only member retained by Marland.29 In May of 1935 Cheek issued a call for a mass meeting of farmers and workers to attend a rally in Oklahoma City to support passage of bills by the state legislature to establish a graduated land tax and to create a state social security system. More than 1,200 farmers from across the state answered his appeal on June 2. Aided by Ira M. Finley, president of the Veterans oflndustry, and Pat Murphy, State Labor Commissioner and Chairman of the Old Age Pension Association, Cheek made an emotional appeal to the Legislature for the New Deal measures.30 While the National Board and its president, E.H. Everson, attacked the New Deal's AAA, NRA, and other programs, as did many Oklaho­ mans, Cheek quietly continued his support. Among the more vocal 75


WORKING TOGETHER Cooperation was a central theme for the Oklahoma Farmers Union from the beginning, so it was natural that coopera­ tive processing and marketing of agricul­ tural products became a major initiative. Institutional support may have launched "co-ops," but was individual leadership that kept them alive and prosperous. One of those countless individuals devoted to co-ops was T. J. Barton of Hobart, Okla­ homa. Born in 1889 on a farm near Butler, Barton was reared in a three-room house and slept three to a bed. He laughingly recalled that "I never had a chance to sleep by myself until after I was married." In the late 1920s he and his wife Julia farmed and raised enough money for him to go to business school in Wichita, Kansas. In the 1930s he returned to Oklahoma, but the depression was on and there were no accounting jobs open, so he went to work as a gin helper in Butler for 30 cents an hour. In 1932 he went to cotton classifying school and was hired as manager of the Farmers Union Cooperative Gin at Hinton. He explained that the first mortgages for a gin were from W.M. Varnum, a store owner and oilman from Seminole. "When the Wichita Bank of Cooperatives was established," Barton said, "I was one of the first ones camped on their door." He paid off the mortgage to Varnum and began a lifetime association with the Wichita Bank. Later he managed larger gins at Mountain Park and Frederick. The 5'5" Barton helped organize oil mills as well, and served for 32 years as a field representative for the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City. It only cost $30,000 to build one, and most of those were built in seven counties on the west side of the state. By the time of his retirement, T.J. was known affectionately as "Mr. Oklahoma Cotton." 76

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS opponents of the federal administration was William B. Simpson, editor of The Oklahoma Union Farmer, and Cicero Murray, editor of"Alfalfa Bill's" Blue Valley Farmer. In one attack on the New Deal, Murray quipped, "We have the AAA and the CCC, but have you heard ofthe BBB­ -Bunk, Bureaucracy, and Bankruptcy." The insults and smears did not faze Cheek from his support of the New Deal. In July, Chester Davis, federal administrator of the AAA, appeared in Stillwater to speak to a college audience on behalf of the Roosevelt policies, and Cheek worked hard to publicize the meeting. He was primarily responsible for convincing Oklahoma farmers to get out, listen, and show their support for the national program. 31 On September 24 Governor Marland submitted several bills calling for initiative votes from the public. Two of the proposals--the graduated income tax and the social security systems--Cheek had worked hard to get started. Another bill provided for homestead exemptions. Cheek urgently requested his members to get out the vote to pass these bills during the next election. On the national level, one of the greatest deterrents to rural progress was the lack of rural electricity, so Cheek entered the battle to get a bill passed by Congress because less than ten percent of American farms had electricity. When Senator George Norris of Nebraska, the father of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), introduced and guided the Rural Electrification Act through Congress in 1935, Cheek was one of the loudest proponents. Convincing his members of the need for the Rural Electrification Authority, the Union lent its voice to the bill, and, as promised, the lives of farmers were changed forever. Within 25 years more than 90 percent of rural American homes would be converted to electricity. 32 Cheek was rewarded for his support of the New Deal in October, 1935, when he was appointed a member of the State Advisory Board to the National Youth Administration (NYA) for Oklahoma. A subsidiary of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the organization paid young students in schools and colleges to work in libraries, cafeterias, and offices as a means of staying in classes. Cheek accepted the position from Houston Wright, state director of the NYA. 33 The following month Governor Marland appointed Cheek and Finley members ofthe first Old Age Pension Commission. Since both had been leaders in drives to get the bill passed through the Legislature, the governor wanted them to help get the system underway. Cheek accepted



Life members of the Farmers Union. Organizer Ed Reger on Right.

a temporary position, agreeing to remain only until the machinery for the act was established and in motion. He felt his duties as president of the Union did not afford him the time to stay longer.34 Union leaders divided the state into four districts to expand the speech contests for 1935. Male and female winners from each of the districts were selected to give four-minute speeches with the winners awarded trips to the national convention in Chicago. The state winner, Robert Dickerson of Claremore, represented Oklahoma at the national competition. A contest for the best essay written by a youngster was also instituted for a time. In 1935 Lorena Powers of Walters was selected to present her essay on "The Machine Age" at the national convention. The youth contests represented the beginning of the Junior Farmers Union in the state, a phase of the Farmers Union movement that was being promoted by the national Union at the time. Because there were only a few regularly organized junior Unions in Oklahoma, the board agreed to encourage more of them. Prior to this time the state Farmers Union had worked and promoted 4-H Clubs rather than separate organizations for youngsters. The state president of 4-H, B.A. Pratt, had previously conducted the speech and essay contests through its organization with Union support. In November plans were made to establish another community hospital at either Snyder or Enid, similar to the one at Elk City. The building was to be christened the John Simpson Memorial Hospital in honor of the former leader's dedication to the cooperative medical facility. The hospital was never built due to an organized effort by doctors to 78

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS prevent another such hospital in the state. Growing opposition almost destroyed the work that Dr. Shadid had been doing for years.35 The Union suffered another setback in 1935 when the Supreme Court declared the AAA unconstitutional in U.S. v. Butler. After the decision came down, farm leaders were summoned to Washington to discuss tactics to support another program which could be enacted to continue the progress achieved thus far by the AAA. Cheek and Graves departed in January, 1936, to meet with Secretary Henry A. Wallace and other farm leaders to discuss strategy. Cheek demanded that the first action was to make certain that Congress fulfilled its obligations and contracts with farmers for produc­ tion controls. He pointed out that in Oklahoma this amounted to more than $18.5 million. The contracts covered wheat, cotton, corn, and hogs in rental and parity payments, and Cheek adamantly insisted: "These payments to the farmers can be raised from higher income taxes on the bigger incomes." Some congressmen also were soon suggesting this method as a possible solution to the problem. Cheek was not concerned where the money would come from, only that the government should meet its commitments. 36 The demise of the AAA brought a storm of protest from the Oklahoma Farmers Union. When the program had first started, most farmers had accepted it only because they had no choice. There had been cries of protest against the curtailment of crops and letters questioning the logic of destroying farm animals while the nation had armies of unem­ ployed standing in "soup lines." But the program had proven beneficial and now they wanted to see it continued. In 1936 The Oklahoma Union Farmer ran an article entitled "Supreme Court Decision Causes Usual Howl and Nothing Done," expressing bitter criticism of Justices Owen Roberts, Willis Van Devanter, Charles Evans Hughes, James C. McReynolds, B.S. Butler, and George Sutherland for their rulings. Branding the judges as Republican-appointed reactionaries, the Union went on record as opposing their decisions. The Union threatened a campaign for a constitutional amendment barring the Supreme Court from declaring any law unconstitutional. Farm leaders in Washington agreed to a stop-gap measure continu­ ing the policies and payments of the AAA. A Soil Conservation Act was passed to continue payments to farmers for conversion of their land to conservation crops until a second AAA could be instituted to meet the objections of the Court.37 79


Cheek giving a speech.

At the annual state convention in 1936 the Union disagreed vehe­ mently over the creation of another AAA. The resolutions committee was able to pass a statement adopting the AAA in principle, but the convention delegates voted it down by an overwhelming majority, 244 to 27. The members finally agreed to support a resolution supporting the national Union's cost of production proposals. Cheek and the other officers were reelected, but they could not persuade the membership to support the AAA. Most farmers considered crop reduction principles too radical.38 That same year the Oklahoma Union was honored at the national convention in Des Moines by having one of its own promoted to another national office. J.M. "Jim" Graves, of Perkins, was elected to the position of national secretary. A native of Iowa and a long-time member of the Oklahoma Executive Board, Graves was given the duty of handling the work for 26 state unions. A former school teacher, Graves had farmed 240 acres in Payne County since 1894. It was further agreed to move the national office to Oklahoma City into space provided for Graves at the headquarters on North Klein. National officers also decided to move the National Union Farmer to Oklahoma as soon as possible. The transfer was approved at the annual convention in November.39 80

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS In March of 1937 a new editor of the Oklahoma paper took over. After editor WilliamB. Simpson, the son of John A. Simpson, announced his resignation, Cheek assumed the editorship of the Oklahoma Union Farmer. For some time there had been growing unrest against Simpson. He had disagreed with the adoption of New Deal policies and the state officers' abandonment ofhis father's cost ofproduction ideas. He also had openly discussed his admiration of Senator Huey Long of Louisiana as a better candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1936. When Cheek took over the paper, he appointed Henry Osborn, the former state president ofthe 4-H and a member ofthe Junior Farmers Union, as junior editor: Osborn wrote monthly columns of interest to younger members with the hope of recruiting more young people into the movement.40 The Union did increase the number ofyoung members in 1937, after the board and Cheek sponsored the first Farmers Union local at the college level. Under the leadership of B.A. Pratt and Dr. Henry G. Bennett, president of Oklahoma A. and M., a local was organized on campus for students and faculty. An initial membership of more than 200 joined the first day.41 By 1937 Cheek had become a true New Dealer, even supporting Roosevelt's "court-packing" plan. After the reversals of the AAA and the NRA, and with the New Deal programs facing future high court decisions, FDR had introduced a scheme to Congress which would give him the power to appoint additional Supreme Court judges. In Cheek's opinion, FDR was merely trying to force the Supreme Court into more favorable rulings toward New Deal measures. He wrote: "The truth is, the Supreme Court as now constituted, is packed in the interests of those who oppose every worthwhile measure offered by the representatives of the people, and what President Roosevelt is undertaking to do is UNPACK the court in favor of the great common man.42 On March 27, 1937, Cheek was invited by National President Everson to deliver the weekly Union radio address over NBC from Chicago. Calling his speech "The Cause and Evils of Farm Tenantry," Cheek announced that Oklahoma had joined the "fight on peonage and farm tenantry for the duration of the war." He suggested that fundamental changes must be made in land ownership in the United States, and then offered his solutions to the problem. It would be necessary, he told his audience, for legislation to be passed to insure graduated land taxes and homestead exemptions. Specifically, the Frazier-Lemke Refinancing Bill


CHAPTER III then pending before Congress to provide low government loans on homes at one and one-half percent interest on principles and one and one-half percent interest per annum was the best proposal. Reporting on the farm situation in Oklahoma, Cheek said that in 1935 the total number offamilies living on farms was 213,325, and ofthis number, 168,169 were sharecroppers and only 58,796 were operated by farm owners. He added that of the latter number a large majority were mortgaged and facing foreclosures. Cheek asked for action from the entire nation in providing justice to these American workers. He emotionally appealed to radio listeners to support Roosevelt's policies, including legislation to "place the Supreme Court in its constitutional position. "43 In July headlines in the National Union Farmer reported that the "Senate Kills Court Packing Bill." Fears by Congress of a breach of the "checks and balances" system of government by Roosevelt's bill had led to its defeat. Realizing that the bill would give the President too much power, the Congress voted against the restructuring scheme and handed Roosevelt his first major legislative setback since becoming president. 44 Neither the economic conditions nor the physical impact of the depression had lessened much in Oklahoma, as the National Union Farmer reported in April of 1937. Reports described heavy dust storms that had cut visibility to virtually zero in many cities in the Sooner State. The "dusters," covering parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas, had become so fierce that schools had to be closed in Woodward, Beaver, and Guymon. One resident of western Oklahoma described the "sand storms" as being "as bad as we've had this year."45 In November the national convention held its annual meeting in Oklahoma City at the invitation ofSecretary Graves and President Cheek. Both had taken an active part in the business affairs of the Union, and Cheek was appointed to positions on the Co-operative Business and Order ofBusiness committees. Another Oklahoma member, W.O. Lawson, who was later elected vice-president of the state Union, was placed on the Resolution and Legislation Committee. State leaders organized a number of contests for the delegates and offered hundreds of dollars in prizes for the winners. Among the activities for the more venturesome were hog calling contests for men only, with lady judges; ladies calling their husbands to breakfast, with men judges; group singing contests; and cow calling contests with men, women, boys, and girls invited to enter. 82

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS Delegates left the convention with high praise for the hospitality shown them by the state officers, and then compliments for an orderly meeting. But there had been major changes during the business meeting. President Everson announced his retirement, citing health reasons. In reality, it was because he realized that a new president more friendly to the New Deal programs was wanted by Union members. He was replaced by John Vesecky of Kansas, who was much more pro-Roosevelt.46 Cheek also received a minor challenge shortly before the annual meeting on January 18, 1938. A small revolt by some disgruntled members, including Mildred Simpson, the former president's daughter, had erupted over Cheek's support ofthe New Deal. In a public letter, Miss Simpson leveled charges against Cheek, but her criticism only caused a stir of excitement before it faded away. All state officers and board members were re-elected. It would be Cheek's seventh year as president and Lawter's 22nd as secretary. 47 Cheek, more aligned in philosophy with President Vesecky, became a busy supporter of the national Union leader. Accompanying him often to Washington to testify before various congressional committees, Cheek also filled in for Vesecky at Union meetings around the country. Because the national paper was published in Secretary Graves' office in Oklahoma City, the national organization received almost all the news of happenings in the state. For instance, Graves proudly announced in his monthly column that President Roosevelt planned to visit the state in July, and he predicted that the President would be more sympathetic to farm issues after his visit.48 One of the largest crowds ever assembled in the state capitol came to hear the President speak, even though his subject was not farm issues. Roosevelt was on a tour of the southern states campaigning for New Deal congressmen in the upcoming elections of 1938. The President had gotten involved in the congressional elections in order to defeat conservative Democrats who had opposed his programs in the past and asked for liberal New Dealers in their place. During his talk FDR had high praise for Senator Elmer Thomas and Josh Lee as "well representing Oklahoma folks in the United States Senate." But he quickly angered many Oklaho­ mans when he told them that one of the candidates for governor, whom he would not mention by name although everyone knew he was referring to, was "nationally known as a Republican." The comment was about Leon C. "Red" Phillips. In the 1938 elections, the voters handed FDR his second 83


Convention time, 1942.

major defeat as President when they did not replace their conservative Democrats with liberals as he had wanted. 49 The State Farmers Union received some good news in 1938. The insurance business regained its credibility as the result of work by Secretary Lawter. He had successfully negotiated a contract with Lloyd's of London to underwrite Union insurance policies, and he announced that a safer business for Oklahoma had been established. That same year the Hail-Crop Insurance Department was created at the request of many members. Some companies had begun to write this type of coverage, but most farmers still did not trust them. 50 At the state convention in January, 1939, all the officers were re­ elected with one exception. E. Dickerson of Claremore was elected to the Board to replace the deceased Milo B. Eberhard. The Union also had a ceremony honoring "Uncle Ed" Reger with a medal for 25 years of



meritorious service to the Union. Interestingly, another resolution adopted at the convention supported demands that Congress appropriate the full amount requested by President Roosevelt to continue the WPA.st After the convention "Uncle Ed" devoted more of his time to the organization of Farmers Union Juniors in the state. Only eight counties had these types of organizations when he started, but Reger, along with Walter Smith, the secretary of the Barnes local, placed more emphasis on the movement and the numbers increased dramatically. Smith's wife, who was appointed Junior Instructor, also helped organize the first All-State Camp for Juniors at Price's and Turner Falls. The Juniors were brought by pickups and cars to the recreational area for a two-day camp in August, 1939. During the course of their stay, the youngsters were given study lessons in the mornings and hikes and sightseeing in the afternoons. In 1941 Dora Barney went to work for the Union as Education Director and soon started the camp programs. At first they were family 85

CHAPTER III camps held at the Methodist Camp grounds near Turner Falls. Mrs. Barney remained in charge of the youth programs until resigning in 1949 to resume her teaching career. She would return in later years. 52 With the economy beginning to show some improvement as the war in Europe began, The National Union Farmer referred to the Oklahoma state leaders as "inspirations." Cheek and Lawter were honored by the editor's comments about their work for the Union. At the same meeting new board member, Dr. W.H. McGreevey of Carmen, succeeded S.H. Hendrickson of Enid. Cheek, in his report to the membership, condemned Congressman Sam Massingale of the 7th District over a dispute arising from Cheek's role as chairman of the Cotton Commodity Committee. After holding several conferences around the country, Cheek had taken his recommen­ dations to Senator Josh Lee, who agreed to use Cheek's findings to introduce Senate Bill 2434. From there a conference with all the Okla­ homa congressmen had resulted in each legislator's promise to support the bill's passage. Afterwards, for some reason Massingale changed his mind and refused to support it. Cheek became so angry he demanded a resolution be passed at the convention condemning Massingale's position. Largely through his efforts, the resolution was passed, obviously affecting the congressman's chances for reelection. 53 Cheek took on another controversial battle when William Lemke and a few former leaders of the National Union approached him with a plan to organize a third party in 1940, the Union Party. Cheek was strongly opposed to turning the Union into a political party, but he was unable to stop the movement. He refused to support the Union Party, and blamed the organization of the third party on the disgruntled former president, E.H. Everson. 54 Most Union members by this time had lost interest in the arguments of the National Union. War clouds were gathering over the world, and peoples' minds were becoming preoccupied. For a number of years warnings had been made about the aggressions of Japan in the Far East, Italy in Ethopia, and Germany in Europe, but it was becoming clear that war was coming. Meanwhile, the Union's position was that the country was headed in a new direction, as a front page editorial in The Oklahoma Union Farmer in September, 1939, proclaimed in bold headlines: "America Must Keep Out of This European War!" 55 Nevertheless, it was the war that returned economic prosperity to the state. An editorial in September, 1940, reported: "Oklahoma Farm 86

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS Income Increases 82 Per Cent." Farm cash income in the state in 1939 had been $193,301,000, with government payments accounting for $27,731,000, an improvement of 82 per cent over the 1932 figures. Still, the amount was 39 percent less than 1929, before the depression began, when cash income was $318 million.56 In September of 1940 Cheek was called to Washington to appear before a congressional committee headed by John H. Tolan of California to "Offer Testimony at Okie Hearing," according to The Oklahoma Union Farmer. Tolan, in the interest of his home voters, was conducting investigations into the reasons for the mass interstate migrations of destitute citizens to his state. Cheek gathered over 60 pages of statistics on Oklahoma conditions to show "why Okies were leaving the state." He cited food, clothing, shelter, health, and education as the major problems, and he asked the committee to help find solutions for the problems that Washington was beginning to recognize as a national issue.57 During his testimony Cheek made the remark, reported in The Oklahoma Union Farmer, that "Land Robbed Farmers Are Made Tramps." Informing the congressmen that programs such as WP A, NYA, and CCC should be expanded and additional action taken like the Housing Authority Act, the Farm Tenant Bill, and the Debt Adjustment Bill, all then pending before Congress, Cheek told the committee that steps had to be taken to help ease poverty in rural Oklahoma. It was his belief that only then would the traffic on Route 66, the second "Trail of Tears," be eased in the state.58 In November Cheek and Secretary Lawter led a delegation of 100 Oklahomans to the national convention in Denver where a new president, James G. Patton, was elected. Along with the new chief executive came a new vice-president, Herbert Rolph of Montana. Cheek was elected to the National Board.59 Cheek was called again to Washington to testify in May of 1941 before the House Committee on Agriculture. In the course of his testimony Cheek took the opportunity to dispute statements made earlier before the Ways and Means Committee by Henry Morgenthau. The Secretary of the Treasury had told the committee that it was time to economize in "non­ defense industry" in order to increase appropriations for military pre­ paredness. Morgenthau had suggested major cuts in appropriations for agriculture by a billion dollars, followed by similar reductions in such programs as NYA and CCC, because all were in his opinion, "non-defense items." 87

CHAPTER III Cheek took exception to these remarks, and heatedly replied, "In my opinion there's no greater National Defense item than agriculture. Every­ one knows that the first thing in preparation to move the army in the field, you look to agriculture for the food, clothing, and shelter, without these there can be no army mobilized. We are unalterably opposed to start to economize on the lowest income group of citizens in America and to stop aiding the youths for the future ...."60 In July of 1941 The Oklahoma Union Farmer announced "Defense Saving Supported." Keying the effort for a state-wide educational cam­ paign to support the U.S. Defense Savings program, leading Oklahoma citizens and organizations had been requested by the federal authorities to convince Oklahomans to raise the state's share of defense bonds. The Oklahoma Farmers Union immediately stepped forward. The Board authorized Secretary Lawter to purchase $2,000 worth of Defense Savings Bonds to encourage Oklahoma farmers "to invest savings in the safest hands in the world." 61 In September National President Jim Patton was appointed to a farm committee on agricultural production for defense by Secretary of Agricul­ ture Claude B. Wickard, at the suggestion of President Roosevelt. In a letter to Wickard, published in The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Roosevelt was quoted as saying: "In this time of crisis, food is a weapon against Hitlerismjust as much as munitions, and food will continue to be a weapon in all efforts toward winning a more orderly, prosperous and peaceful world." 62 As the preparedness program grew in the country, farmers began to recover from the economic effects of the past ten years. In September the Union paper headlined the news: "War Needs Seen Forcing Greater Farm Production." The lend-lease program started in 1940 had proven to be a great outlet for agricultural surpluses, and farmers were told that wheat prices equaled government loan value for the first time since the depres­ sion began. It was further reported that Vice-President Henry A Wallace, the former Agriculture Secretary, had been appointed to a post on the "Super-Defense Board," an advisory body in Washington designed to direct the total defense effort. The news was interpreted by farmers as a positive measure for agriculture because of Wallace's eight years as head of the AAA 63 In October Cheek and Homer Duffy, a member of the state executive board, attended the state-wide "Food For Defense" meeting held at Stillwater called by the Agricultural Defense Board. Increased production 88

A NEW DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS goals for 1942 for all farm products were discussed and approved by the conference. Milk and egg production was increased by 12 .5 percent; cattle by 8 percent; sheep, 2 percent; and, poultry, 122 percent. Cheek quickly relayed the decisions to the Union membership, and encouraged every farm family to study the increased production goals and to do their part in meeting those objectives in 1942.64 In a related story in The Oklahoma Union Farmer, an article was published about the "Father of Farmers Union Grandsons In The Cana­ dian RAF." R.L. and Pat Neft Templeton, aged 21 and 18, and the sons of Mrs. Lutie Templeton, the daughter of Newt Gresham, had joined the Canadian Air Force to participate in the war. The Union paper felt it was an honor to print the story. The article added that Pat Neft Templeton had established a record as being the youngest man ever to receive his "wings," and the Union informed its readers that the state should begin preparing for the coming war.65 In November of 1941 Cheek was elected chairman of the National Board of Directors at the convention in Topeka. Attending with him were members Kenneth W. Hones, Colfax, Wisconsin; H.C. Hansen, Hemingford, Nebraska; M.F. Dickinson, Little Rock, Arkansas; and, Ole L. Olson, Burton, North Dakota. All of these men were committed to the preparedness program.66 On December 8, one day after Pearl Harbor, Cheek sent a wire to President Roosevelt: "To His Excellency, the President of the United States, Washington, D.C.. Oklahoma Farmers' Union pledges our unwa­ vering support to this war against Japan." 67 The event everyone had hoped would never come had happened. The United States was at war, and the Union would give its full support to the job of winning.



A FAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS Americans eagerly joined in the crusade against the Axis in World War II. With less emotional hysteria than in previous wars, the populace committed themselves to winning the war as quickly as possible. While many Union members joined the military ranks, others stayed home to serve in their own way. Farming was considered a crucial element in the war effort, and the Union members did their part to win. Cheek, with less flag waving than could be expected from an ex-soldier, devoted himself and his Union to "getting the job over with" and returning to ordinary life again. In April of 1942 Cheek wrote an article for the National Union Farmer about war-time labor policies. He gave his support to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the minimum wage law passed in 1935. Cheek was fully in agreement with the reform measure, and made a logical argument against the repeal of the act as suggested by its opponents. In February of 1944 Cheek was re-elected to his 14th term as president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. He was challenged by Dr. W.H. McGreevey, a farmer and member of the Rural Electrification Association. After nominating speeches, the vote was McGreevey, 140, Cheek, 236. At the same convention Vice-President Ed W. Foley from Garvin County was defeated by board member Homer Duffy by a vote of 199 to 169. At the next convention in 1945 Cheek was re-elected by acclama­ tion. It was his last term. Sadly, his obituary appeared in all the state and national papers on September 13. "The battle-scarred warrior of the plains," as he was called in one of the tributes paid to him, was returned to his beloved Roger Mills County for burial. 90


National President James Patton addresses the Oklahoma Farmers Union's 50th anniversary at Tishomingo.


CHAPTER IV Homer Duffy assumed the presidency after the death ofTom Cheek. He directed the Farmers Union for the next decade, counting heavily on the support ofhis good friend, Secretary Z.A. Lawter. The two, acting as a team, led the Union into the new world of the post-war era. Born near Lexington on a Cleveland County homestead September 29, 1889, Homer was the son ofE. Duffy, a man who served as a member of the Farmers Union executive committee until his death in 1921. Throughout his youth, Duffy attended rural schools and lived on the same farm. During World War I Duffy served as a "doughboy" in Europe. In

Zed Lawter takes his turn at the microphone.


A FAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS 1921 he married Lola Mae Claunch, and the two had eight children. After serving as president ofthe Cleveland County Farmers Union for several years, he was elected to the state board ofdirectors in 1924, following in his father's footsteps. He remained on the executive committee for 20 years until he was elected vice-president in 1944. He was a member ofthe board ofthe Farmers' Union Livestock Commission, the Farmers' Union Co-op Exchange in Oklahoma City, and the Co-op Gin in Lexington. He also presided as president ofthe Oklahoma Farmers' Union Co-op Mill and Elevator. In 1946 Duffy was elected to the presidency by a margin of3 22 votes to 95 for his opponent, E.W. Foley. The state officers in 1946 were Duffy, President; William Dolezal, Vice-president, Banner; and Z.A. Lawter, Secretary. The executive board was composed ofJ.M. Graves, Perkins; E. "Dick" Dickerson, Claremore; Herman Swart, Rocky; James Hays, Enid; and, H. Robert Stillwell, Holdenville. The 1946 Union election caused a controversy within the member­ ship that erupted a year later when a disgruntled group ofFoley support­ ers, calling themselves the Progressive Committee, filed suit against the state officers for fraudulent use of local funds. The plaintiffs, S.F. Lancaster ofGrimes and Stanley Coppock ofCleo Springs, lost the case, and were required to pay court costs after District Judge Lucius Babcock found no evidence ofwrongful action on the part ofthe officers. Finding for Duffy and his associates, the judge ruled that Union profits had not been diverted for private benefit ofthe officers. The issue did not end there, however. 1 When the state convention next met in January, 1947, the three members who had filed the suit against the officers received a negative vote from the Committee on Grievances and Appeals, along with the recommendation that they be denied membership for the following year. This happened after the members were each given five minutes to present their cases before the convention. After a separate vote on each man, the committee resolution was adopted. The next day The Daily Oklahoman reported: "Farmers Tossed Out of Strong Union Meeting.''2 While Duffy served officially as editor of The Oklahoma Union Farmer, the editorials were written by WilliamM. Franklin, an Oklahoma City lawyer and former state senator who also acted as manager and attorney for the Insurance Department. In his report to the convention in 1947, "Judge" Franklin, as he was called, presented a graphic picture of the growth of the Union over the past decade. The membership had 93


Homer Duffy talks to members at a camp gathering.

increased from 18,133 in 1936 to 27,534 in 1946, with a gain in the previous year of2,454. The volume ofthe insurance business in 1946 had reached $51,449,206, a gain of $8,309,306 over the preceding year. Furthermore, Franklin reported, receipts of the Insurance Department in 1946 were $301,041.63, a net gain of$52,489.28 for the year. Addition­ ally, he told the delegates, the assets of the Union had increased from $264,962.68 in 1936 to $679,408.05 in 1946. The volume of insurance had increased from $21,150,398.83 in 1936 to $51,449,206.00 in 1946, and the revenues of the Insurance Department had increased from $141,042.22 in 1936 to $301,041.63 in 1946. These figures were even more dramatic, pointed out the publicity director, because the loss claims totaled $124,136.08 in 1936; $91,325.70 in 1937; $63,955.01 in 1941; $199,362.43 in 1944; $226,989.83 in 1945; and, $166,971.34 in 1946. Franklin, in summarizing the situation, reported that the Union had net gains in all its business activities in the past ten years. It also had the great advantage of holding stock in the Oklahoma Farmers Union Co-op. The elevator had shown a loss of $5,745.11 in its first year of operation in 1945, but by March of 1946 the deficit had been wiped clean, and the elevator was showing a net operating gain of $6,902.16. Finally, Franklin predicted that the insurance business could be expected to increase, primarily because the company had begun writing 94

AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS automobile insurance in 1945 with the Farmers Union Automobile and Casualty Co., a national mutual company operated as a cooperative by the National Union. He reported that in the first year 300 policies had been written, and this was only the beginning.Franklin further announced that the Union would start selling life and hospitalization policies in 1947, and this would greatly add to Union business.3 An improved farm economy was headlined inFebruary, 1947, by the news: "Oklahoma Farm Production Is Near High Mark." Although production had dropped below the record year of1944, Oklahoma's gross income statistics for 1946 topped the $572,001,720 mark. This amount was almost $5 million more than the estimate made for the year, according to Joe C. Scott of the State Board of Agriculture.4 Duffy did all he could to encourage improved conditions for farmers and the Union at a number of public meetings. On April 12, 1947, the state president and Bill Darnell, state organizer, participated in a national CBS Radio broadcast regarding the federal budget proposals of President Truman. Duffy, in the course of his speech, stated: President Truman's budget and recommendations to Con­ gress last January were far reaching and deals with the economic structure of the little people of the nation. In a general way we, of the Farmers Union, are favorable to the position taken by President Truman. We are strongly inclined to feel that the budget should not be seriously reduced .... We are not altogether in accord with some of the expendi­ tures proposed by the President. Especially, we believe that there is too much money being spent on building up a large and powerful military machine.... We would like to see a great expansion in social services, including Truman's national health program, guaranteeing medi­ cal care to all, regardless of their financial status. We would like to see social security extended to include farmers as well as other groups of the nation. Finally, we believe that the budgetary and tax program should be an integral part of a vigorous anti-inflation program. Continuing taxes at approximately the present levels and reduc­ ing the national debt would be a stimulant to this program.5 The growth of the OklahomaFarmers Union led to Duffy's election to the executive committee ofthe National Union in March at a conference of farm leaders in St. Paul. Under the new by-laws of the national organization, all state presidents were honorarily placed on the board of 95

CHAPTERIV directors. Subsequently, they were elected to the executive committee. Duffy was joined on the board by Glenn Talbott, North Dakota; Ronald Jones, Oregon; K.W. Hones, Wisconsin; and, Harvey Solberg, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. A friendly wager between Talbott and Duffy soon led to a good­ natured rivalry between the two state presidents and their respective organizations. For his part, Duffy bet his shirt that Oklahoma would remain the largest state Farmers Union in membership numbers by the end of the year. For years the two states had been carrying on an amicable contest for the privilege of being the largest state Union.In 1946 North Dakota had come close to overtaking Oklahoma. When Talbott predicted victory in 1947, Duffy made the rivalry into a public race, hoping to interest members in working harder for new recruits. Duffy returned to the state planning to create excitement by inaugu­ rating a new membership drive with the slogan "Every Member Gets a Member." Determined to keep Oklahoma in first place, Duffy encouraged Union locals by stating: "The Farmers Union has stood back of the family type farmer for 45 years, fighting for legislation beneficial to farmers, for decent prices for farm products, for better health facilities, for better schools, for security of the farm family on the farm...." 6 The editor of The Oklahoma Union Farmer supported Duffy's message by appealing to his readers to rededicate themselves to attracting new members. The editor pleaded with his readers not to send their state president to the next national convention "without his shirt." The membership drive was further aided by a new weekly radio show called the "Oklahoma Farmers Union Farmhands," a program sponsored by the Union on Saturday mornings. Broadcast at 7: 15 a.m. over Station KOMA, "1520 on your dial," the farm program featured "easy listening" hosted by "Scalawags," Lew Hawkins (Earl S. King) and Jack Beasley, with music provided by Charlie Aldrich on guitar and Chuck Davis playing the accordion. The show was billed as a "bang-up musical" which advertised the latest available merchandise from the Farmers' Union Store in Oklahoma City.7 Although total membership figures were not available from North Dakota when the forty-third state convention met in January, 1948, President Duffy unilaterally declared himself the winner of the bet. He reported a total membership of 44,000, including 29,000 dues paying members, 675 service men, 150 life-time honorary members, and 14,000 women. 96


Ed Reger,front row secondfrom right, with Union Members. President Duffy is standing directly behind him. Lawter is to left ofDuffy.

The state convention was highlighted by an address from the National President, James G. Patton. A supporter of Truman's foreign policy, Patton told his Oklahoma audience that he had just recently been appointed as an advisor to Truman's Marshall Plan, and he hoped that Oklahoma would do its part to back the program. He was followed to the speaker's platform by Dora Barney, the state education director, and then Duffy and Lawter. The state officers were re-elected, along with one new board member. Roscoe Beall of Cushing was elected to replace E. "Dick" Dickerson of Claremore, who was retiring. 8 A few months following the convention 40 state members joined Duffy at the national convention in Denver, where they expected to see Patton re-elected to a two-year term. The president stunned his audience by announcing that he would not again be a candidate for the office. Most members realized that it was just a campaign statement and few believed him. At the meeting ofthe National Board, Duffy was re-elected to another term on the executive comrnittee. 9 Election year politics took center stage within the Union in 1948. The reason was the unusual split within the Democratic Party. Besides 97


FACING UP TO HARD TIMES The Oklahoma Farmers Union, like its . ' members, has experienced the ups and downs offarming and ranching in the Great American West. One member who faced hard times, yet hung on and did what she had to do, was Ethel Barrick Mclntuff of Clinton. Mrs. Mclntuff' s father and four broth­ ersjoined the Farmers Union in 1924through W.R. Dunn, president of the local at Arapaho. Already suffering from the Great Depression, her husband died leaving her to make a home for their five children. She rented 160 acres ofland, about 15 acres ofit bottom land, from M.0. Dawson, and planted it in cotton. Although some of her neighbors criticized her for putting her children to work, it was the only way she could make a living. When the cotton was sold it was graded as a "premium" bale and brought $100. She also sold eggs for 10 cents a dozen, raised a garden, and milked cows to sell cream. She always knew she was "going to make it," she said. One morning after a storm blew through she went out to find that lightning had killed three of her best cows. Her daughter told her that they should just give up, but she refused to be discouraged. She had to raise her family. A life member of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, she was often invited to attend conventions in Oklahoma City because she played the banjo and entertained. She bought her banjo in 1922 for $14. For a time she played in a band called "the Brady Bunch." One year she was asked to play at a national conven­ tion, but she declined. In 1982, Mrs. Mclntuff published a collection of her poetry in a work entitled A Collection of Songs and Poems. Like the Farmers Union, Mrs. Mclntuff survived the hard times with true grit and grim determination. 98

AFAIR DEALFOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS Truman, the official Democratic nominee to oppose Republican Thomas E. Dewey, former Agriculture Secretary and Vice-President Henry A. Wallace had organized the "left-wing" of the party into his own Progres­ sive movement. Senator Strom Thurmond led Party conservatives in running on a state's rights platform. The three-way division of the Democratic Party simply had the nation confused, with pollsters predict­ ing a Dewey landslide. Truman, one ofthe few men who felt he could win another term, took the initiative in the battle by appointing to his cabinet a new secretary of agriculture, Charles F. Brannan. By doing so, he immediately won the support of the NationalFarmers Union. Brannan was known as an active Denver member of the Rocky MountainFarmers Union. Truman followed this step by calling the 80th Congress into special session, where he introduced his entire platform. Known as the "Turnip Session" because it was held in July, the time turnips were planted in Missouri, the Republican-dominated Congress did nothing as Truman had expected. He then went to the American people with the charge that Congress was their problem, not his administration. Zed Lawter, meanwhile, had already taken steps to support Truman and Democratic congressmen in a "Special Notice To Farmers Union Members" in The Oklahoma Union Farmer. Until this election, the Oklahoma Union had preferred to at least appear "non-partisan" in its choice of candidates, advising members to research the farm voting records of candidates. Never had Union leaders officially endorsed candidates, especially in state and local races. Lawter changed all the rules when he announced that "we must electFarmers Union members or those friendly to our program to the State Legislature." He then submitted a list of candidates for consideration by the members and urged them to get out the vote for those candidates endorsed by the state officers.From this point forward, the Farmers Union became more aggressive in political races both on the state and national levels During this same time the Union newspaper underwent a major revision. The Oklahoma Union Farmer changed from being a semi­ monthly publication to a monthly. This was done because the board simply decided that two issues were much too expensive and difficult a job to get out each month. 10 In October it was announced that President Duffy had taken on additional duties for the Truman administration. He was appointed to the state agricultural committee for the Savings Bond Division of the U.S. 99


Farme�s Union youth camp, 1952.

Treasury by S.C. Bray, State Director. Duffy, along with ten other farm leaders, was directed to work with the state committee to create more interest in rural Oklahoma in building financial reserves through the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds.11 After the Truman victory in November, Duffy immediately met with Secretary of Agriculture Brannan and National President Patton in St. Paul for the purpose of discussing farm policies over the next four years. Duffy brought hopeful goals to the meeting, primarily because Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma had been chosen to be the next chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the new Congress. At the conclusion of the conference Duffy confidently stated to the folks back home, "We are going to demand legislation from the new congress that will give small farmers full parity with other products."12 Even more optimistic after his own re-election in 1949, Duffy reported in the newspaper, "Our strength has never been greater than at the present time." The Lexington leader reported memberships up to a record high, almost 32,000 for the past year. Duffy further added that significant improvements in the Union Mutual Insurance Company's recent program, instituted in 1938, to insure churches, school houses, community halls, and lodges, had resulted in much progress. The same was true for the Farmers' Union Auto and Casualty Company. He proudly proclaimed that agents had written more than 4,000 auto policies in only three years. Duffy reported that the hail crop insurance program, orga­ nized less than ten years earlier, had reached a volume of $154,049.83 during the previous year, while the total volume of sales from the supply 100


OFU members in Washington, 1954.

department was $510,181.32, the largest amount ofbusiness in its history. The Union had, according to Duffy, one of the best records ofany business institution in the state, and he expected the cooperative way to make even greater gains the following year.13 The state president issued another important statement urging farmers to go into action to immediately support the proposed "Brannan Plan" before Congress adjourned on July 31. Duffy argued that there was a level of farm income below which it was not in the public interest to permitthat income to fall. The Brannan program would establish that level in actual dollars each year and provide price supports reflecting the minimum income standard. In response to his appeal hundreds of letters and wires were dispatched by interested farmers from around the state opposed to the 80th Congress'Farm Act, which provided only 60 per cent of parity for 1950. After Duffy's urgent request, almost all Oklahoma farmers demanded its repeal.Farmers supported the "Brannan Plan," but their drive for change came too late. The plan would become the major goal of farm organiza­ tions for a number of years, especially after the Republican victory in 1952. 14 In 1949 the Oklahoma Farmers Union proudly announced the establishment of a new service for the state. The latest innovation, aimed at bringing cooperative merchandise to its members, was the creation of aFarmers' Union wholesale business. Operated by the Union Co-op, the new organization adopted an official seal with the letters "O.F.U." set in 101

CHAPTER IV the middle of a shield for the purpose of positive recognition of Union products. Its goods included Gillette tires and batteries, K.F.U. hybrid seeds, Barrett roofing and asbestos siding materials, agricultural chemi­ cal fertilizers and sprays, farm machinery, steel and wire products, and paints. Members were further advised to patronize the wholesale service for cheaper prices and better products.15 Another development for the Union was the establishment in Au­ gust, 1949, of a credit union service. After years of discussion and observation ofother state's operations, the Farmers Union Local No. 497 in Oklahoma City completed arrangements for the creation of a credit union. Members of the local, employees of Farmers Union, and personnel of the Farmers Union insurance and supply departments were eligible for membership in the new credit union. Later, others were allowed to join. A board of directors elected to operate the credit facility included Earl Harrison as President; Odis Nelson, Vice-president; and Laura Horton, Secretary-Treasury. The credit union opened officially on Au­ gust 5, the first to be organized within the Union in the state. More than 80 such institutions had previously been organized outside Oklahoma, and the National Union had created its own by this time, but the Oklahoma City credit union was the first one for the state organization. 16 Duffy and the entire slate of officers were re-elected at the next convention, a clear indication that the membership was satisfied with its lecidership. The president, proudly giving his annual report, announced that the number of new members had continued to grow during the past year, and listed the membership at 33,286. He optimistically predicted another year of growth in 1950 . There was one new official elected at the convention, Chaplain George Stone of Bethany. For the first time in anyone's memory, Secretary Lawter had a serious opponent at the convention. She was Mrs. Dora Barney. In 1948 Elmer Boyd of Kingfisher had run against Lawter, but he was defeated by a vote of278 for Lawter to 80 for Boyd. After Mrs. Barney's nomination, the former director of education realized that she did not have sufficient votes to defeat Lawter either, so she requested that her name be withdrawn and Lawter be re-elected by acclamation. In the interest of Union harmony, when the election was over, Mrs. Barney played the piano while Lawter led the convention in singing.17 The education director had worked for years with hundreds of young people in junior classes around the state. She had been active in reactivat­ ing old locals, promoting Union programs, aiding conferences, and 102

AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS supervising camps, thereby earning the respect of the entire membership. She was replaced by Ima Cheek Bromley, the daughter of Tom Cheek, who had served as a secretary for her father and for President Duffy. Mrs. Bromley had also acted as assistant editor of the paper for the previous four years.18 President Duffy in December, 1949, again took the opportunity to summarize the progress of the Union through the past few years. Shortly before calling the annual convention he reminded members that the farm property insurance program had begun in 1920 with only 284 policy holders with $250,000 in risks, and by 1948 the company showed 35,000 policies with $90 million in force. Additionally, the hail-crop insurance had begun in 1937 with less than 100 policies with total risks of$69,000, and by 1949 there were 3,500 policy holders with risks of $6 million. Duffy called this "clearly phenomenal growth." There was much more noteworthy progress in other areas. In state legislation, he stated, the Oklahoma Farmers Union had sponsored bills to secure tax exemptions for gasoline used in tractors and farm machinery, homestead exemptions, a graduated land tax to exempt 640 acres of cultivating land, and no taxes on land used for grazing livestock. The OklahomaFarmers Union had opposed school consolida­ tions, constitutional conventions to revise the state constitution, and the reorganization of state government to stop all officials, from the posts of lieutenant governor to legislators, from becoming appointive positions, a development that would lessen the democratic process.19 Another major success, according to Duffy, was the passage of a bill to establish rural telephone cooperatives, despite vicious attacks from legislators and urban businessmen. Specifically, he pointed to Senator George Miskovsky of Oklahoma City, who had termed the cooperative REA movement a "collectivist" organization "conceived by starry-eyed New Dealers" that had allowed the program to expand "like a cancerous growth ...." The senator, said Duffy, was supported by Senator Joe Bailey Cobb who had complained that theFarmers Union wanted better roads, schools, and highways, but did not want to pay taxes to get them. The legislators wanted the cooperatives placed under the control of the Corporation Commission. They would have succeeded had not Senator Roy Boecher of Kingfisher beat back the challenge.Finally, it was passed through the Senate after a bitter fight, only to be vetoed by Governor Johnston Murray. Murray apparently had little knowledge of the bill, and he did not 103

CHAPTER IV particularly want any further understanding; he merely enjoyed using his veto power. During his administration he established the record for exercising the veto by any governor. The Farmers Union had to begin its legislative effort all over again. More than 100 farmers from the Chickasha area in Grady County met to lay plans for a cooperative buying club. The group was led by Secretary Lawter and E.K. Dean, manager of the OFU Co-operative. These two men clearly outlined methods by which the club could be formed. A central location had to be chosen before the club was actually in operation, so orders and deliveries could be made from Oklahoma City. Promising state support, he offered assistance to similar clubs that might be organized in the future. Meanwhile, Union members were meeting in Washington, D. C. Present at the meeting were Roger Fleming of the Farm Bureau, Paul Taber of the Grange, John H. Davis of the League of Farmer Coopera­ tives, and Benton J. Strong ofthe Farmers Union. At the meeting members became upset by the treatment shown by representatives of their rival organization, the Farm Bureau, toward Secretary of Agriculture Charles Brannan. When the negotiations degenerated into personal attacks upon the secretary by the Farm Bureau representative, Strong walked out ofthe meeting. The long-standing feud with the Farm Bureau was on again. 20 President Duffy flew to Washington in April to join other state leaders for a conference with President Truman. This visit by Duffy came soon after Lawter and 40 other members had arrived by tour bus the week before on their annual trek to Washington. Lawter had started the Washington tours in 1945 to combine business with pleasure trips to the nation's capital for the state membership. Duffy later said that President Truman was "quite receptive" to the contention presented by the Farmers Union that farm prices should not be frozen below parity. More conferences followed with Secretary of Agri­ culture Brannan, Secretary oflnterior Oscar Chapman, and REA Admin­ istrator Claude Wickard. One matter taken up with Truman was the Union's opposition to the National Tax Equality Association's (NTEA) efforts to impose taxes on cooperatives. A periodic fight that had to be fought with one group or another, the latest attempt by the NTEA was routed in the House in May, 1951, but the Union still had a struggle on its hands. Truman was reminded that the Democratic platform in 1948 had pledged opposition to the idea, and he agreed to hold off the challenge. 104





.... Oklahoma Farmers Union Co-op at Klein and W Main in OKC. Headquarters is to the right.

The same month Oklahoma State Senator Byron Dacus, from Gotebo, joined the Union as manager of the insurance department. The senator, a former superintendent of schools, quickly became an influential and popular supporter of the Farmers Union in the legislature. When Senator Robert S. Kerr came through a little town in the western part of the state on a campaign trip, he stopped at a local gas station and introduced himself by greeting the locals with a cheery, "Hello. I'm Bob Kerr, your senator." The attendant, surprised by the statement, asked "What happened to Byron Dacus?" TheFarmers Union had cause for great joy when a fourteen-year old battle to get feed, seed, fertilizer, and farm machinery exempted from the state sales tax was accomplished in May, 1951. The House, led by Representative Roy T. Nall of Boise City, passed the bill by a vote of 67 to 33. This concluded a fight that had started in 1937. Representative Ernest Tate of Ardmore had led the fight against the bill on the grounds that it would cost the old-age assistance fund more than $3 million annually in state funds. But the bill was eventually enacted over oppo­ nents' objections. Because other states already had such legislation, it was pointed out by Representative Dane Smith of Claremore that farmers were going to other states to purchase farm products. 21 105

CHAPTER IV Early in June of 1951, President Duffy, accompanied by board members H. Robert Stillwell, Holdenville, and Spencer Bernard, Rush Springs, and members Mr. and Mrs. John Steichen, Perry, attended the annual convention ofthe International Federation ofAgricultural Produc­ ers (IFAP) in Mexico City. Twenty-seven countries were represented at the IFAP, an international federation of nations created in London in 1946. The organization was dedicated to solving countries' problems without governmental assistance and dependence.22 In September of 1951 Duffy joined other state presidents in Wash­ ington to lobby against another effort to impose taxes on cooperatives, this time by the Senate Finance Committee. The committee planned to repeal portions of the Internal Revenue codes which protected farm coopera­ tives, and the Union leadership had to work quickly. A board meeting before Duffy left for the Capitol had resulted in a tersely worded resolution stating that the Oklahoma Farmers Union "inalterably opposed...any additional tax on farmers' cooperatives...." After several meetings in Washington, the crisis was averted.23 At the annual state convention in 1952 a new board member was named to succeed Stillwell. Gus Gray, secretary of the Stratford Local since 1944, was elected to replace him. The seventeen-year member was the "high man" in 1951 in sales in the Farm Property Insurance Depart­ ment. Previously, Gray had won a trip to the national convention as a reward for winning a recruitment contest. In preparation for the celebration of the National Union's Golden Jubilee in March, arrangements were made to hold the meeting in Dallas, highlighted by a tour to Point and Emory where the Union was founded. Because Secretary Lawter was in charge of arrangements, he made a visit to the towns in January. Descendants of the "original ten" still lived in the region, but Lawter was surprised to find that "Rains County was unusual . in that there are only two towns in it--Point with a population of 350 and Emory with around 800 inhabitants." The annual convention was especially important for James M. "Uncle Jim" Graves. The former national secretary from 1936 to 1942 was selected by the National Union for the 1952 award for meritorious service. Graves, a member of the Oklahoma executive board until 1951, was the first Oklahoman to receive the award. At the Oklahoma convention Duffy told the farmers that they must "get into politics" if they expected to receive 100 percent parity for their crops. He stated that the problems of Oklahoma agriculture no longer 106

AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS stopped "at the state line...our basic problems are world-wide in scope." Farmers were beginning to realize that they were a part of a world market and that farm problems were no longer simple ones. An interesting new part of the Union convention was the Torchbear­ ers' ceremony.Five young people were awarded pins signifying that they had completed five years of work in the JuniorFarmer Union program. It was the first time that the awards had been presented in the state. The winners were Nancy Stolz, Kingfisher; Delvin Jech, Kingfisher; Joyce Oldman, Spencer;Freddy Kadavy, Kingfisher; and Janelle Miller, Spen­ cer. Dora Barney and Stanley Vogt, directors of education, assisted National Union Director Gladys Talbott Edwards, in conducting the ceremony.24 Duffy was named vice-chairman of the National Board at the convention in Dallas in March, 1952. Another Oklahoman honored at the

Governor Raymond Gary addresses the Farmers Union Convention.


CHAPTER IV same meeting was State Senator Henry Worthington, secretary of the second local ever organized and one of the original organizers in Okla­ homa Territory. A highlight ofthe convention was the pilgrimage to Point, the birthplace ofNewt Gresham's Union. To mark the occasion Duffy and Lawter returned to the National a banner made for the Farmers Union Local Number One by the niece of pioneer member, "Uncle Dom" Domblaser. The historic banner had been on display for many years in the Oklahoma state offices. Lawter was happy to play an important role at the Jubilee ceremony as well. Serving as chairman of the credentials committee, he nominated James G. Patton for re-election. Lawter had first nominated Patton for office in 1940. Delegates at the convention were greatly excited by the visit from Secretary of Agriculture Charles Brannan. During his speech the secre­ tary angrily attacked the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the members loved his remarks. Brannan, accusing President Allan B. Kline ofplanning to tum the Farmers Bureau into a "political party, lock, stock and barrel," won great favor with the Union members. Because Kline had been pleading for only 60 per cent ofparity, he had caused great opposition among the Farmers Union people. Their opinion was represented by Willard G. Wegner, secretary ofthe Lone Wolflocal, who had taken a poll of275 farmers at his local meeting; ofthose farmers present all except one voted for 100 per cent parity. It was announced that a state-wide meeting of the Oklahoma Farmer-Labor Legislative Council had been called by President Harlan Bell of the Railroad Brotherhoods for March 30 at the Farmers Union headquarters in Oklahoma City. The Council, organized in July, 1950, had already created much controversy. It was called a "front group for lawyers" when it was first introduced. After national CIO representative R.J. Thomas gave it a clean bill of health, it was accepted as a legitimate organization. The Council was organized for the purpose of securing legislation for the "common man." Officers included Bell of the Railroad Brotherhoods; Duffy, who served as Vice-president; Al Mitchell of the CIO, who was Secretary-Treasurer; and, L.L. Leasure, AFL, who acted as recording secretary.25 In April an effort to increase junior participation resulted in The Oklahoma Union Farmer presenting a special feature about the field workers who helped organize young people around the state. Supporters profiled by the paper included Dora Barney, the English teacher from Fort 108



To many people the Farmers Union repre­ sents more than insurance and political advo­ cacy. To them, it means preserving a way oflife, the rural family farm. One man who has done his part to preserve the memories of farming and ranching in Oklahoma is Howard Metcalfe, a long time member of the Farmers Union. At the age of 91, Metcalfe still lives on the land that his grandparents claimed in Roger Mills County. His mother, Augusta, was a nationally famous folk artist who was featured in Life magazine in 1950. Much ofher art work, which usually depicted rural life in Western Oklahoma, is still on display in his home that he has converted into a museum. Metcalfe remembers that C.B. Aubrey got him involved in the Farmers Union. He purchased stock from Aubrey in the Elks City hospital established by Dr. Shadid. The enterprise was the first cooperative hospital established in the United States. The Metcalfe farm was selected by George Stone as the site for a Union picnic on July 27, 1956, the first year ofStone's presidency. The Union had electric lines run to Metcalfe's Grove on the Washita River so that lights and microphones could be used by the speakers that included Stone and Zed Lawter. More than 400 people from around the state attended the meeting. Howard, a musician, pro­ vided part ofthe entertainment as he often did for local meetings and state conventions. Today, Howard Metcalfe maintains an impressive collection of antiques, ranging from his mother's turn-of-the-century music makers to innovative tools crafted from the forge ofnecessity. Most of the equipment and tools are in perfect working order, which Metcalfe proudly demonstrates for visitors and students. His collec­ tion fills five buildings on the homestead, a legacy ofthe hard work and creative problem solving that is so much a part of rural Oklahoma's history. 109


A Farmers Union Picnic.

Cobb, who had served as director of education in 1944, returned to teaching, then in 1952 again directed the camps at Turner Falls. Another leader recognized was Mrs. Roy A. Cook of Kingfisher, a former teacher and stenographer who conducted classes once a month for both junior and junior reserves in her local. Also recognized was Mrs. Olive E. Latta of Fargo, one of the northwest's most capable fieldworkers. A graduate of Northwestern College and a teacher in Ellis and Woodward counties, Mrs. Latta was in her third year as an educational leader. Another person spotlighted was Mrs. J.H. Coffman of Spencer, an active member in 4-H and Women's Clubs, and a former teacher who remembered the depression days when she taught for $60 a month and "boarded from house to house." Another leader was Beatrice Nichols of Marlow, a graduate of the School for the Blind at Muskogee. The handicapped home economics major was known for working with juniors in the Starr-Beaver local. Her maternal grandfather, J.T. Armstrong, had been an active organizer in Oklahoma Territory and in 1904 was appointed a district organizer. Her father, M.A. Nichols, had joined the Farmers Union in 1903. Also active in the Starr-Beaver local was Mrs. Anna Nichols, a widowed mother ofsix who had farmed 23 0 acres, served as publicity director for her local and taught junior classes.


AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS Another true believer in the program was Melva Pancoast, educa­ tion director in Payne, Pawnee, Logan, and Noble counties. Other ladies who always helped organize and conduct camps were Pauline Peters of Yukon, the director ofthe Mayhew Local in Canadian County; Eunice Stejskal, Yukon, who served as publicity director and taught classes; and, Mrs. Ruth M. Wood, Grimes, a member ofthe Rose Hill Local where Tom Cheek maintained his membership.26 In May of 1952 Duffy appeared before the Roads and Highways Committee ofthe Oklahoma Legislative Council to testify for re-enact­ ment of the 1949 farm-to-market road program. He also sought the continuance ofthe current one-cent gasoline tax to finance the program. During his appearance Duffy added that theFarmers Union recommended that the administration ofthe farm-to-market roads be continued under the supervision ofcounty commissioners.2 7 In June, Ross Thomas, public relations director of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, resigned after two years to join the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union in Denver. Duffy quickly appointed Ramon Martin, the former Oklahoma editor ofthe Farmer-Stockman, as Thomas' replace­ ment. A graduate ofSoutheastern State College, Martin was a long-time Oklahoma newspaperman.28 One ofthe many features inaugurated by Martin was a special article in the paper entitled "Meet the Staff" One ofthe first to be introduced was long-time State Secretary Z.A. Lawter. In the article Lawter profiled his life by announcing that he had been born on July 4, 1890, in a log house in Illinois. He had moved with his father to Geary, Oklahoma Territory, in 18 94, to homestead a farm north ofWeatherford in Custer County. As Lawter recalled, "Our farm lay next to the disputed Indian strip country of the Caddo, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians...Many a night I went to sleep to the sound ofthe Indians dancing ...." Lawter also noted that he had attended Southwestern, taught school at Pleasant Hill, and served as deputy tax assessor from 1912 to 1916. He had joined the local at Harmony, northeast of Weatherford in September, 1912, he said, stating, "It was a secret society at that time...with passwords and all the other fixings, similar to a lodge." He further added that theFarmer Union meetings were held immediately after the local Anti-ThiefAssociation. That group, he explained, was "a strong organization in those days ofhorses--and thieves." In 1916 Lawter had succeeded to the position of secretary, following M. T. Norton, and was re-elected on his own at the next convention. He remembered that he 111


Farmers Union Warehouse, Oklahoma City.

moved to Oklahoma City in 1923, and at the time there were only three employees with the Union. Lawter recalled that he had an old, worn-out rolltop desk and a beat­ up chair that the wheels came off when it was lifted. While he was away on a trip, Martin decided to get new furniture for him. Not only did a new desk and chair arrive, but also the enterprising editor decided to pipe in music to the headquarters. When Lawter returned he was met with music that surprised him so that he asked who had left the radio on. Martin explained this was the latest way to keep employees happy. Lawter grumbled that he had worked for 40 years without having to play music all day. He walked on into his office anyway. When he saw the new furniture in his office, he just sat down, took his head in his hands, and began muttering, "Lordy, Lordy, Lordy." About this time Joe Riggan walked in, and Lawter yelled, "Do you see what they have done to me?" Riggan told him that when he had heard what Martin was doing, he had decided to store his old desk and chair down in the basement. Lawter, feeling a little relieved, yelled for them to get it back up into his office immediately, if not sooner. This was too much modernism and change for him. One of the Lawter's pet peeves was the Turner Turnpike. He was opposed to it, and when the Union was against a proposition, it took action. A truck with a loud speaker and a record player were put into use, and the officers got out to campaign. Although he lost the fight, Lawter continued to fight the idea of tollroads. He argued that the turnpike would never be paid off, because as quickly as it was another would be started. Propheti­ cally, he stated, "It will be hocked to build another one, and then that one 112

A FAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMA FARMERS will be hocked to do the next one, and there will never be an end to it." Lawter ran the Union with a strong hand during these years. Many concluded that he was in fact the true president, while Homer Duffy was only a figurehead. Although drawing the same salary as the president, Secretary Lawter actually provided a compatible balance to the quiet­ mannered Duffy. A working partnership existed between the two that was never shattered by arguments or disagreements. In essence, Duffy wisely allowed his secretary to help him maintain his power and control.2 9 In 1952 victorious President Dwight Eisenhower brought with him a new economic philosophy that called for balancing the federal budget. Naturally, the farm program was one of the first areas to be affected by his "dynamic conservativism." The Eisenhower approach was introduced by his Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, of Salt Lake City, who preached the principles of supply and demand. Representing a move toward the philosophy of the extremely conservative wing of the Repub­ lican Party, Benson blamed quickly dropping farm prices on large supplies of cattle, cotton, and wheat, and the weakening of the export market caused by the end of the Korean War in 1953. With the Republican administration advocating controls on inflation and "balancing the bud­ get," Benson advised that "the best thing for farmers to do is work with the forces of supply and demand--not against them." When asked if the 1953 ninety per cent parity law would be renewed, as the Farmers Union wanted, Benson curtly replied, "That is up to congress." The Oklahoma UnionFarmergotanewlookin 1953. The newspa­ per changed its format and its editorial staff again. The paper reduced its page size and presented four columns of news rather than the previous five, making the print larger and more easily read. The new managing editor was Ramon Martin, who also served as director of public relations for the Union. The revisions were approved by the executive board, composed of Roscoe Beall, Cushing; Spencer T. Bernard, Rush Springs; Gus Gray, Stratford; James Hays, Enid; and, Herman Swart, Rocky. Trying to court the favor of the Farmers Union, President Eisenhower appointed Spencer Bernard as a member of Secretary Benson's Wheat Advisory Committee in April of 1953. However, there was little improve­ ment in relations. The group was organized for discussions on the wheat situation and, supposedly, to make recommendations to the secretary on possible measures for better production and marketing of wheat. The committee soon realized it was only there for show. Originally composed of 42 members, representing grain dealers, mill men, and wheat growers, 113

CHAPTERIV the group was quickly whittled down to nine, with Bernard selected as one of the finalists. Still, when the secretary addressed the committee, he reiterated Eisenhower's goal of balancing the budget as the major objective for the President in all matters; agriculture was of course included. There was little evidence that the committee's views would be treated as much more than suggestions. Spencer Bernard, who had started farming using four mules near Rush Springs in 1933, joined the Union in 1935 and took over as secretary of the local two years later. Initially, he had attracted the attention of Lawter and other state officials after he wrote a play for the Union. Presented to the members at the Rush Springs school auditorium, "Pro­ paganda Sickness" portrayed the OFU as a farmer needing an operation. Bernard had a doctor and a nurse, played by Bernard dressed as a woman, perform the surgery ofremoving the "sickness" from the farmer. A sign that read "Farmers Are Not That Bad Off," symbolizing the propaganda being told about farming, was removed from the "patient," among other "ailments." The highlight of the program was the "heart surgery." Obtaining a real horse heart from Art Harris, who owned the local dog food plant, it was "removed" symbolically from the "patient," while a helper under the "bed" kept it pulsating to the great amusement of the audience. Then Harris removed other problems from the farmer. Finally, he placed a sign that read "Co-Op" back into the patient, sewed him up, and "cured" him. The play was seen by state officials who afterwards insisted that Bernard and his cast put the play on at the next convention.30 President Duffy entered the fray with the Eisenhower Administra­ tion over price supports when the price ofcattle fell to new lows in April, 1953. He personally appealed to Secretary Benson to maintain the "price support program aimed at ninety per cent parity at least." He did not receive a response. Senator Bob Kerr was persuaded to introduce an emergency relief measure to Congress that would have set up a price support program.It, too, was defeated. By August about the only major farm organization left supporting the fixed price supports for agriculture was the Farmers Union. In May of1953 President Duffy happily announced that the Union had completed arrangements for the purchase of Dobry Mills, Inc., at Yukon to be converted into a feed mill for the Union. The sale was financed by a loan from the Federal Bank for Co-operatives in Wichita, Kansas, the Oklahoma Farmers Union, and by the sale of stock to members. Duffy 114


Dedication of Farmers Union Co-Op, Enid, 1954

explained the purchase of the mills resulted from a long-considered view of expansion for the Union feed program. He stated confidently that "the valuable Dobry property will make it possible for us to offer every type of quality feed to Oklahoma Farmers Union members at a reasonable price. "31 In September, Duffy and Secretary Lawter announced another new service for the Union. They had created a "Fireside Store" to offer mail order merchandise to the membership. More than 700 representative members were given a five-pound catalog filled with more than 8,000 sale items, including jewelry, furniture, clothing, gifts, and housewares. The Fireside Store was a cooperative operated by the Supply Association, which Duffy proclaimed was a department store "that would offer more merchandise and better service than was ever dreamed possible. "32 President Duffy's son, Charles, was named manager of the new department. In the next issue of The Oklahoma Union Farmer, he was shown signing J.P. Stine, a Canadian County member, who made the first order for a new typewriter from the Fireside catalog. 33


CHAPTER IV Duffy's attention soon returned to the serious problem of dropping cattle prices. Because of Secretary Benson's "dilly-dallying," as Duffy termed the refusal by Washington to raise price supports for cattlemen, the Oklahoma farm leader backed the National Union's plan to organize a "Cattlemen's Caravan" to the national capitol in November. Oklahoma's economy was suffering not only from low prices but also from a severe drought in the western counties, and the Farmers Union decided that a rally in Washington, D.C., would be the only way to dramatize the situation. The trek drew more publicity than any delegation in years, but failed to convince the administration to change its policies. Secretary Lawter headed the Oklahoma delegation of seventeen members who joined cattlemen from around the country in the protest rally. After two meetings with Benson, the farmers realized that the secretary remained "untouched and unmoved" by their first-hand stories of economic hard times. The secretary stated that the future of the livestock industry looked "cheerful," and predicted that prices would rise a bit during the next year. The President issued a memo backing his secretary's statements and refused to meet with the "Caravan" on the advice of his policy makers. After the meeting with Benson, the "Caravan" members were informed by the press that the secretary had disavowed everything that he had told them. In a public release, Benson stated that the delegation had not been a "fair representative sample" of the cattle industry, and he did not believe that they had the support of the majority of their industry. In reality, Benson had tried to have the rally called off by wiring Union President Patton even before the caravan left for Washington. With both sides frustrated and bitter, relations between farmers and Washington grew worse each day. 34 Continuing the battle after they returned home, the Oklahoma Farmers Union told its membership at the annual convention in January, 1954, that "We Want 100% Parity." Because the present legislation did not provide for such price supports, the officers added, "We feel that any legislation that would reduce prices below the current guarantee of 90% of parity would be intolerable and completely unjust and immeasurably harmful to our entire economy."35 Duffy again attacked the administration's policy when Secretary of Agriculture Benson appeared on a speaking tour at Oklahoma A & M in February. During the course of his speech Benson stated that the 116

AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS Eisenhower farm program was necessary because of "the resentment of 140 million non-farm consumers" against the present "expensive, waste­ ful, and ineffective program of rigid price supports." Duffy was livid with indignation. He responded that the words of the secretary were a "lot of hogwash." Duffy charged that the secretary's statement was purposely "designed to build a gap between country and town folks in coming elections by making the farmer the national whipping boy." Duffy deplored the attempt by a cabinet member to create a breech between rural and city areas. Angrily, he said that he did not believe there was any such "consumer resentment" to the current farm program. Duffy concluded that "if such resentment is created it will be generated only by Benson's manipulations of fantasy into a real-life bugaboo." Duffy and the Union were fighting a losing battle. The Republican administration in Washington was firmly committed to a balanced budget and refused to make any concessions that might disrupt that effort. The administration would successfully achieve its "sliding scale" formula for farm supports. Duffy and Lawter were more successful in obtaining other tangible benefits for their Union members. InFebruary the officers purchased a new 50-passenger bus to be used to transport officers and members to national meetings. Lawter, who led an annual visit of members to Washington on a business-pleasure trip, was instrumental in convincing the Union that it really needed a bus. As the Union prepared to celebrate 50 years of existence, Duffy claimed that the membership rolls had gone over the 50,000 mark. The list, he said, had been increased by the organization of a Women's Auxiliary in the Custer County Union. Calling it "probably the first of its kind in the nation," Duffy congratulated the eleven charter members and called on other locals to begin the same kind of work. Mrs. Howard Manion, president of the auxiliary, added her recom­ mendation that it was time forFarmers Union wives to do their part. She stated that wives must "organize to help our men fight the good fight and work for the good of theFarmers Union through education, co-operation, and legislation, the three sides of the Farmers Union triangle. "36 Inreality, there was not as much good will within the Union as Duffy liked to project. A serious rebellion was being organized even as he talked with the auxiliary ladies. A group of disgruntled members had met at the Chicken Coop in Stillwater to organize a campaign to run George Stone


CHAPTER IV for president against Duffy. Among the leaders were Walter Rains, Herb Shoup, Jack Armour, and the so-called "Lone Ranger," John Stermer. Stermer had acquired the nickname when he arrived late at the meeting. As Herb Shoup went around the table introducing him, Stermer, realizing that the men probably would not remember his name, stated, "I am the only person west ofl-35 in favor of George Stone, but since none of you know me, just call me the Lone Ranger." For years Stermer received mail at his home in Arapaho addressed simply to the Lone Ranger. The time was not right for Stone's election, however, for Duffy was re-elected with little trouble in 195 5. Nevertheless, the movement had begun. On January 17, 1955, the Union celebrated its 50th anniversary at its annual convention with speeches by National President James Patton, Senator Robert S. Kerr, and Governor Raymond Gary. There was little hint of the brewing storm. More than 2,000 members attended the three­ day Golden Jubilee ceremonies, where they made plans for an even larger celebration in the summer.37 The members returned to Tishomingo in July for a day of speeches and barbecue in the town that had hosted the first state convention in 1905. The number of delegates attending that original meeting was only 109. Duffy especially looked forward to meeting the three members who were still alive.38 Some 1,600 members turned out for the meeting with Duffy, including the three charter members and a few other pioneers as well. Not even Duffy expected the large number of "old timers" who showed for the celebration. Secretary Lawter took time to name them all and to pay tribute for their support. Among those listed by the secretary were O.B. Houchin of Durant; G.S. Phelps, Tipton; Edgar Johnson, Tishomingo; M.R. Meisenhimer, McAlester; E.O. White, Durant; G.W. Pierce, Stratford; J.R. Love, Laverne; C.V. Nichols, Davis; W.B. Thornborough, Coalgate; F.L. Johnson, Madill; Tom Samples, Atoka; J.J. Ridgeway, Caddo; John W. Berry, Tishomingo; Frank Horlic, Oklahoma City; H.W. Billings, Shawnee, C.A. Gasser, Medicine Park; W.O. Law�on, Choctaw; Marion L. Hill, Oklahoma City; and Green Stovall, Wilburton.39 In December, 1955, The Oklahoma Union Farmer headlines read: "Duffy Sees Bright Future For OFU." In the "President's Column," Duffy called the month the busiest time of the year. The annual speech contest, the state convention, and regional meetings were all slated, and the 118

AFAIR DEAL FOR OKLAHOMAFARMERS President planned to discuss the great progress that the Union had made in its 50 years ofhistory. He predicted victory for the proposed legislative program that would eliminate the sliding scale system of parity, and he expected continued success for the Union's many business activities. Inviting members to Oklahoma City in January "for the greatest conven­ tion in our history," little did he realize the truth of his words. 40 If the election of officers in 1956 was not the "greatest," it was certainly the most exciting. Before the convention was over delegates were fighting on the floor, shoving matches were occurring on the speaker's platform, and the ballot box was captured by John Stermer and seques­ tered by the police. When all the excitement was over, there was a new president. A young, thirty-six year old former minister, George W. Stone, had been elected. Although he had been defeated at the convention, Duffy, "the great warrior" for the Union, graciously congratulated his successor and assured Stone that he would continue to help the Union in the years ahead. He left the Union with dignity and at the 1959 convention in Springfield was presented an award for meritorious service to the OklahomaFarmers Union. 41 Death claimed the former president on January 7, 1969, at the age of 79. He had served as president from 1945 to 1955. Last rites were conducted by Reverend Kermit Argo, Lexington, and burial was at Noble. At his service were many sad members of theFarmers Union. 42



FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER George Stone, first elected president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union in 1956, served as the chief executive for 24 years, the longest tenure ofany Union leader. During that time he earned a reputation for being a hard-working, outspoken farm director with a straight­ forward approach to Union issues. Respected by both colleagues and opponents, Stone was the kind of man that "you might not agree with, but you knew where he stood." Born on a farm near Byars, Oklahoma, on April 17, 1919, George William Stone was the sixth ofeight children. He attended school at Byars, and following graduation he was married to Maskell Weed of his hometown. He farmed for a year with his father near Byars, then moved to Oklahoma City to enter the ice cream business. He had a strong desire to preach, and in 1942 began a ministry at the Baptist Church in Mustang, located southwest of Oklahoma City. He entered Oklahoma Baptist University at Shawnee to prepare him for his career, and attended classes while preaching for a living in Mustang. Stone graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theology and speech. After three years at Mustang, Stone became pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church for five years, then served a short time at Keyes, in the western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle before returning to Oklahoma City as pastor of the University Heights Baptist Church. In 1948 he was named chaplain of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. Under doctor's orders, Stone gave up preaching because the strain ofpublic speaking on his vocal cords threatened to cause the complete loss of his voice. In 1952, after leaving the ministry, Stone became a full-time 120


George Stone dedicates a new Farmers Union building.


CHAPTERV worker for the Union, first as assistant to Secretary Lawter, and then as manager of the automobile insurance division in February, 1953. In 1953 he added another career when he moved his wife and four sons back to a farm he purchased near Rosedale in eastern McClain County. By now a committed Union leader, Stone stated that he joined and supported the Farmers Union because he sincerely believed it was the only organization working for the "little people." Stone had first learned of the Union when his father, W.A. Stone, brought him into the organization. The elder Stone, who had joined the Union in Texas before moving to Oklahoma in 1910, served as a local secretary in McClain County and started writing insurance for John Simpson only two years after the company was formed. His first policy, a $400 fire insurance coverage written in 1922, sold for $1.35 and the $3.00 policy fee. The elder Stone and his son attended a few Union meetings by horse and wagon. Stone remembered that the stated purpose of the Union in those days was to "help each other" in buying and selling their crops. In these early years most of the farmers had "buying clubs" to purchase supplies of coal and binder twine and sell their sweet potatoes and other crops. As Stone later remembered, "It was a 'pooling' of resources by the farmers." Stone joined the Union as part of a family membership, buying his first insurance policy in Byars when he was 21 years old. At that time Tom Cheek was president and the Union headquarters were located in the Campbell Building in Oklahoma City. Stone began writing insurance in 1952. Working three days a week as an assistant for Secretary Lawter, he worked primarily in adjustments. He moved into the manager's position of the casualty program in 1953. Employed two years in that department, in 1955 he ran for president, but was defeated by 36 votes by Homer Duffy. He had disagreed with Duffy and Lawter over the way the insurance department was being run, and he was very outspoken about his concerns despite being only an employee. When Duffy refused to make changes, Stone announced that he was running for president in 1955. He told Duffy that if he were not elected he would get out. Stone said that Duffy encouraged him not to run, an opinion supported by Lawter, who Stone believed was truly in charge of the Union rather than Duffy. The 1955 election was close, but there was no chance of Stone's winning because of the way the voting was handled. After his defeat, Lawter dismissed Stone as an employee of the Union. For a while Stone 122

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER worked at "odd jobs," although still selling insurance for the Union because Lawter still felt some sympathy for him and his family. By traveling to all 77 counties, he made himself known to the membership. He was preparing for another campaign in 1956. His supporters helped pay his expenses, and Stone later said, "I had as much income as the year before through donations." Stone had many supporters, but two particularly important ones were A.F. Houston, a local secretary who nominated Stone for president in 1955, and C.P. Graves of Hollis. These two in time helped Stone convince others that change was needed. The issues in the election of 1956 were insurance and the "status quo." The insurance program needed a more workable system, because the policies were the same ones used in the 1920s. The agents still only received a $3 fee for selling policies and the rate was 60 cents per hundred on houses. The insurance department needed a new approach, according to Stone. "The agents were writing auto insurance and the service was

President Stone and Board Members.


CHAPTERV terrible," he stated, "because the national insurance company was slow in service and was losing money." "Then, too, the status quo was bad," Stone added. By this he meant that "There were too few people benefitting from the union, and everyone wanted it changed." Stone felt the Union was existing on "barbecues and sandwiches," and the whole Union movement needed to be "turned around." The Union had little activity in Washington, other than Lawter' s bus trips, and there was little testimony being presented to Congress, according to Stone. He blamed the officers and the board for this situation. He stated, "They hated the Republicans, but the farmers needed the Republican votes in Washington. What I wanted was to make the union more respectable." Worse, according to Stone, the audit in 1955 showed the Union to be almost broke. "They were only writing property insurance, and their total worth, including every brick you could pick up, was a little over $1,420,000, and their gross written premium was $1,470,000. They were in trouble, all the while reporting 50,010 in memberships when the records showed less than 40,000," said Stone. "It was a nest egg on the ground; it just needed direction." Although Stone had prepared well for the convention in 1956, it was a tense situation. The year before he believed the delegates had "padded the ballot box," and he did not want the same thing happening this time. A careful effort to see that delegates were registered correctly was helpful, but there were simply too many people at the convention to insure errors would not be made. The election was held in the Hall of Mirrors Room in the Municipal Auditorium in Oklahoma City, where 807 were registered delegates. This was just too many people filling the room. The Fire Department had to warn them not to block the aisles. When the final vote came in, there were mote ballots than delegates. Suddenly, fist fights erupted. It was a mob scene and the police had to be called in to establish order. People were arguing and shoving on both sides of the aisle as the delegates assumed someone had cheated. People were trying to get up on the stage to get to the ballot box and some were pushing back while John Stermer was sitting on the box to prevent it being taken. In the midst of it all, vice-president Dolezal erupted. Normally a large, quiet man, when he got angry, he could become really upset. Adding to this was the fact that he had a bad eye, often wearing a patch. This night he was not wearing it and as he got madder, the eye got an eerie look to it. He 124

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER began striding back and forth yelling to everyone if they tried to get up on the platform, he would "knock their butts off." In the midst of the furor Duffy simply got up from the chair and left the building. Stone, left on the platform, immediately took the speaker's microphone and declared himself president. Meanwhile, Preston Moore was phoning in advice from Stillwater through Emil Kastl, a Stone supporter and later Secretary-Treasurer. "Moore told me what to do, and I did it," stated Stone. To Stone's actions there was some applause and a few angry responses, but he enforced the decision. He had the ballot box sealed and taken to the police station, informing the board that the votes would be recounted the next morning. According to the recount, Stone had won by a vote of 396 to 356. The results were never mentioned again by either Duffy or Lawter. In explaining his victory, Stone recalled that his closest supporters were the local agents, the secretaries, and the field men. Eventually, those who had opposed him came over to his side. As Stone recalled, "I never had a problem with any of them." His first action as president was to get the membership records in order. According to the reports by Secretary Lawter, there were more than 50,000 members, but the record showed only 44,000. Stone and his supporters "went in and counted them by hand." The reports had been padded in order keep Oklahoma ahead of North Dakota. To fix this problem, explained Stone, "We just started over." Stone later recalled the farm situation in 1956 was "a little better than usual." Most farmers had modem equipment, but some still used mules and horses. "Farmers were doing well as the Korean War had picked up matters, and farmers were doing as well as other people, because it didn't take as much to operate," he explained. One of the first improvements he made was in the insurance business. He insisted on more selective business, and "writing for a wider class of people," as he termed it. Stone was also the first to require photographs of insured property, to avoid fraud. He stated, "We started taking pictures with old black and white cameras, but it was a great improvement." From 1956 to 1957 Stone was active in the state and in Washington, especially testifying for peanut and cotton price supports. Among other improvements he sought was the strengthening of the youth program. Stone persuaded Dora Barney to return and take charge of the entire youth movement. "She did an amazing job," he later said. 125

CHAPTERV Stone's greatest problem the first year he served was with the board. There was one confrontation after the other between the new president and board members. "I let them know that I was not responsible to the board," Stone said. He believed they were elected officials just as he was, and he refused to be intimidated by them. "I don't think a president should be a dictator, but the board tried to do everything to embarrass me, and I struck back," he said. On one occasion Stone even locked the board out of a meeting. The board had previously called a meeting, but he refused to attend it, "because they only wanted to yell at me. So, I locked them out and fired Ramon Martin, the editor ofthe newspaper who was against me." The board told Stone they were going to rehire Martin, which they did. In reaction, Stone moved him out of the headquarters. Martin was given another place and he continued to put out the paper until the next convention. "But not in my presence," declared the strong-willed president. For about three months Stone personally edited the paper, and he still recalled the experience years later. "We pasted them up then. Did all the work ourselves," he stated, "and it was a difficult job." Having other business that needed his attention, Stone hired Gerald Dawkins, a vocational agriculture teacher, to edit the paper. He stayed two years then returned to teaching at Asher. "He was a good speaker and good representative for the Union," said Stone. The relationship with the National Union suffered greatly at this time, because President Patton, a great friend of President Duffy, had opposed Stone's election. Patton had gone to the convention in Oklahoma City in 1956 and openly discouraged Stone's election. "From then on he was not very popular in the state," stated Stone, "and always sent his secretary down to visit. At the convention in San Diego, he apologized for his action and told me that he had been wrong." In 1957 Stone was up for re-election. At the time almost the entire board was against him. He recalled that the members of the board had wanted to meet more than once a quarter as provided by the constitution, but he refused to meet with them or to pay their expenses. 'They started to meet without me," he said, "and only Herman Swart was supporting me." Some ofthe board members were up for re-election, too. "They tried to make a deal with me first, and offered money ifl would step down," he said. When he refused to bargain, the board brought in Jess G. Stratton to oppose him. They told Stone that his job was in jeopardy. "I went to Jess and told him he was with the wrong crowd. I told him there would be a new 126


Farmers Union headquarters at N. Klein.

board at the next convention." As he had predicted, two members were voted out, along with vice-president Dolezal. Louis Williams became vice-president and board members Bill Briscoe, Claremore, and Henry Lesch, Apache,joined the group. The next year two other members went off and they were replaced by M.A. Schiltz, Ponca City, and Leland Stanford, Shawnee. The next year Stone was up for re-election again with another opponent to run against him. This time it was Royal Cook, a county commissioner from Snyder. He got few votes, however, as Stone had solidified his control by then. The big news that year was that long-time secretary, Z.H. Lawter, was defeated by Emil Kastl, a third generation owner of a 3 60-acre farm located northeast of Perkins. A year later a token opponent for president was Lieutenant Governor "Cowboy" Pink Will­ iams of Caddo, but "it was only ajoke," said Stone. Williams was his last opponent for many years. In time, the constitution was changed requiring candidates to file for office. "In those days people didn't have to file. Anyone could get nominated from the floor, and I got tired of it. We just had it changed," he explained.1 One of the biggest changes initiated by Stone came after a board meeting with President Patton in 1958. Angered by the president's refusals to correct the problems within the insurance company, Stone 127

CHAPTERV returned to Oklahoma City, where he chartered a private plane to Orlando because there was an airline strike. Meeting with representatives of the American Independence Insurance Company, he concluded an arrange­ ment to reinsure the Oklahoma Farmers Union. The Oklahoma Farmers Union began writing its own insurance. National Union leaders, realizing that they were losing the insurance business in Oklahoma, confronted Stone at the convention in Springfield in 1959. When the Sooner president confirmed that the automobile insurance would be taken off the national rolls, Patton and Glen Talbott, chairman of the executive committee, told Stone he could not do it. Stone told them it was already done. Talbott then told Stone that he would not be allowed to stay on the executive committee. To this Stone answered, "I quit," and left. Stone later recalled that he began the Oklahoma Union polices by setting the starting period for July, 1959. It was a bold move, he admitted, but felt that he had no choice. "The national was floundering, and I didn't want any part of it," he stated. As a result, the Oklahoma Farmers Union received a reputation for being rebellious in those days. When the results proved beneficial, the national forgave the state leaders. Stone later remembered, "The National Union was very selfish. It was not a grassroots movements any longer. Too few people were benefitting. It was similar to our union in the Fifties, and time to change." Because of his action, Stone was thrown off the executive board for several years. "Finally," he said, "they changed their minds. I didn't ask to be put back on, but I was re-elected, because the Oklahoma union became so powerful." During his first month in office in 1956, Stone was pictured in The Oklahoma Union Farmer writing to President Dwight Eisenhower. Urging his Union members to do the same, he entered a new controversy developing around a new farm bill being introduced to Congress. It was thought by farm leaders to be better than the previous sliding scale program even though it contained only a 90 per cent parity clause. Stone loudly called on farmers to write their legislators supporting the bill because he believed that Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson was sure to oppose it. Stone also predicted that even if it passed, President Eisenhower would veto it on Benson's advice. He urged the membership to join him in a letter writing campaign, telling his followers that it was "absolutely necessary." 2 128


BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER The Oklahoma Farmers Union was one of the earliest statewide organizations to break the lines between the races. An early insurance agent representing the Union was African-American leader, Lillard G. Ashley Born and raised on afarm nearBoley, Ashley farmed until he earned a degree in vocational ag­ riculture from Langston University in 1934. While in college he played bas­ ketball and was selected as an All-American. Later, he earned a master's degree in public school administra­ tion. He married his wife Velma in 1931. She earned degrees in History and English from Atlanta University and a master's degree from Kansas State University. She served as superin­ tendent of Boley schools from 1944 to 1956, when she was replaced by her husband, Lillard, who served as superintendent until 1978. Lillard was teaching vocational agriculture in the Boley schools when he became an insurance agent for the Oklahoma Farmers Union in 1949. Thereafter he proudly displayed his agent number as 0024. He attended all but five of the state conventions for the next 45 years, and ran for a seat on the OFU board of directors in 1989. Velma, his wife for 57 years, said that Ashley admired the OFU because of its fairness in how it selects its members. 129


Stone and Secretary Emil Kastl led a tour to the Capitol.

In April of 195 8 Stone attended the American regional meeting of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers in Ottawa, Canada. This meeting, held prior to the annual world�wide meeting later in the year in Belgium, was called to discuss possible solutions for farm countries. On his return to Oklahoma, Stone decided to go by way ofWashington, D.C., to confer with several congressmen on farm bills. He was especially concerned with the lower price support freezes being advocated by the Eisenhower administration. At the national convention held in March that year, Stone and other delegates were privileged to hear retired President Harry S. Truman as their featured speaker. The 2,000 delegates listened to the "Man from Missouri" make an old-fashioned "Give 'em Hell, Harry" speech. Truman told the convention: I stood on the platform of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia and said that any farmer who voted Republican ought to have his head examined. That was true in 1952 and 1956. It is still true and will be true again in 1960 ....They voted for Ike and got Ezra, and after five years of Ezra Taft Benson, there are very few American farmers who have not come to their political senses.3 130

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER The Oklahoma delegation gathered to have breakfast the next morning to discuss the Truman speech and talk about policy strategy. Among those attending were Louis Williams, Jr., Herb Shoup, Emil Kastl, Mrs. George Stone, Mrs. Frankie Igo, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Riggan, John Stermer, John Briggs, and Herb Coulter. In time the discussion ultimately revolved around the Eisenhower "Soil Bank" plan. When Stermer was asked how the Soil Bank business was paying off in Custer County, the loquacious farmer quipped casually, "Don't have any, too poor to buy a stamp to find out about it." Back home, the Union newspaper underwent another change in July, 1959. Orville S. Allard replaced Dawkins, who returned to teaching vocational agriculture, as public relations director. Reared in Drumright where his father published a daily newspaper, Allard was the brother of State Representative Lou S. Allard, the publisher of the Drumright Derrick. Allard had a couple of well-known idiosyncrasies. He never got to work on time, and he never could get there fully dressed. Always arriving with his coat over his arm and his tie in his hand, his colleagues jokingly said that he was dressed, but never ready to meet the day. They all agreed that he was a good newspaperman. In a new "President reports to the membership" column in the paper, Stone discussed the effort to set up a new set of by-laws to enlarge the board membership from five to seven members. He explained to his readers that the convention locals voted to ratify the change by a vote of twelve to one. However, in March a suit had been filed in district court in Oklahoma County for a restraining order on the grounds that the move was illegal and could destroy the Union. Stone listed the plaintiffs as W.O. Lawson, former vice-president, Ted Stottman, Jr., Carl Harper, Vernon Harper, J.L. Burchfield, and Don Kardokus. They were accompanied into court by Homer Duffy and Z.H. Lawter, whom Stone believed were actually behind the suit. The case was heard on July 13 by Judge Fred Daugherty, who refused to issue a permanent restraining order and removed the earlier one. Although the case was still pending in court, Stone firmly believed that he would win. In his column he attacked the men responsible and likened their actions to the "old 'rule or ruin' slogan." Stone predicted victory as soon as the appellate courts completed their hearings.4 Stone also reported to his readers another suit had been filed and won 131

CHAPTERV by the "Patrons" of the Oklahoma Farmers Union Supply Association in the State Supreme Court. The case was brought against the proposed merger of the Association with the Co-op, a corporation under a different management. Stone stated, "The patrons who are members of the Farmers Union had the sympathy of most of the Farmers Union members and they will be pleased at the result." He added: "The opinion of the Court and the mandate thereof has been spread...and present officers of the Supply Business have taken charge." The history of this case went back to the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Farmers Union Supply Association in February, 1957, when an unusually large crowd of people opposed to the administrative changes were invited into the offices of the Union. At the meeting a recommenda­ tion was presented asking the Supply Association Board and the Co-op Board to study the possibility of buying and cooperating jointly. An outright merger was not approved at the meeting, but the majority of the board voted to study the idea. This attempted merger of the organizations was started in Septem­ ber, 1957. In order to halt it, a suit was filed in district court in Oklahoma County. The suit was brought by Stone, Lawter, Swart, Lawson, Ed Preble, R.J. Powell, and Jack Armour. The defendants were Ernie K. Dean, William Dolezal, Homer Duffy, Gus Gray, Spencer Bernard, Roscoe Beall, James H. Hays, and W.E. Shedeck, directors, and Lawter as Secretary-Treasurer. When the case was heard in district court, a decision was rendered for the defendants. At once, the plaintiffs appealed to the State Supreme Court. When the higher court reversed the earlier decision, Stone, while happy with the results, sadly wrote: I have been disappointed in people many, many times in my life and there are many that do not understand to do things in good faith but they have some selfish interest, at least that is my opinion of some of those who were party to bringing the suit. .. It is regrettable that law suits like this have to interfere in an organization so important as the Farmers Union but it is hard to sit idly by and let those that would destroy do so...." 5 On December 9, 1960, Stone won re-election against Roscoe Beall of Cushing for a fifth term by a vote of 466 to 89. State Secretary Emil Kastl also won over Charlie Huff of Oklahoma City by a vote of 488 to 69. Vice-President Louis Williams and Bill Briscoe ran unopposed and 132

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER Henry Lesch defeated his opponent. The results were an unquestioned endorsement of Stone's leadership. At that time the board was composed of Briscoe, Lesch, M.A. Schiltz, Ponca City, and Leland Stanford, Shawnee. The board, as Stone had wanted, had been increased by two additional members. They were Clifford Hamby, a farmer from Grant, and Jack Kelsey, a farm operator from Waynoka. 6 One of the new board's first actions was to establish 20 Oklahoma Farmers Union college scholarships for young members. The $200 scholarships went to any Oklahoma college or university for the 1960-61 school year and were made available to applicants whose families were Union members and who had attended at least one junior camp. Thereaf­ ter, the awards were increased in amounts over the years. 7 In May, 1960, Stone and Kastl attended a two-day meeting of farm leaders in St. Paul. The conference, headed by President Patton, organized a "Farmers Union Commission," charged with drafting new basic legis­ lation for farm cooperatives. President Stone reported that in the face of great opposition, as well as attacks upon farm cooperatives by Washing­ ton cabinet members, including Justice, Treasury, and Commerce, it was

A state convention held in the Municipal Auditorium, OKC.


CHAPTER V time to rewrite the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922. Long known as the Magna Carta of the cooperative movement, the act had given farmers the legal right to band together into cooperatives. Recent administration attitudes necessitated the need to spell out the rights of farm cooperatives in the modem era. Stone reported that the "Commission" would soon be drafting legislation to deal with the problem.8 While involvement in politics was becoming more important to Union leaders, the business of the Union was certainly not being neglected. On September 1, 1960, Secretary Kastl announced that a new service would be offered to the state membership. A wholesale and retail distribution business of all kinds of fertilizers was begun when several hundred tons of sack fertilizer were ordered. To take care of the new service, a warehouse was started in Oklahoma City, located west of the supply association store and lumber yard on North Klein.9 The convention in December of 1960 was held in Tulsa for the first time, and was one of the most harmonious in years. All the officers, including Stone and Williams, were re-elected without opposition, as were board members Mike Schiltz and Leland Stanford. The elections were another endorsement of the Stone regime. Without doubt, he was in complete charge of the Union by that time. The only excitement at the convention came in the announcement that Stone's automobile had been stolen from the hotel parking lot. The car was found a few blocks away, stripped of everything except a pair of binoculars. Stone, taking it in stride, quipped that it "might be another fifty years before the convention returned to Tulsa." 10 The Union membership was listed at 50,540 by Stone at the convention. He reported that 33 counties had raised memberships, but others had suffered losses, and the total was approximately that of 1959. However, the figure was offset by the fact that "It suggests that half or more of the 95,000 farm families in Oklahoma are members of the Farmers Union." Stone's great optimism was caused by the new administration in Washington. John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Free­ man, the former governor of Minnesota, reported that the Kennedy administration had just sent the first new farm program to Congress on February 1. It represented a sharp departure from the previous farm policies of the Eisenhower years. The bill, an emergency measure to cut corn and feed grain production, provided for increasing price supports. 134

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER Kennedy was asking Congress to require farmers to reduce feed grain acreage by 20 per cent, but the bill also made them eligible for higher price supports, an idea the Farmers Union had been supporting for years. Secretary Freeman hailed the plan because it would save the federal government $500 million in storage and price support costs, while raising farmers' incomes by 10 to 12 per cent.11 The Farmers Union was certainly willing, as were most farm groups, to give the plan a chance. Freeman, moving quickly to put the new program into operation, set up price supports for other products as well. Cotton was given an 82% of parity support, which contrasted significantly with the 1962 Eisenhower budget that would have dropped the support price for cotton to 70% of parity. Because the national convention met in Washington, D. C., that year, Oklahoma Union members were given an opportunity to discuss the new policy directly with the secretary. Freeman was the featured speaker for the convention, and Stone got the opportunity to talk at length with the new farm director. Stone also served as an escort for George McGovern, Special Assistant to President Kennedy, and for Lyndon B. Johnson, the Vice-President, when the two men visited the convention. 12 "Stone sees farm bill as best effort yet to stabilize agriculture," read The Oklahoma Union Farmer in June, 1961. Calling the Kennedy bill a "sensible solution," Stone attacked those who opposed the passage of the farm legislation as people "who were shouting 'wolf' when there is none." Pointing out that the United States had become the only country in the world with an over-abundance of food, Stone told farmers they would finally have a voice in the establishment of farm quotas and allotments under the omnibus bill presented by Kennedy. To increase support, Stone began a speaking tour of locals and county meetings explaining the bill. The renewed prosperity of farmers was reflected in the growth of the Union. On May 16, 1961, official ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the construction of a new administration building at Grand and Clegem, located across the alley from the offices at Grand and Klein. The two buildings were designed to be connected by a second-story passage­ way. Stone and Vice-President Williams announced that the W.R. Lowe Building Company of Oklahoma City had won the contract for the new 50'x 140' building. Stone, who knew the value of good publicity, arranged for the ground-breaking to be done by an aged one-horse plow, one that he had actually farmed with in his younger days. To the delight of the crowd, the 135

CHAPTERV president harnessed himself to the plow to start the construction of the building. It was completed and opened for use for the next convention in 1962. 13 Stone, Kastl, and the board were busy with meetings around the state in these years. In August, 1961, Stone was speaker for the first annual Clay Potts barbecue in Enid, held by the 17-county Northwest Farmers Union area. The officers of that organization were Forrest Fergason, president; Mrs. Melva Pancoast, secretary-treasurer; and, Cecil Condreay, vice-president. A few days later Stone attended the Northeast Farmers Union's sixth annual fish fry at Sequoyah State Park, located east of Wagoner. This gathering featured a half-ton of freshly caught catfish and gallons of"holy coffee," as Clem Cottom of the Limestone Local called it. He said, "We used thirty-gallon black kettles and boiled the hell out of it." The catfish fry had become a family tradition for the Farmers Union, and thousands began attending from across the state.14 In November Stone appeared at the Beggs local for the annual community family night. A crowd of 500 attended the African-American meeting of one of the most active locals in the Union. The organization presented Mrs. William H. Hale, the wife of the president of Langston University, with a check of$325 for its scholarship fund. That night they listened attentively as Stone joined President Will Collier and Secretary­ Treasurer Harold Brown to address the farmers on the Kennedy farm bill. 15 The Kennedy administration asked the Oklahoma Union to help sponsor one of its programs in 1962. Agricultural Division Director of the Peace Corps asked Dora Barney to serve the Oklahoma region on an informal basis. Mrs. Barney immediately began recruiting farm youths to serve as volunteers for the program.16 With 1962 an election year, Stone was urged by many to get into state politics. In March he was encouraged by his supporters to seek the position of Lieutenant Governor. He did canvass the local secretaries and county officers seeking their opinions on whether he should run or not, and he received letters supporting him. Eventually he declined to run. He told the Union membership that the decision was based upon his feeling that the president of the movement needed to put his best effort into working for the Union's farm legislative program. Feeling that "it would be better...to stay out of the political arena at this time," Stone was 136

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER congratulated by a number of political observers who appreciated his having the strength to tum down a political campaign.17 Stone participated in the organization of a new animal health foundation in the state in June, 1962. The Oklahoma Animal Health Foundation, established as a non-profit corporation, was dedicated to raising funds to combat livestock diseases, insects, and parasites in the state. An account was established at the Stockyards Bank by Stone as treasurer ofthe group. He was assisted by George Reid, of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, who was elected president, and Ken McFall, of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the foundation's secretary. In 1964 Stone presented another Oklahoma Farmers Union donation of $5,000 to the association for the purpose ofhelping to eradicate other insects in cattle.18 At the 58th state convention held in Oklahoma City in December, a harmonious gathering returned all incumbents to the state offices. There was an additional director elected to fill the unexpired term of Herman Swart, who had died ofa heart attack in June. Elected to replace him was Elzie Humble, manager of the Farmers Co-op Association in Chatta­ nooga.19 The producers in the Union's ever growing insurance program were also honored at their convention. Aside from the lavish praise heaped upon the agents by department officials, the hard-working men and women were given trophies for their performances. Those honored included Mrs. Viola Meadows, W.W. Bastedo, Ed Preble, Wanda Stewart, Jess Blevins, Mrs. Anna Clifton, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Teel, Herb Shoup, Major John R. Paul, Earl Owens, Rex Miller, G.F. Posey, Henry Combrink, and Robert Jech. Members ofthe Union were also happy to learn that Marvella Hem, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Delbert Hem of Enid had made a success as the wife of Senator Birch Bayh, Jr. oflndiana. Marvella's father was a member of the Garfield County Union and a director of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers' Association. The young, glamorous lady twelve years earlier had governed Oklahoma Girls State and gone on to become president ofGirls Nation. She had credited her success to the deep Sooner roots of her family and the Farmers Union.20 In February, 1963, Stone hosted the last of four regional "Action Conferences" called by the National Farmers Union to discuss a plan to present to the new 88th Congress for dairy products, feed, grains, and cotton. The Oklahoma City meeting brought together state presidents and officials from Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Also in atten137


The Farmers Union Store.

dance were National President Patton, National Secretary Tony T. Dechant, and Director of Legislative Services Reuben Johnson and Director of Education John Eklund. 21 In August that year, Stone announced the addition of a life insurance plan for Union members. The plan made available up to $15,000 worth of protection at a rate below normal insurance rates. The Union service was re-insured by the All America Life and Casualty Company of Chicago. 22 Policies were immediately taken out by members ofthe headquarters staffto publicize the new services. The first policies were written for Herb Shoup, head of the Automobile Department, Emil Kastl, Stone, Rex Miller, Harold J. Craig, developer of the plan, Tommy Chism, printer, and Henry Nall, head of the Accounting Department. 23 The Oklahoma Union Farmer went through another change when a new managing editor was hired in 1963. Don L. Woolley, a crew cut, agricultural journalism major, took control of the paper in October. Raised on a wheat and cattle farm near Leedey, where he attended school, Woolley was a graduate of Oklahoma State University. His most recog­ nizable feature to many people was his hat. Woolley wore the largest white Stetson that most people had ever seen. Rex Miller often chided him when 138

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER he saw the big hat by yelling, "Hey, are you one of those farm "burrow" people?" Woolley never failed to start laughing.24 Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman attended the 59th annual Oklahoma Farmers Union as a personal representative for President Lyndon Johnson. He reported that there would be no major changes in the farm policies under the new President. Calling him an "agrarian, a rural, folksy kind of person," Freeman said the goal of the new administration was the same as that of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, 100 per cent of parity. Several policy resolutions were passed at that convention. One called for a quota system placed on imports ofbeefand other commodities; another approved the sale of wheat to Russia; and still another reaffirmed the Farmers Union stand in favor of 100 per cent of parity for farm commodities. Afterwards, the Stone administration was re-elected unani­ mously.25 In March, 1964, at the national meeting held in St. Paul, Stone was elected to the executive committee of the National Farmers Union. The Oklahoma leader was equally excited by the words of Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Director, the major speaker at the conference. Shriver had just been appointed by Johnson to head the "War on Poverty," and, as part of the "battle," Stone learned that the Rural Economic Opportunity program would begin direct federal grants of up to $1,500 to farmers in need ofcapital through the FHA. It appeared that the Johnson administra­ tion planned to do more than talk about farm problems for a change.26 In June Stone announced the opening of a new Farmers Union store at 1601 South Agnew in Oklahoma City. The store featured general farm supplies, including fertilizer, fencing material, general hardware, and other farm supplies. A complete animal health department was also provided for customers.27 In September Stone was appointed to serve along with Czar Langston, general manager of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, as a delegate to the National Democratic platform committee. Chosen by Smith Hester, state Democratic chairman, the position gave Stone access to the all-powerful agricultural section of the platform. Stone and Langston forwarded their recommendations to the platform committee headed by Representative Carl Albert, the House Majority Leader at the time. Stone was also appointed to be an alternate delegate to the national Democratic convention. 139

CHAPTERV In October, as election time neared, The Oklahoma Union Farmer featured Stone on its front page, photographed in the White House Rose Garden with President Johnson conferring on campaign issues. The occasion for the picture was a meeting of the Rural Americans for the Johnson-Humphrey organization.28 Only a few months later, the Oklahoma Farmers Union vocally attacked one aspect ofthe Johnson farm policies. The Union newspaper announced: "Soil Bank Proposal Draws Fire From Presidents Stone and Patton." The proposal was a recent report by the National Agricultural Advisory Commission, a group recognized as a sounding board for administration farm suggestions, that recommended the retiring of 40 million acres ofland from production, including entire farms over a five­ year period. Patton attacked the NAAC plan as "completely contrary to the Great Society concept of building rural America, as expressed by President Johnson and Senator Humphrey during their campaign." Stone, equally offended by the report, stated his feelings in a speech to the state convention in Oklahoma City in December, 1964. The indignant Stone declared, "I have never been more disgusted in my entire life...The Farm Bureau advocated soil bank will help no one but the doctors, druggists, lawyers, and big business." 29 During the next month, Stone made two trips to Washington to appear before committees and talk with congressmen. He later reported that he felt better about the Johnson program after the President sent a special message to Congress on February 4, calling for an extension of government programs for wheat, feed grains, cotton, and wool, all due to expire in 1965. The President also announced that he planned to reorga­ nize the National Agricultural Advisory Commission into a Commission on Food and Fiber to study present farm policies. This news brought some degree of relief to Stone and other farm leaders around the nation. Stone was even more pleased with the progress ofthe farm program in the state Legislature. The Union had endorsed several bills approved by the Legislature. This work was aided greatly by the support ofRepresen­ tative Bill Briscoe. A Union board member, Briscoe was chairman ofthe agriculture committee in the House, and his counterpart in the Senate, Byron Dacus, from Hobart, was a Union member and manager of the Farm Insurance Property Department.30 Stone had reason for optimism. In March the Legislature passed H.B. 508, introduced by Briscoe, to create a Wheat Commission for the state. The bill allowed the commission to conduct research and market 140

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER development for wheat. It was also empowered to levy a two and one-half mill per bushel promotion fee on Oklahoma marketed wheat. 31 In August Stone gladly watched as Governor Henry Bellmon signed SB 110 into law. The bill exempted fertilizer from sales tax, and was primarily passed through the efforts of the Oklahoma Union. The bill was estimated to be worth $640,000 in savings to state farmers each year in taxes. 32 By the summer of 1965 the work load was becoming so heavy for Stone that he hired an assistant, Arvle A. Haire. The former Moore school· principal and vocational agriculture teacher was employed to help Stone with organizational work, legislative duties, assisting the youth programs, and representing Stone at state and regional Union meetings. Haire's schedule was a busy one, as the Union had seven youth camps slated for his first summer that year. 33 The president's duties were expanding during these years. It was announced that Stone would serve a one-year term on the board of directors of the Farmers and World, Inc., Association. The non-profit, educational organization sponsored a Farm Leader Exchange Program with developing countries, and worked with farm groups and cooperatives to promote friendship and understanding between the United States and foreign countries engaged in agriculture. 34 Stone was appointed to still another board in October, 1965. The newly-created Commission on State Fiscal Structure and Procedures named him one of its twelve members to study state tax recommendations. Selected by House Speaker J.D. McCarty, the Commission's purpose was to make inquiries into tax collection and distribution and give suggestions for changes in the fiscal procedures of state government deemed in the public interest. Their recommendations were to be reported periodically to the State Legislative Council and the governor's office.35 Stone announced a "new look" to the readers of the Union newspaper in October. The paper was shortened in height and lengthened in width to include eight pages. Printed on the presses of the Oklahoma Journal, owned by W. P. "Bill" Atkinson, the paper was given a later news deadline, making it possible to include more current and relevant stories as Stone wanted. 36 In February of 1966 Stone's temper was tempted by a statement from Oklahoma State University sociology professor, Dr. James D. Tarver, who stated that agriculture was no longer Oklahoma's leading industry. Stone responded that the remark was "the decoy part of a 141


Stone addresses members.

planned propaganda program to discredit the importance of agriculture and therefore give some justification to selecting a man of non-agrarian background as head of OSU." The professor argued that agriculture had dropped to eighth place in income behind wholesale and retail trade. Stone contended that the primary motivation of the claim was the desire to replace the retiring Dr. Oliver S. Willham as president with someone willing to emphasize programs other than agriculture. Stone stated: The idea that wholesale and retail trade is first depends on who serves whom. Is the farmer there because the wholesale and retail business is there, or is the wholesale and retail business there because the farmer is in business? We believe the business depends on the farmer. 37 By the time Stone marked his tenth year as president, he was head of the largest Farmers Union in the nation. The Oklahoma membership had reached the 50,000 mark, and he reminded his members how much progress had come in ten years. There was a new office building, a fertilizer warehouse, and a new farm supply store. He had served as a director of CROP, the Christian Rural Overseas Program; the Oklahoma Egg Council; the Oklahoma Wheat Research Foundation; the Oklahoma Council for Economic Education; Rural Area Development; Oklahoma Poultry Council; Farmers and Ranchers Life Insurance Company; and, 142

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER W.P. Bill Atkinson Enterprises, Inc. The Union had organized a new property insurance company, started a Union Casualty Department, and acquired the major interest in a life insurance company under his direction.38 At the annual convention ten delegates were selected to represent Oklahoma at the national meeting to be held in March. Seven board members, the administrative officials, and ten elected delegates were chosen. The elected representatives included: Jack Armour, Crescent; Mrs. Carl Wideman, Piedmont; Sherman Morgan, Mangum; John Hale, Tulsa; L.L. Bellinghausen, Ponca City; Forrest Ferguson, Cherokee; Jackie Waters, Erick; Russell Reeves, Chickasha; Don Mercer, Perkins; and KL.Weathers, Hydro. The officers reported that the status of the Union was continuous growth with more than 50,000 members listed on the rolls. The net income was estimated to be more than $4 million in 1966. As President Stone said: As we look back over the history of the Farmers Union we can, no doubt take much credit in the legislative field, both on a state and national level. And yet in taking credit, we can only live in the past and see where we have been. But it is much more worthwhile to ask the question, 'What do we intend to do in the future toward legislation? Toward parity ofincome? Toward prices? Toward this and Toward that?' If we could rise from what we have done in the past as a spring board­ fine, but if we talk about what we have done in the past and forget where we are going in the future, then we have failed. So we must look forward to what must be done in the future.39 The delegates elected Tony T. Dechant, former National Union Secretary, president of the National organization at the Denver conven­ tion by a five to one majority. Stone was defeated for the vice-presidency by Edwin Christianson, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, but it was his first attempt. The vote was 116,637 to 88,926 for the Sooner candidate. The delegates then adopted a policy statement for a shorter "target program" to highlight the next year. The policy statement called for increased funds for commodity programs to put the farmer at 100 per cent of parity, an upper limit on price-support loans, increased appropria­ tions for school lunches and a permanent milk program, adequate loans for FHA, restoration of REA loan funds, funds for the Agriculture Research Service, and establishing a food and fiber service. The national planners further asked for support of the Rural Community Development Services, 143

CHAPTER V a Food for Freedom program, and a Truth-in-lending and packaging program. 40 With the convention business settled for another year, Stone and the delegates returned to work in the state. In June of 1966 James McManus, Farmers Insurance agent at Frederick, J.L. Briscoe, Tillman County Farmers Union president, and his son, Jimmy, were featured in the newspaper as the first members to have one of the new "Welcome" signs displayed on each highway coming into their county. The objective was to eventually have signs displayed to welcome visitors to all 77 counties. The back side of the signs urged readers to "Buy Farmers Union Insurance." 41 That same month Stone suddenly involved the Union in a dispute with the State Wildlife Department. He had asked the director of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to lease the Corps of Engineers' land at the Oolagah Reservoir to the farmers and ranchers in Nowata and Rogers counties, but he had received no response. The Wildlife Director, Wendell Bever, did not acknowledge the request. Stone, upset that the leases had not been renewed as always in the past and angry at his treatment, stated that this was only the beginning of the argument. It could mean, said Stone, an end to leasing lands around state lakes, such as Lake Eufaula, Keystone Dam, Kaw Reservoir, Ft. Gibson, and other Corps projects. He was determined not to let the issue die. In a relateq action Stone called the attention of the Task Force Committee on the State Board of Agriculture to a resolution passed on May 20 by the Agriculture Committee of the State Legislative Council. The Committee decided that revenue from the grazing leases should be given to the Wildlife Commission instead of the county governments as in the past. After Stone made the Task Force aware of the situation, a demand was started to change the resolution, giving the money back to county governments. Stone summed up the feelings of the farmers when he stated, ''We are opposed to the money going to the Wildlife Commission to do with as they saw fit." 42 In November Stone saluted the housewives' boycott of Oklahoma City chain food stores. Calling their action "a step in the right direction," Stone reported that chain stores currently controlled up to 80 per cent of the retail food markets in most cities, and he felt that people must act. He stated that the "big chain food stores are running an elevator with one-way price rides; up for the consumer and down for the farmers and ranchers." 144

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER To present evidence for his claim, Stone listed the top merchandising firms in the United States as quoted in Fortune magazine in July, 1966. Among the leading firms were Safeway, which recorded a net profit on invested capital of 14%; National Tea, that made 8.9%; and Red Owl, 8.8%. The Union president encouraged housewives to continue the pressure of the boycott until chain stores reduced their prices. 43 In December of 1967 the always busy Stone was named president and general manager of the Farmers and Ranchers Life Insurance Company at a meeting of the board of directors. Wayne Wallace, former president, had resigned his position, along with the vice-president, Bill Williams of Altus. Louis Williams, Oklahoma Farmers Union vice­ president, was named to replace him. The action was taken because the Oklahoma Farmers Union had gained a controlling majority of the outstanding stock of the Farmers and Ranchers by 1966, and Stone wanted to assume management of the company.44 Stone participated in a public meeting with other farm leaders on current agricultural issues. Along with the Oklahoma state leader was

Preparing to depart on a Union tour.


CHAPTER V National President Tony Dechant, Secretary Orville Freeman, and Herb Kamer, farm editor of The Tulsa World. Kamer, a long-time friend of Stone's who had helped him earlier in his career during discussions over vocational-agriculture student field trips, had organized the Southwest Agricultural Forum, as it was called. Stone proudly announced later that the National Union would hold its convention in Oklahoma City in March, 1967, at the Sheraton­ Oklahoma Hotel. This would mark the fifth time that the National Union had met in Oklahoma. Previously, conventions had been in the state in 1911 at Shawnee, and in 1924, 1937, and 1942 in Oklahoma City.45 On February 16 Senate Bill 4 made headlines for Stone. This bill, which exempted farm machinery from sales taxes, was signed into law by Governor Dewey Bartlett. The climax of a long battle, the Oklahoma Farmers Union had supported the bill for years. Lobbyists argued that the law was expected to save farmers at least $1.5. million annually. Stone gave the bill's author, Tony Massad of Frederick, much of the credit for its passage. For his part, Massad graciously included the Union leader in his success and invited Stone to the ceremonial signing of the bill into law. Stone and other farm leaders were again called to Washington, D.C., on February 20 for a National Farm Policy conference with President Johnson. The President reaffirmed his promise of parity for farmers, and Stone heard him tell farm leaders they had been called in order to guide and counsel Secretary of Agriculture Freeman. Johnson said, "Farmers were still about $900 short of equality with the rest of the country last year," and "net farm income was 31 percent over 1963,...but it is still...two­ thirds as large as that of the non-farmer." 46 In April Stone was appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Freeman as Oklahoma's representative to the 20-man Cotton Board, charged with administering a research and promotion program for upland cotton. D.D. McClain ofElk City was named as an alternate member. The program was approved by cotton producers to strengthen cotton's competitive position and to expand its uses at home and abroad. The program was financed by an assessment of $1 per bale of cotton produced. 47 In May, 1967, Jack Kelsey, a board member and mayor ofWaynoka, presented Stone with the "Keys to the city ofWaynoka." The occasion was a meeting of the Woods County Farmers Union, where Stone served as the featured speaker.48 The following month the Farmers Union sponsored a "Fly-In" to lobby for the passage of Senate Bill 7, a measure sponsored by Senator 146

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER George McGovern of South Dakota. The bill would have increased price supports on wheat and feed grains, and Stone arrived to testify before several sub-committees on June 13. The next day Stone met with Majority Leader Carl Albert about securing his support for the McGovern bill.49 In August Stone became busy with yet another project. In a meeting at the annual fish fry at Sequoyah State Park, the seven-man board of directors announced that a concerted effort on the part of the Union would be made to acquaint the public with the threatening aspects of corporation farming being considered by the Legislature. President Stone said that it was brought out in the conference that Senate Joint Resolution 43 had been introduced during the last session of the Legislature and if passed the bill would enable large corporations to take over Oklahoma agriculture. He reported that the bill had been passed out of the senate committee and would be brought before the Legislature for a vote in the next session. Time had arrived, said Stone, to put an end to it. Stating that "Our board urges its rejection," Stone returned to the authors of the state constitution to substantiate his argument. He pointed to Governor Bill Murray as a visionary who had seen the dangers of corporate farming. Stone said the present bill would have "devastating effects" on both farmers and consumers, and he cited the Wall Street Journal for evidence. The magazine quoted farm planners as saying that eventually the United States would need only about 500,000 farms compared to the 3,176,000 in 1967. This, continued the article, meant that farms would be large, factory-like operations, and Stone did not care to see this condition as it would be the "end of the family farm." When proponents of corporation farming used statistics to say that factory-like management meant cheaper prices, Stone argued that savings from automation and mass production would not be passed on to consumers as the advocates said, because "U.S. food costs are already the lowest of any country in the world." The Union leader felt that it would be unwise to assume that lower prices would continue once monopolies were established over the markets. "It is safe to assume that once they monopolize the market their margins of profit will be widened consider­ ably," he said. 50 In the summer of 1967 Orville S. Allard returned to the newspaper as managing editor. Stone revealed his sense of humor, which occasion­ ally came to light around his employees, by an announcement that Allard would be back. At the Payne County Farmers Union picnic at Perkins, Stone introduced Allard as Don Woolley's replacement. The former 147

CHAPTERV editor had resigned to become vice-president of the American Publishing Company and editor of the Southside World in Oklahoma City. The newspaper presented a lighter side, too, when Malvin Kadavy of Kingfisher was pictured with triplet calves produced by a twelve-year old dairy cow. The delighted farmer reported that the same cow had produced twins the year before. The farmer was an active member of the Union and proudly boasted that as a youth he had attended All-States Camp in 1949. 51 In November, 1967, the Oklahoma City headquarters was given a third story addition. A spacious 40 x 40 foot room and a freight elevator were installed. Stone designated the larger room as an overflow area for the speech contest finals and for group meetings when the need arose. Between times, the room was used as a snack and lunch room by the Oklahoma Farmers Union's 108 employees. The headquarters also added new computer equipment in the data processing department. Originally established in 1964, the department grew rapidly, and included new workers, Gene McCollum, supervisor of the multi-function card machine with printing and processing units, and George Wingo, tabulating operator. Other operators were Sondra Peeler, Jean Auringer, Cheryl Tritsch, Judy Kilby, and Pauline Graham. 52 In December of 1967 Henry F. (Hank) Lesch of Apache resigned his post on the board of directors to accept a government assignment as a member of the Oklahoma Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation State Committee. The ASC was responsible for operation of farm programs in the state, including wheat and feed grain programs, cotton programs, the Agriculture Conservation Program, and the Crop Adjust­ ment Program. The appointment was made by Secretary Freeman on the recommendation of Senators Mike Monroney and Fred R. Harris. Lesch was replaced on the board of directors by Jackie L. Waters, a 3 8-year-old insurance agent from Erick. 53 In the following year, Oklahoma farm leaders took just as active a role in state and national affairs as they had the previous one. At the national convention held in Minneapolis in 1968, Stone made the nomi­ nating speech in the re-election bid of Tony Dechant; then he served as chairman of the Commodity Committee that helped determine legislation to support cotton, rice, and peanut farmers. Later, he presided over the afternoon session that adopted the national policy program and served as the escort forVice-president Hubert Humphrey at the convention. Other Oklahomans busily working at the convention were Oklahoma Torch148

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER bearers, who worked as ushers for the meeting. The young escorts were: Melody Abbott, Gracemont; Beverly Davis, Lawton; David Compton, Gracemont; Darlinda Dreith, Chattanooga; and, Janice Hoffinan, Prague. After the officers returned home, Stone announced that Joe G. Birdwell, field representative for the past five years, had been named manager of the Property Department. He replaced Robert Jech. Birdwell, a retired Oklahoma City policeman, was originally from Newcastle.54 In May Stone announced his own intentions of attending the next session of the International Federation of Agriculture Producers in Tunisia. The meeting was called annually to discuss farm problems in different countries around the world and to predict their effects upon world markets. Prior to his departure, Stone also announced that a new program to provide employment to elderly rural Americans who needed extra income was being launched in Oklahoma. Christened "Green Thumb, Inc.," the funds were made available to the National Union from the Labor Department. The farm leaders decided to try a pilot program in eastern Oklahoma County. Green Thumbers would be paid a small salary for planting, beautifying, and improving public areas. The program had been in existence several years earlier, but had only started in Oklahoma in 1968. Crew members were required to be 60 years or older, have a rural background, and be classified as low income, or people who were drawing social security ofless than $3,000 per year per couple. The program's aim was to maintain and build attractive state parks and recreational areas.55 A few weeks later Stone was reappointed a member of the Cotton Board by the Department of Agriculture. At that time Jackie Waters, as an alternate member of the 20-man board, was selected for his first appointment by S.C. Rademaker, director ofthe Department's Commerce and Marketing Service. The Cotton Board's duty was to administer a research and promotion program. The Oklahoma Farmers Union had an announcement of its own to make. New equipment had been installed at the Producers Co-operative Oil Mill at 55 East 6th Street in Oklahoma City. The newly-rebuilt plant could process both cotton seed and soybeans. Boasting the most modem equipment in the industry, the mill was the only one ofits kind in the state. The "producers" mill had been put into operation in 1944 through the efforts of the Oklahoma Farmers Union and 20 cooperative gins. The membership in 1968 included all Oklahoma cooperative gins and four in Texas, for a total of 56 gins. 149

CHAPTER V The cooperative was run by a board of directors. Members included: W.H. Kosanke, president, Lone Wolf; J.G. Stratton, vice-president, Clinton; Wayne Winsett, Altus; Hubert Gilbreth, Frederick; Roy Morris, Sayre; Edd Dudek, Hollis; and, Albin Nixon, Anadarko. J. Bryan Gentry, Hobart, was corporation secretary, and AL. Hazleton, was named treasurer-manager. In September of 1968 young adults attending Southwestern State College adopted a charter and formed the Southwestern State Farmers Union Collegiate Club. Dora Barney, OFU Education Director, attended the organizational meeting and supervised the election of officers for the group. Elected were Marilyn Bradford, president, Watonga; Douglas Haught, vice-president, Gould; Beverly Davis, Lawton, secretary; Bernice Justice, reporter, Greenfield; and, Sherry Haught, Gould, student senate representative. The students named Leslie Bond, manager of the Farmers Union Cooperative in Weatherford, as their club sponsor. To encourage the students, Mrs. Barney distributed copies of"The Corporate Invasion of American Agriculture" for the students to study before returning to her office in Oklahoma City. 56 Officials and staff continued at a rapid pace through October and November, 1968, busily attending conferences and meetings around the state and country. On October 29 Stone was in Clovis, New Mexico, for a grain and sugar beet price conference; on November 8 he spoke at the annual Oregon-Washington convention; on November 14 he moderated a meeting in Wichita, Kansas. This was held in lieu of the annual state convention to try to increase memberships in the state. Back at home, Stone attended a hearing at the State Capitol held by the subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation, where he voiced his objec­ tions to liberalizing Article 22 of the state constitution, which allowed corporate farming in Oklahoma. The Union president agreed that the article needed clarification, but he argued that if the legislation opened up corporate farming the results would be disastrous. Stone contended that the eventual outcome would be forced removal of family farmers from the land to cities in search of employment, "creating an additional 'people' problem." 57 At the meeting in Kansas, Stone had discussed the same issue. He told the Kansas farmers that the best way to discourage corporate farming would be to make corporations ineligible for tax benefits. He called for support of the Metcalf Bill in Congress, because it would prohibit non­ farm corporations from using tax losses incurred in farming to offset 150


Farmers Union county meeting with food and music.

taxable income from other sources. Explaining that non-farmers were buying land as tax write offs, Stone said legislation was needed to stop this obvious abuse of the tax system. 58 Oklahoma leaders had another busy time in 1973 at the 71st annual meeting of the National in Omaha. Stone and his wife arrived early to attend pre-convention business, where he was re-elected board chairman by his colleagues. His secretary, Joan Bailey, who had been directing the Oklahoma young people, also came early to attend meetings of education and youth directors. During the convention Stone presented a large plaque to his friend from Oklahoma, Russell Pierson, the farm service director ofWKY Radio and WKY-TV in Oklahoma City. The award was given for Pierson's work as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters as a "friend of the farmer." 59 In July Stone received an honor of his own by being selected to one of the advisory boards for Governor David Hall. Stone, a resident of Choctaw, was appointed to the Oklahoma Energy Advisory Council, a group chaired by Oklahoma City oilman Robert A. Hefuer. The panel's major objective was to seek solutions for the state's energy problems. Union members were equally happy with the Nixon administration's 151

CHAPTERV announcement of the Agricultural Act of 1973. The new law had been proposed a quarter of a century earlier by Charles F. Brannan and was known as the "Brannan plan." Although a Truman policy, the Republi­ cans in Washington had decided to give the theory a chance. The Brannan approach supported farm incomes rather than prices. A "target price" would be established by law for the basic crops of wheat, feed grains, and cotton, and the farmer would sell his crops for whatever the market would bring. If the average prices fell below these established targets, the government would give the farmer a check for the difference, with a limit in the bill of$20,000 per farmer. Secretary of Agriculture Earl L. Butz, an enthusiastic supporter of the bill, predicted costs for the 19741977 program would be much less than the $4 billion for the past fiscal year.60 While awaiting the results of the new plan, Oklahomans were busy at a three-day meeting of the National Union Policy Committee held in January, 1974, in Washington, D.C. Representing the Union were Stone and Dick Hodges, a Fort Cobb insurance agent and peanut farmer. The two worked with other members of the committee to draft a proposed program of action to be presented to the national convention in March. 61 An Arapaho rancher, John Stermer, was elected to the board replacing Elzie Humble of Chattanooga, who chose not to run again. Stermer won the election over Frank Simpson of Loveland by a vote of 202 to 55. At the time the long-time farmer was the sergeant-at-arms. He, in tum, was replace_d by Joe Riggan, Oklahoma City, the chief adjuster in the Property Insurance Department before his retirement. All the other officers were re-elected without opposition. At the same convention President Stone distributed new red and white metal signs designed to be put up as warnings to protect members' property. The signs offered $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of any thief, vandal, or arsonist stealing or damaging property. Stone said the service was provided to the nearly 70,000 paid-up members at no charge; one sign was free, but others had to be purchased at the rate of three for one dollar.62 Stone remained one of the busiest men at the national convention in Milwaukee in 1974. As chairman of the national executive board, he was constantly "working" the crowd. One significant meeting was with Senator Walter Mondale, a presidential candidate; another time he introduced William Flanagan, executive secretary of the Oklahoma Peanut Commission, who in tum introduced 1974 Peanut Princess Debbie 152


Greeted by President Carter, Stone called him a "one-termer. "

Lawless of Hydro. Later, Stone helped distribute more than 1,500 sacks of Oklahoma peanuts to convention delegates. He also took an active part in the business sessions formulating a national policy program. 63 The convention was hardly over before Stone traveled to Baden, Austria, to attend the next session of the International Federation of Agriculture Producers. He, along with Jay Naman, president of the Texas Union, Lewis J. (Red) Johnson of the Arkansas Union, and William D. Hakel, editor of Minnesota Agriculture, participated in the conference held in July, 1974. National President Tony Dechant presided over a meeting of the policy committee of the IFAP and was named vice­ president of the association. Stone served as chairman of the constitution and membership committees of the 40-country organization. A short time later, board member Clifford Hamby, Choctaw County, was recognized for his farm work by Governor Hall. The farmer-rancher was appointed to the Oklahoma State Board of Agriculture by the Governor in recognition of his twelve years as a board member and as the owner of an insurance agency in Hugo. The Union also profiled 9 5-year old James A Crossland of Mangum that year in The Oklahoma Union Farmer because he was thought to be the oldest dues-paying member in the state. Crossland had joined the family farm organization in Harmon County in 1905. A charter member 153

CHAPTER V of Shrewder Local# 15, Crossland was a continuous member of the Union for 69 years.64 In November of 1974 President Gerald Ford visited Oklahoma City to discuss possible solutions for cattlemen and dairy producers with farm leaders from around the state. President Stone, John Dunn of the Okla­ homa Cattlemen's Association, and Adam Salee of the Oklahoma Divi­ sion of the Associated Milk Producers, Inc., met with Ford and Senator Henry Bellmon at the Skirvin Hotel. Afterwards, Stone described the conference as "an unbelievable 50 minutes." He said discussions were held in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, and called the President "an intent listener sincerely interested in getting a grasp of the situation firsthand." Although Ford made no commitments, Stone was encouraged by the talk. He said, "I believe the President will now take a close look at positive action needed to help the cattlemen." In a prepared statement Stone told the President that he "should do everything in his power to protect the American producer." 65 With the Union on a high point, the membership celebrated its 70th anniversary in February, 1975. All the officers were re-elected, with Hank Lesch the only officer to draw opposition. His opponent was Don Smallwood of Temple. At the convention Stone awarded Fred R. Merrifield ofEnid a plaque and words of praise for his support of the Union. The Garfield County farmer had lived in Oklahoma since 1894, having graduated from Oklahoma State in 1913. From 1948 to 1960 Merrifield had served as president of the Wichita Bank for Cooperatives. Another honoree at the meeting was Rudy Dockray, farm director of KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas. Clifford Hamby made the presentation to the "Friend of the Oklahoma Farmer." The television station served a large area of southeastern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas, the area called Texoma Land, and not only did Dockray disseminate information and news for farmers, he had participated in sending a large group of Texas-Oklahoma farmers to Washington. The farmers had gone to the Capitol to rally for cattle market improvements.66 In March, 1975, the employment of Bob C. Lamirand, Oklahoma City, was announced by Stone as general manager of the insurance division. Lamirand came to the organization from the Oklahoma State Insurance Commission, where he was senior examiner. His employment was prompted by the resignation ofHerb Shoup, Bethany. Shoup had been manager of the Auto Casualty Department since the department had been 154

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER set up in 1959, and he was taking early retirement to be a farmer in Antlers. 67 A special silver anniversary of the Mungle Guernsey Farms at­ tracted more than 600 4-H Club members and Future Farmers ofAmerica to the family farm located south of Atoka. Operated by Jene Mungle, the dairy was one of the ten largest family operated businesses in the United States. The Mungles, long-time Farmers Union members, hosted judging contests in the morning of the all-day affair and served 3,000 half-pints of Guernsey milk and barbecue at noon. Special recognition at the 25th annual event went to state senators Wes Watkins, Ada, and Roy Boatner, Calera. 68 At the 71st convention held in Oklahoma City two new officers were elected. Jimmie L. Jarrell, a 28-year old Stratford farmer, was elected vice-president for a three-year term over veteran official, Louis Williams, Cushing. Ray Schiltz, Ponca City, was elected to succeed his uncle, Mike Schiltz, who had decided not to run again. The convention honored retiring members Mike Schiltz and Herb Shoup, as well as J.D. Fleming. Fleming had served as legislative representative since 1971. Originally coming to the Farmers Union as manager of the Oklahoma Cotton Cooperative Association compress at Altus, Fleming had served the Union faithfully until his retirement on October 1, 1989. 69 In mid-March, 1976, Stone was elected vice-president of the na­ tional Union over Ben Radcliffe, president of the South Dakota Union. Stone's reputation as a farm leader and the growth of the Oklahoma Union to more than 74,000 members accounted for his election. 70 In San Antonio in 1977, President Jimmy Carter's new Secretary of Agriculture, Bob Bergland, met with many of the Oklahoma delegates to informally discuss farm problems. Bergland talked with Jack Kelsey, Waynoka; Vincent Coffey, Prague; Dick Hodges, Fort Cobb; Emil Kastl, Edmond; Leonard Liles, Roosevelt; Bill Richardson, Kenefic; George Stone, Choctaw; Ray Schiltz, Ponca City; and, Dee Morgan, Mangrum. Liking what the secretary had to tell them, Stone praised the cabinet officer's decision to abolish a number of commodity advisory committees, including the cotton, peanut, rice, and tobacco committees. 71 A month later Stone and other agricultural leaders met with newly­ elected President Jimmy Carter, Vice-president Walter Mondale, and Secretary Bergland in Washington. Union officials told the President that the administration's recommendations to cut both acreage and prices were 155


National President Stone considered Reagan a good actor but a poor farm president.

unacceptable to American farmers. Stone said, "Producers are willing to make a reduction in plantings, but the reduction in price supports to 55 percent of parity over a four-year period would be damaging in the light of production-cost increases we can expect during that time." 72 The Western Hills Lodge at Sequoyah State Park, the home of the annual northeastern fish fry, was the scene of the board meeting in August, 1977. This meeting was of unusual interest. The board welcomed new member, Jene Mungle, an Atoka dairyman, who was named to succeed veteran director Clifford Hamby of Grant, whose death at the age of 5 8 left a vacancy on the board. Two more new members were elected. Henry Lesch, a 19-year veteran of the board, and Bill Briscoe, who had served 21-years as a director, both chose not to run for re-election. They were succeeded by Dick Hodges, Fort Cobb, and John Ogden, Muskogee. 73 156

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER Proudly, Stone conducted another ground-breaking ceremony in late July in Oklahoma City where members of the board and officers took turns shoveling dirt for a new $195,000 building. Designed to be a two-story, pre-fabricated concrete structure, the building added another 12,000 square feet of floor space to the offices at the comer of Sheridan and Klein. The buildings were growing in size and costs, but still more space would be needed soon.74 Two Oklahoma members opposed each other in February, 1979, for the vacated state board position of retiring officer Leland Stanford of Shawnee. Emil Kastl announced that Lee Ray Stiles, Jr., Cushing, Payne County president, and Vincent Coffey, a rancher in the Prague-Shawnee area, had both filed for the office. Orville S. Allard, long-time managing editor of the newspaper, planned to retire in December, 1978. Thirty-one­ year old H. Lee Streetman was named to succeed him in January, 1979. The 1970 Oklahoma State University journalism graduate had worked as an Oklahoman and Times reporter prior to his employment with the Union: 75 The 74th annual convention had a sufficient amount of fiery rhetoric to "keep the chill off," according to attending guests. Governor George Nigh was the featured speaker, and no orator had ever topped him. The president of the Kansas Farm Union, Dale Lyon, gave an close second. In an old-fashioned, stirring "fire and brimstone" style of talk, the Kansas speaker stated that "farmers were worse off than they had been since the Great Depression." The speeches set an exciting atmosphere for the meeting, and the election was equally tense. When the ballots were counted, Vincent Coffey was elected by a narrow margin. The vote was 199 to 150 for Stiles. Board members up for re-election were John Stermer and Jene Mungle. When the results were in, Stermer defeated Sallisaw rancher, C.B. Miller, by a vote of 399 to 130. Mungle won over Antlers farmer, Billy Perrin, 3 72 to 163.76 In October National Union President Tony Dechant announced that he would not seek re-election to his office. His retirement as head of the 300,000-member National Farmers Union meant only one man could possibly succeed him--George Stone. In February, 1980, shortly after his reelection as state president for the twenty-fifth year, he announced his candidacy for the presidency.77 Stone and his delegated supporters marched on Denver. In March, 1980, the long-time vice-president was elevated to the top position of the 157

CHAPTERV Union. Leaving the state controls toVice-president Jimmie Jarrell, Stone assumed the reins of the National Union. 78 Stone's position required his visiting the White House on a number of occasions to present the views of his members on different issues. He had first met President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, and twice he had visited Jimmy Carter. His purpose in seeing Carter was to try to change the President's mind on the grain embargo imposed on trade with the Soviet Union. The freeze had dramatically driven grain prices down. When the President refused, Stone decided that Carter was a "one-termer," and told him so. Stone had concluded that Carter was a weak President who did not fully understand the problems of American farmers. Stone believed that Carter was a successful peanut farmer in his own right, but he did not think he was a good farm president, simply because he did not possess the knowledge to deal with the problems of farming. "He was not a good listener," Stone stated. President Ronald Reagan was not a good farm president either, according to Stone. Having visited Reagan on two occasions to try and persuade him to change his policies in the early 1980s, Stone went away with a low opinion of Reagan both times. He believed that Reagan had little interest in the American farmer and dwelled too heavily on the welfare of American businessmen. Farmers' greatest objections to President Reagan were his desire to eliminate the target levels that guaranteed the assured prices that farmers received on their products, his plan to cut dairy price supports, and his intention to reduce the low-interest loan programs for farmers. Stone's opinion of these approaches was that "Reagan was a good actor, but in reality, the record will show in years to come that he was just an actor. He was surrounded by people who were as immature in government as he was." Stone also visited numerous congressional committees to lobby for a number of agricultural issues. Among the most important were conser­ vation, rural electrification, and 100% parity for all crops. In 1982 Stone helped put together a report for Congress that documented a side of farming that Washington rarely had seen. After a series of nine regional field studies moderated by Stone, the National Union released its findings in a report entitled Depression in Rural America. The report was the personal testimony of hundreds of farmers who were beset by hardships 158

FIGHTING FOR THE FAMILY FARMER and despair. The results of the interviews iliustrated how desperate the economic conditions of modem working farmers had become. Stone personally hand delivered a copy of the report to every congressman in Washington. He considered it one of the most significant acts of his career, because it showed senators and congressmen "the real plight of the American farmers." In 1981 Stone joined other farm and church groups to sponsor the Farm-Church Land Conference in Washington. The purpose of the meeting was to consider land issues such as taxes, credit control, and rural communities. Stone argued that "Churches cannot survive in rural communities without family farms...." Stone's years as a farm leader led him to more than 60 countries during his career. Most of his travels continued to be in the International Federation of Agriculture Producers, where he and other world leaders discussed common problems, governments, and agricultural issues. Stone said, "It was more or less a sounding board with everyone speaking in their own language with interpreters." During his 30 years as a farm leader, Stone received many honors. One that he would always be proudest of was his selection in 1981 for the Outstanding Alumni Achievement award from his alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. He retired in 1984 to be a farmer, rancher, and fruit grower. 79



FACING THE FARM CRISIS Jimmie L. Jarrell, a 32-year old com and peanut farmer from Stratford whose philosophy and style was similar to that of his friend and mentor, George Stone, was elected vice-president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union in 1976. Within four years, the young farmer would move from the metal seat of a John Deere tractor to the leather upholstery of an executive chair and take over the post held by Stone for more than 24 years. Jarrell, at six-feet one, 190 pounds, with dark-hair and rugged looks, was born on July 27, 1947, at Tulare, California. He grew up on a farm in Caddo County, then moved to a farm near Stratford in Garvin County because of the construction of Fort Cobb Lake. Graduating from high school in 1965, Jarrell married his high school girl fir end, Vickie Teel, and in time, the couple had four daughters, Michelle, Emily, twins Natalie and Nicole, and a son, Christopher. Jarrell graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1970 with a degree in agricultural economics, having worked his way through college as an electrician's helper. The son and grandson of Oklahoma Farmers Union members, Jarrell began farming in 1970 with the assistance of his father and mother, Kenneth and Jewell Jarrell, who farmed 1,200 acres of crop and pasture land near Stratford. Jarrell leased nearby farm land for three years, then acquired 230 acres, 200 of which were under furrow irrigation. The Jarrells raised com, peanuts, soybeans, alfalfa, and cattle. In his spare time his hobbies were restoring antique tractors and collecting old cars. Jarrell served as president of the G<1,rvin County Farmers Union from 1972 until he became vice-president of the State Union in 1976. At the same time he was also a member of the Stratford Young Farmers Association and the Agland Co-op Board of Pauls Valley. 160


Jimmie Jarrell movedfrom the seat ofhis John Deere to the Presidency ofthe Farmers Union.



Jarrell discusses business with mentor, George Stone.

Jarrell brought a deep religious faith with him to the presidency. According to his wife Vickie, whose parents were longtime Oklahoma Farmers Union members, "There will always be time for religion...I can't understand why folks don't pay more attention to their religious beliefs. They are so important to us." The family attended the Church of Christ in Stratford, and Jarrell often alternated with other members of the church to teach the congregation on various Sundays. 1 Jarrell gave the seconding speech for Stone at the national conven­ tion in 1980, and was elected as one of the National Union executive committee members after Stone won the presidency. The other members of the committee were Stone and newly elected vice-president Stanley Moore, president of the North Dakota Union. When Jarrell moved to the top position in the Oklahoma Union, the board elected Jack Kelsey, Waynoka farmer and rancher, as vice presi­ dent. Kelsey, 54, who had served on the executive board for 20 years, was the senior member of the seven-man group. Jarrell quickly became involved in the political action of the Union. On March 27, 1980, he was named a panel member of the second annual Farmers Agricultural Policy Conference to be held at Oklahoma State 162

FACING THE FARM CRISIS University. Jarrell was joined by Loren Wehrenberg, Garber, of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Harvey Gardner, Hydro, state coordinator of the American Agricultural Movement, and Jim Billington, Altus, vice-presi­ dent of the National Association of Wheat Growers, to discuss needed farm legislation in the 1980s. The highlight of the day-long seminar was the discussion of inflation, energy shortages, and the "off and on again" Russian grain trade deal.2 In May Jarrell moved up to the national level of politics. Called to Washington to testify before Oklahoma Senator David Boren and Kansas Senator Bob Dole on the windfall profits tax, Jarrell asked the Senate Finance Committee to provide relief for Oklahoma landowners. He told the senators that he favored passage of SB 2521, which would exempt royalty owners for taxes up to ten barrels of oil per day. Others at the hearings included Oklahoma Farmers Union member, Anna Belle Weideman, from Piedmont, and Congressman Wes Watkins of Ada, all opponents of the tax. Although busy with the lobbying work of the Union, Jarrell an­ nounced in June that a new board member had been selected to represent the northwestern section of the state to replace vice-president Kelsey. The latest addition to the executive board was Dale S. Lively, from Sharon in Woodward County, who farmed wheat, alfalfa, and milo and raised hogs, cattle, and sheep. Having served as president of the Woodward County Farmers Union for ten years, Lively had attended the past ten state conventions and three at the national level.3 In July President Jarrell resumed his political lobbying with a call for an end to the Carter embargo of United States grain sales to the Soviet Union. Noting that American trading companies had been given permis­ sion to sell foreign-produced grain to the Russians, Jarrell maintained that it was time to end the embargo, which had been in effect since January 4 to protest the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He argued, "American farmers had been hurt worst because we have been denied access to an important market.. .." The embargo was a worthless gesture, Jarrell argued, because only grain was placed on the embargo list. 4 One Oklahoma Farmers Union goal was realized in the summer of 1980 when Governor George Nigh signed HB 1744 into law, a move which drew high praise from Jarrell. The bill reduced the time and cost of probating estates, a measure the Union had supported for a number of years. Authors of the law, Robert Henry, Shawnee, and Robert Murphy, Stillwater, stated that heirs could finally control much of the procedure 163


PART OF THE FAMILY For more than 90 years the Okla­ homa Farmers Union has meant "family" to its members, providing support, leadership, and training. One member who has seen the many sides ofthe OFU is Rosemary Eaklor of Yukon. Rosemary grew up in the Farmers Union as the daughter of vice-president Bill Dolezal during Homer Duffy's ad­ ministration. Because her father was deeply involved in meetings around the state, she got to meet President Duffy and Secretary Zed Lawter. She thought Lawter was a great man. As a small girl she was flattered when he spoke or waved to her. Lawter was a "short, cuddly, white­ haired man who was so kind to her father that she and her two sisters loved him," she later recalled. The three girls were involved in youth camps and all were torchbearers. Rosemary recalled that she was required to go to local meetings and study such books as "Corporations," "Lobbying," and "Farm Problems" to earn her status. The meetings were lead by an adult and the students were required to fill out workbooks. When they completed their courses they were given a triangle pin with a torch attached to it. At camps she remembered that her dad often talked about farm problems and politics. He was a devout Democrat and felt it was the party ofthe small farmer and the Union while the Farm Bureau was for the "big" farmer and Republicans. In the early 1950s the "All-States Camps" were in Evergreen, Colorado, in an old CCC camp. The delegates were required to do "KP" duty and keep the camp in order. They attended meetings and started "co-op stores" to buy candy and snacks. The meetings were always informative and fun. They had free time and campfires at night, and when they were over there was always the chance that one of the boys might "escort" us back to our barracks. While teaching music at El Reno, Rosemary became interested in the Union and went to work for the National Farmers Union in Denver. One ofher accomplishments was to find property in Bailey, Colorado, where the present camps are held.



FACING THE FARM CRISIS without as much court supervision as in the past. Previously, court procedures were long and difficult involving numerous court hearings and formal arrangements. Under the new system, the process was easier and faster. The bill had been passed after a referendum petition on the subject had failed in 1977. The Oklahoma Farmers Union had turned in more than one-third of the signatures necessary to get the referendum started. President Jarrell praised one of President Jimmy Carter's policies. When it was announced there would be no changes in the requests to Congress regarding dairy price supports, Jarrell was greatly relieved. The Stratford farmer had been arguing that USDA reports of dairy surpluses were exaggerated and that no policy changes were needed. He was happy that the national administration agreed with the farmers for a change.5 In October Jarrell was further pleased to learn that he had been appointed to the Governor's Advisory Committee on Railroads. Governor Nigh informed the Union leader that he would be representing farming and ranching on the board. This was important because of the vital interest of railroads for farmers. The railroads were still important for transportation and delivery of farm products, Nigh told the union representative. As his involvement in state and national affairs grew, Jarrell encouraged a public debate between the three major political candidates for president in the election year of 1980. Jarrell stated that it was important that America's family farmers and ranchers know what to expect of the next four years from Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or John Anderson. Noting that too often the farm policies of presidential candi­ dates were forgotten in the midst of a campaign, Jarrell urged his followers to conduct a letter campaign encouraging the candidates to stage a debate. 6 After the debate had occurred and Reagan had won the election, Jarrell applauded John R. Block, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, as the choice for Secretary ofAgriculture. Block, a swine and soybeans farmer who owned 3,000 acres, was called by Jarrell a "knowl­ edgeable, down-to-earth farmer." The Union leader looked forward to a better time for farmers than had been experienced during the Carter administration. 7 In February, 1981, the 76th convention opened in Oklahoma City with an unusual occurrence. Board member John Ogden, an insurance agent in Haskell, faced two opponents for his seat. Maurice Jones, an agent in Poteau, and Joe Colclazier, an award-winning agent from Durant, both filed for the position. Incumbent Ogden won the seat easily. 165

CHAPTER VI The next problem to be faced was the resolutions committee intent to draft a suitable policy statement for 1981. A seven-person committee appointed by Jarrell was instructed to work out a policy program and get it approved by local and county groups around the state. The members were Jack Kelsey, vice-president; John Bodine, Hugo; Paul Denton, Asher; Bill Jeans, Ponca City; Celeste Looney, Tahlequah; Carl Richeson, Eldorado; and Lee R. Stiles, Cushing.8 Jarrell proudly announced a "first" for the Farmers Union when he appeared in April, 1981, before the House Common Education Commit­ tee in support of Senate Bill 132, a measure which required parental consent before children could be subjected to psychological or psychiatric testing. His appearance was a signal that the Union had decided that "all is not well in our public schools." Jarrell promised to continue to react to the concerns of farmers, "Whether they are concerned about agriculture or the problem-plagued social atmosphere in which their children are raised." When the bill was passed and signed into law by Governor Nigh, Jarrell was in attendance at the ceremony. Although strong opposition had arisen to the bill, the law was pushed through the Legislature after a grassroots movement from the public. The Oklahoma Farmers Union was given a great amount of credit for supporting and passing the bill.9

Decadeof Decision

President Jarrell congratulates National President George Stone.


FACING THE FARM CRISIS Later in the month, Jarrell participated in a Farmers Ag Policy Conference at Oklahoma State University. He discussed "needed changes" in farm policy as a member of a panel that included Jim Lockett, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president, Harvey Gardner, Oklahoma Agricul­ tural Movement President, and David Ray, OSU professor of agricultural policy. In May members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee ap­ proved a proposal to set the support level for peanuts at $600 per ton, a move which Jarrell approved. He and Oklahoma Farmers Union members had earlier accepted an even lower price in their program policy. Calling the news a "victory for Oklahoma peanut producers," Jarrell loudly acclaimed the announcement as a great improvement over the previous administration's proposals for peanuts.10 Jarrell appointed a former participant in the Oklahoma Farmers Union youth program as director of the summer program in 1981. Mark Haught was only 24 and a graduate of both the junior and senior studies. While attending five junior and four senior summer camps, he had also been an honored Torchbearer in 1976, a state speech contest champion, and a member of the Senior Youth Advisory Council. Haught had also attended All-States Camp in Colorado in 1976. Graduating from South­ western in 1979, Haught had taught school in Altus prior to his appoint­ ment. Jarrell used an article entitled "The President reports" to vent some of his philosophy in the July edition of the newspaper. He stated "Liberals of All Persuasions--politicians, newsmen, intellectuals, clergymen, bu­ reaucrats--are dumbfounded, if not terrified, by the success of various drives to clean up television and other entertainment areas by the threats of boycotts." Pointing to the fact that Proctor and Gamble had dropped 50 televisions programs, Jarrell argued that advertisers had a greater control on the content of television than most people believed. He stated that the Oklahoma Farmers Union had a policy position of opposing any television programs considered not suitable for family viewing. But merely protest­ ing remarks or scenes would be futile gestures. He argued that the only weapon that worked was boycotting products of the shows' sponsors. Therefore, he encouraged his readers to "help correct the problem by so doing." Jarrell exhibited an influential role as a member of the executive committee of the National Farmers Union. Others on the board were John Stencel, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and secretary of 167

CHAPTER VI the National; Cy Carpenter, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union; George W. Stone, president; Stanley Moore, vice-president of the Na­ tional and president ofthe North Dakota Union; Ken Motz, treasurer; Ben Radcliffe, president of South Dakota Farmers Union; Bill McCarty, Arkansas president; Lee Mulder, Wisconsin president; Harold Wright, Indiana president; and Harold Dodd, Illinois president. These outstanding men were the controlling influences in the Farmers Union movement in 1981. Although not always comfortable in being a national leader in his early years in office, Jarrell developed more ease for the role. Soon, he began to make national statements, as when he applauded United States Senator Robert Dole's bill calling for improvement in the status offarmers in grain elevator bankruptcy proceedings. "At least it is a start," stated Jarrell. Among other provisions, Dole's legislation would have shortened the time to three months for settlement of claims for farmers with stored grain. Jarrell was especially impressed with the bill's provisions that allowed a warehouse receipt to be proper evidence of ownership of grain by a farmer. He believed this step would help restore the integrity of warehouse receipts. "It would help bring calm to a situation that has become chaotic in some states where elevators have gone bankrupt, leaving tons of grain in storage and many anxious farmers standing around with nothing to show for their hard work," he concluded.11 Jarrell returned to a familiar theme in August, 1981, when he wrote another article in the Union newspaper entitled "Home, Church-Learned Moral Values Not Reinforced in Public Schools." Attacking the school system's textbooks, Jarrell told his readers that the values "now advanced in public schools actually undermine the morals of our people ...." Angry that prayer and Bible readings were no longer allowed in the public schools, Jarrell accused the texts of con,taining evolution from kindergar­ ten with the "Little Golden Books" and continuing it throughout the students' school career, but never allowing the Biblical versions. He urged his readers to become more aware and "enjoin the schools from stripping the children of absolute moral values learned in the home and church."12 While concerned about teaching in the classrooms, Jarrell worked to increase the amount of scholarships offered by the Farmers Union. Soon, the amount ofthe scholarships were increased from $200 to $400 per year for recipients. A few years later the amount would be increased again to $500.13 168

FACING THE FARM CRISIS Another issue Jarrell became involved in during the year was the ever-increasing controversy over county commissioner corruption in the state. In September, 1981, appearing before GovernorNigh's committee on government, U.S. Attorney David Russell announced that more than 200 county commissioners and suppliers would be found involved in kickbacks and other fraudulent practices before the investigations were completed. Jarrell believed the knowledge of these wrongdoings was not new. In 1970, he reported, Spencer Bernard, then a state representative, authored a bill correcting the practices of county commissioners but the bill had failed to pass in the Senate. "The only aspect of the current investigation that is new--is that it encompasses the entire state," said Jarrell.14 On September 22, 1981, members of the board called for a manda­ tory set-aside on wheat and all feed grain and deplored continued high interest rates. Considering the expected carry-over of record wheat and grain crops, the board urged the federal government to substitute a mandatory 20 percent land set-aside acreage with paid diversion and haying and grazing privileges. The board described the recent recommen­ dations by Secretary John Block "to allow grazing on 15 percent wheat land set-aside acreage as coming too late to benefit Oklahoma farmers, many of whom have already planted and applied fertilizer." Regarding the current tight money situation, the board blasted the Federal Reserve Board for the "bull-headed attitude of leaving high interest rates on high center while the nation continues to suffer." 15 The Union came to grips with a new problem in November, 1981, when the national debt broke through the magical one trillion dollar mark. So huge a milestone that many could not possibly conceive of how much the amount actually was, the editor of the Union paper tried to compare the size by stating that one trillion miles was the distance around the equator forty million times. Of course, there was a serious side to the problem. The national debt was growing at the rate of $100 billion a year in interest rates, which meant higher interest costs for everyone. The result was that a balanced budget, a major Farmers Union policy objective, looked to be even farther away in the distant future. The Union announced its policy position favoring a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Jarrell also decided to take a different approach to draw attention to the growing food problem and world hunger. On October 16, 1981, with the support of a gubernatorial proclamation by George Nigh, "World 169

CHAPTER VI Food Day" was observed to commemorate the date. Jarrell emphasized that current dismantlement offarm programs by President Reagan and the Congress would drive tnore farm families out of business. He believed that nations that depended on America through such programs as "Food For Peace" would probably be hurt most. He warned that ''We may be headed for another worldwide food crisis." 16 Jarrell, testifying before an emergency Senate committee on interest rates in November, blamed continued high interest rates as the culprit in the worsening cost-price squeeze for American farmers. At the same time he stated that interest costs per acre for hard red winter wheat producers in the Southern Plains were $1.47 in 1978 and had risen to $3.89 in 1980 and even higher in 1981. Jarrell added, "Better farm prices are our primary need. That is number one. A moderating of interest rates is also important." 17 After the national farm bill was signed in 1981, the Oklahoma Farmers Union called for meetings in February and March, 1982, to decide what action should be taken by farmers and ranchers. Upset by the Reagan legislation, Jarrell stated that the farm depression would probably deepen in 1982. "The bill signed today by President Ronald Reagan is so bad that it will be necessary to add amendments to it just so the agriculture industry can survive." The elections for board members and officers for 1982 was one of the most crowded fields in recent decades. Ten candidates filed for races atthe convention. Opposing Jarrell was John Ogden, Oktaha, a farmer and rancher in southern Muskogee County and an Oklahoma Farmers Union agent in Muskogee. Vice-president Kelsey's opponent was Delvin Jech, Kingfisher, a rancher-farmer and agent. Secretary Kastl's opponent was Bill Richardson, Mannsville, a self-employed building contractor and president of the Johnston County Farmers Union. Executive board member Ray Schiltz was opposed by Glenn Moody, McAlester, farmer­ rancher president of the Pittsburg County Farmers Union, and Vincent Coffey's opponent was Ed Preble, a Norman farmer and agent who was president of the Cleveland County Union. 18 "Oldtimers" were saddened to see that a Farmers Union landmark was ended in Oklahoma City that winter. A fixture in the city since the 1930s, the Mid-Continent Farmers Co-Op, located just north of the Farmers Union print shop at Klein and West Main, was demolished in January. Until its closing earlier in July, 19 81, the building had been 170


Jarrell watchesActing Governor Spencer Bernard sign a significantfarm bill.

operated by Mid-Continent of Yukon as a feed and grain storage ware­ house for local farmers. 19 The election of officers and board members brought in the second largest number of voting delegates in history to the convention that year. Only the 1956 election had more delegates registered than the 882 in 1982. All the incumbents were winners, except one, when the voting was held. Jarrell won 581 to 234, a 71 percent margin over Ogden; Kelsey, 578-236 over Jech; Kastl over Richardson, 53 6-2 75; and Schiltz defeated Moody, 532-282. The only challenger to win was Ed Preble, a life-long member and insurance agent who farmed west of Norman, who defeated incum­ bent Coffey, 453-362. 20 Because his re-election gave him more confidence, Jarrell took a more aggressive role as the leader of the farm movement in 1982. His prime target was the depression-like economic condition of American agriculture. Throughout the nation, farmers and ranchers were meeting in grassroots rallies to discuss farm problems--a movement Jarrell sup­ ported. Three such rallies were called in the Southwest. Protests were organized in Lubbock, Wichita, and Oklahoma City. Encouraged by Jarrell to appear and show support, a number of Oklahomans agreed to go with him to Lubbock. Among them were Doyle Loftiss and Truman Teel, of Dill City, and Jack Kelsey. Others at the March 22 rally were George Stone and Mike Moeller, president of the Texas Farmers Union. 171

CHAPTER VI Appearing at the March 23 Wichita rally were Bill Jeans, Ponca City; Vernon Dorton, Cherokee; Lloyd Long, Garber; and, Jim Eatherly, Tonkawa. A few days later, the Oklahoma meeting was held on April 2. At the Oklahoma City rally, held at the Oklahoma State University Extension Center, were Glen Price, Anadarko; Jerry Legg, Blackwell; Derald and Jeanette Brainard, Enid; and, Bob Daugherty, Stillwater. The rallies were called as a means of trying to get a message to Washington that emergency action was necessary to save family farmers. Despite the sense of urgency, few positive results were seen.21 A step forward came when Lieutenant Governor Spencer Bernard signed largest Agricultural Department appropriation bill in the history of the Sooner State. The acting governor proudly proclaimed that the legislation was one of the most important laws in Oklahoma's history. As approved, the bill appropriated $13. 6 million for the Agriculture Depart­ ment and special research projects at Oklahoma State University, a 23 percent increase in funds over the previous year. The bill also included monies for research on crop and animal diseases, agricultural promotion programs, and expanded fire fighting capacity for rural fire departments. Observers at the signing ceremony were State Agriculture Department officials and state farm leaders. Appropriately in attendance at the event were J.D. Fleming and Jimmie Jarrell, both supporters of the bill.22 Jarrell was disappointed, however, with the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's tie vote on the Farm Crisis Act. A 21-21 vote failed to pass the vital farm legislation, as Jarrell considered the bill, and he expressed his feelings bitterly. He stated that the vote probably jeopardized future action by the U.S. Senate. Jarrell said, "I thought we had more friends on the House side in Washington." 23 Jarrell stated that the Stone report, recently introduced in Congress the previous May, had dramatically illustrated a need for the Farm Crisis Act. The report, known as "Depression in Rural America," had vividly stated farmers' problems, and it made it plainly obvious that the Reagan economic plan was not working for farmers. Jarrell insisted that Secretary Block and the administration needed to try some positive action in the present crisis, not simply wait for the free enterprise system to work. Jarrell argued that the $1 billion the Reagan farm bill claimed it would save over four years would be worth very little to farmers-who would be forced out of business entirely "when they couldn't get assistance when they really needed it." 24 172


Speech contest winners, including a youthful State Rep. Danny Hilliard, front center.

A state law that did help was for a beef research promotion plan in the state. The plan, designed by the Cattlemen's Association, the Farm Bureau, and the Farmers Union a year earlier, was passed into law as the Beef Promotion Act of 1982. Members of the Farmers Union who helped write the wording of the law included board member Jene Mungle and legislative representative J.D. Fleming. 25 Jarrell considered the program important because it allowed cattle­ men to help themselves. Also, movements were currently underway, said Jarrell, to reduce the consumption of beef by advocating changes in the eating habits of the American people. As if cattlemen did not already have problems enough, some groups such as the Humane Society, the National Academy of Science, and even Ann Landers letters were opposed to eating beef, according to Jarrell. The Humane Society, he said, objected to veal; the National Academy recommended food with less saturated and unsat­ urated fats; and Ann Landers bemoaned the cruelty of feeding animals in confined quarters being slaughtered and processed for consumption by humans. 173


President Jarrell answers questions at Legislative hearing.

"Cattlemen have a lot of catching up to do to counter unfounded allegations based on inconclusive research," declared Jarrell. For these reasons he called on Oklahoma cattlemen to win support for the promo­ tional program. Citing what had been done for the promotion of wheat, cotton, soybeans, peanuts, poultry, and sheep as examples of farming conducting positive programs of self-help, he claimed the same could be accomplished for the beef industry. Jarrell asked cattlemen who wanted to support the program to voluntarily check-off a 25 cents contribution any time a dairy or beef animal was sold, as a means of funding the program. 16 President Jarrell had many duties to perform as the Union leader. In September, 1982, he and other state leaders hosted the 51 member Procurement Mission from the Republic of China. Headed by Dr. Hsuin Shwen Chang, vice minister of the Republic of China's Ministry of 174

FACING THE FARM CRISIS Economic Affairs, the Chinese delegation was dined and entertained. They responded by spending approximately $18.6 million in Oklahoma City to improve the trade imbalance between the United States and China, while helping obtain American machinery and agricultural products for Chinese. Helping make the arrangements were Jarrell, Arthur "Feller" Green, chairman of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Lieutenant Gov­ ernor Bernard, and Raymond Schoen, chairman of the Oklahoma Soy­ bean Commission.2 7 The success of the deal led the Farmers Union to announce in January, 1983, a "Weekly State Legislative Highlights" program, to be heard every Friday morning beginning January 7 on the Oklahoma Agrinet. The program was designed to more adequately inform Oklahoma Farm Union members, as well as the whole agricultural community, about

President Jarrell at National Convention.


CHAPTER VI issues of importance to rural Oklahoma. Ron Hays, Agrinet farm service director, was employed to present the 60-second spots on legislative activities as part of the 6: 15 a.m. "Farm News" shows. The programs were placed on the 44-station Agrinet throughout the legislative session. 28 As the seventy-eighth annual convention to be held in February, 1983, approached, only one board member drew an opponent. Incumbent Dale L. Lively, a Sharon farmer, was challenged for his post by Cherokee farmer, Ronald G. McMurtrey. Two other members, John Stermer and Jene Mungle, drew no opponents. There was one other filing. Doorkeeper Joe Riggin stepped down because of health reasons, and Vincel Harryman, Newcastle, filed for his office. McMurtrey defeated Lively, 192-166, to win the seat on the executive board. A full-time wheat farmer, McMurtrey was a graduate of Oklahoma State University and a board member of the Alfalfa County Farmers Union. McMurtrey and his family lived on the same 1,600 family farm where he had been raised, located five miles west of Cherokee.2 9 One issue that drew Jarrell's interest in 1983 was the PIK program. Calling it the "only game in town," he said he was not "overly enthused" with the Payment-In-Kind (PIK) acreage reduction program recently announced in Washington, but since it was the only program that might reduce the current agricultural surpluses, he decided that it should benefit farmers in the long run. The PIK program meant the Reagan administration was finally realizing the seriousness ofthe farm problem. Jarrell wondered why it had taken them so long to recognize the problem. Under PIK, farmers could leave idle up to 50 percent of their production acreage. For instance, Oklahoma wheat farmers could receive up to 95 percent of their farm yield under PIK. Other crops like sorghum, com, upland cotton, and rice farmers could receive up to eighty percent of their farm yield. Jarrell claimed that at harvest time farmers would receive either the actual grain or warehouse receipts as payment for participation in the PIK program. Jarrell stated that the "Farmers Union wouldn't want to see more than one year (the 1983 crop year) of the PIK program. We feel an alternative to the PIK should come in early 1984 with a Department of Agriculture announcement of increasing loans and target prices as well as increasing diversion acreage." 30 Jarrell headed the Oklahoma Farmers Union delegation to the national meeting held in February in San Diego. Almost 100 members, including vice-president Kelsey, Emil Kastl, and the seven-man board 176


Jarrell and Secretary ofAgriculture John Block in serious talks.

were automatically named delegates to the convention. Others included Violet Bassel, Duke; Louis Billinghausen, Ponca City; Gerald Bilyeu, Stillwater; Lee Booze, Oklahoma City; Doris Bowman, Connerville; Jeanette Brainard, Enid; Harvey Brixey, Perkins; Lonnie Callen, Milburn; Chet Cottom, Mounds; Bill Firey, Sand Springs; Sylvia Firey, Sand Springs; Ray V. Henderson, Perkins; and Dale Lively, Sharon. Others included Rosalie Marino, Harrah, Dorothy McKee, Perry; Kris Ann Weidner Moyer, Edmond; J. Carl Richeson, Eldorado; Larry Robins, Lindsay; Almon Rowland, Milburn; Mrs. Glenn Smith, Seminole; Dennis Stone, Ardmore; Henry Voise, Perry; L.C. Wassell, Perkins; Anna Belle Wiedemann, Yukon; Mrs. Jimmy Work, Quinton; and HE. Young, Mangum.31 In March of 1983 Jarrell and several other Union members partici­ pated in a late afternoon, five-state teleconference phone interview with Secretary of Agriculture Block. The Stratford president and other state farmers questioned Block from Jarrell's office in Oklahoma City, prima­ rily about the PIK program. After the interview Block's office contacted the state president to inform him that the secretary appreciated the comments and questions, as they helped the administration identify the potential problems with the program. Still, there was little enthusiasm 177

CHAPTER VI being shown for farm reform out of Washington.32 Jarrell predicted agricultural prices would rise if the payment-in­ kind program had as good an effect on the surpluses as anticipated by Washington. Although not a cure-all, the program did offer some hope, according to Jarrell. The PIK, which the Reagan administration called a "crop swap," gave farmers surplus grain in exchange for leaving land idle from production in 1983. State farmers elected not to harvest 4,020,257 acres of Oklahoma farmland because of PIK, which was approximately one-fourth of the eligible acreage in the state. This amount of participation should have had a positive impact on · prices according to experts. The PIK signup figures had already sparked wheat, com, and soybean futures prices to rise on the Chicago Board of Trade. The nation-wide participation was a record 82.3 million acres left idle, almost one in every three acres of American farmland. According to USDA figures 43.5 percent of eligible wheat, 35 percent of com and sorghum, and 45.2 percent of cotton acres would be idled in Oklahoma. State farmers also agreed to idle 3.7 percent of barley and oats and 29.6 percent of rice acreage. The numbers were expected to relieve the situation, but Jarrell warned that PIK was only a temporary aid. He pushed for a more permanent, long-range farm policy for 1984.33 On April 22 Secretary Block made an abbreviated visit to Oklahoma City to meet with state farmers and newsmen to discuss critical farm issues and cultivate a more positive image for the administration. A full day of activities, including a visit to a family farm was planned for the secretary, but Reagan unexpectedly called a cabinet meeting that cut the visit short. In a closed door meeting with 20 Oklahoma farm leaders, legislators, and members of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership program, Block answered questions for only 40 minutes before he returned to Washington. Jarrell did get the opportunity to ask the Secretary if he would support the Volunta ry Incentive Plan (VIP), a measure considered a solution for the dairy industry. The "Dairy Surplus Reduction Act of 1983" was designed to reduce costs to government, protect farm incomes, and avoid the elimination of dairy farmers that would come with the flat cut in price supports some advocated. Block refused to answer directly. While stating that the VIP should be examined, the Secretary artfully dodged answering the question. Jarrell participated in the National Agricultural Policy Symposium held March 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri. He represented the National Farmers Union on a three-member panel, reacting to papers given by Bob 178


ON THE LEADERSHIP TEAM Although there have been only a few presidents of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, there have been many members of the board of directors who gave of their time and energy for the good of the mem­ bership. One of those long serving mem­ bers is John Stermer. Born on a farm near Butler, John went to a one-room school from grades 1 through 8 at Victory Public School, then attended high school at Arapaho. For a time he farmed in Custer County before leaving for California, where he worked as an automobile body man, working on cars for movie stars such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and George Burns. He returned to Oklahoma in 1946 to farm with his father. Five years later, after a dispute with his old insurance company, he asked for a visit from the Farmers Union. The field work was made by President George Stone. Out plowing when Stone arrived, Stermer recalled, "It was a hot day and I stopped the tractor and waited on him to walk all the way across my field. I wanted to make sure he was dedicated enough to make a sale. He wrote me up out there in the field." After attending the state convention in 1952 he became a dedicated Union member and joined Rex Miller and Joe Riggan in traveling around the state signing up new members. In 1953 he reactivated Arapaho local #589 and became an OFU agent. In 1957 Stermer was elected doorkeeper of the state organiza­ tion, a position he held for 16 years. Stermer later served on the board of directors, and one eight-month term as vice-president. John's feelings about the Farmers Union is that "Farmers Union is the backbone of American agriculture. It certainly helped me survive. My heart and soul are in the Farmers Union." 179


President Jarrell purchases a Farmers Union champion.

Bergland, former Agriculture Secretary under Jimmy Carter, and Profes­ sor Harold F. Breimyer of the University ofMissouri. The farm leader had ten minutes to respond to the speakers and an opportunity to contribute to the discussion of how organizations like the National Farmers Union should enter into the agriculture policy-making process. 34 In June of 1983 Jarrell named Greg Williams, a participant in the youth program for many years, as full-time director of education for the Oklahoma Farmers Union. Williams, 22, served the summer of 1982 as director of youth camps. He was a May graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in agricultural communication. Williams was the first full-time director to be named since Dora Barney had retired for her second time in February, 1972. Earlier, on May 27, the Green Thumb Advisory Board had met at the Union headquarters to discuss achievements of the previous year and to plan future programs. Board members present were: James Stephens, Wilburton; Sam Golden, Ada; Calvin Finch, Yukon; Carrie Jackson, Tahlequah; Andy Dean, Oklahoma City; Quentin Fitzgerald, Mustang; D.P. Lilly, Okmulgee; Jimmie Jarrell, Ferdie Deering, Oklahoma City; and, Dick Hodges, Fort Cobb. 35 180

FACING THE FARM CRISIS The Green Thumb, Inc. board and the U.S. Department of Labor signed a grant agreement providing funding for another year, until June 30, 1984. The arrangement extended the older worker employment opportunities under the Senior Community Service Employment Program in 45 states and Puerto Rico. The award, in the amount of $88,500,918, provided part-time jobs for 17,317 economically disadvantaged elderly men and women in rural communities. The program, first funded in 1965, had been continued despite being a controversial program that was always debated each year. Another area of interest for the Jarrell administration was the insignia at the front ofthe building. In June, a cooperative effort by Jarrell, Jack Kelsey, board member John Stermer, and J.B. Thompson, Oklahoma City maintenance supervisor, designed and placed a replica of the insignia ofthe Farmers Union on the front lawn. A plow, rake, and hoe were erected as a "real" display of the traditional tools of the early farmer.36 A symbolic ground breaking for a new two-story drive-in claims service building was also held on October 12 by officers and board members. The four-bay enclosed structure, located north of the main building in downtown Oklahoma City, included offices for all metropoli­ tan area Farmers Union automobile and property adjustors. It provided "better services for Farmers Union insured," said Jarrell. The board also applauded Taiwan mission members who purchased $17 million worth of state wheat and soybeans. The Farmers Union cooperated with Lieutenant Governor Bernard, the Wheat Commission, the Wheat Growers, and the Soybeans Commission in "making the Chinese feel welcome and encouraging them to purchase Oklahoma agricultural products." 37 A Farmers Union editorial in June, 1984, attacked Congressman Mike Synar of Muskogee during a subcommittee hearing on agriculture in Oklahoma City. Congressman Glenn English, Cordell, had arranged for the House Subcommittee on Wheat, Soybeans, and Feed Grains to hold its hearing in the state for the purpose of receiving testimony on a proposed new farm program. During the meeting Syn ar remarked that he did not think the Farm Bureau, the American Milk Producers, Inc., nor the Farmers Union truly represented the opinions of farmers and ranchers that they purported to represent. By telling the farmers to support PIK, according to Synar, farm leaders were doing a great disservice to farmers. In the editorial, the Farmers Union responded that no person had advocated the PIK program. It had only been suggested, according to the 181

CHAPTER VI editor, because it was "the only ball game in town." There had been no other choice according to the Union president, and this was the only reason it had been supported.38 Another issue developed in August when Oklahomans had a critical decision to make regarding the future of the state's water development. State Question 581 would decide whether or not state-secured, long-term, low interest loans would be available to help solve water treatment and distribution problems in rural and city water systems. "A state loan and grant program to provide financial assistance.. .is essential," said Phillip Klutts, president of the Oklahoma Rural Water Association. Klutts, who had served eight years as president of the Okfuskee County Farmers Union, believed passage of the state question was particularly important to rural areas. Water districts and small commu­ nities had limited financing alternatives available and had relied upon FmHA (Farmers Home Administration) funding in the past. During the past 20 years, FmHAhadfinanced475 rural water systems with loans and grants totaling more than $300 million. Klutts declared that FmHA was no longer adequate for rural water development. He noted that since 1980 funding from FmHA had been slashed by more than 65 percent. This had resulted in water systems experiencing problems with treatment, storage, and insufficient supplies. The problems were being heightened by as much as 10 percent per year due to expansion and the need to continually upgrade facilities. Klutts argued that without a state water development program helped by S.Q. 581, the state water system would continue to experience difficulties. It was time for the people of Oklahoma to support the system, he con­ cluded.39 Oklahoma Farmers Union leaders were pleased when voters ap­ proved the bill by a 65 to 35 percent margin. It allowed the state to use $25 million appropriated by the Legislature as collateral to back bonds of cities and towns for rural water districts. Speaking for the Farmers Union, Jarrell said that he was "highly delighted" with the vote. Klutts, also pleased, said, "We've got to have it." 40 In September, Amarillo, Texas, was the site ofajoint meeting ofthe National Farmers Union and the National Farmers Organization to gather comments from local farmers concerning the growing problems of rural America. More than 70 farmers, ranchers, and agri-businessmen turned out for a closed door session to discuss current pressing issues. Jene 182

FACING THE FARM CRISIS Mungle, representing the Farmers Union, attended as did newly-elected president of the National, Cy Carpenter, who succeeded George Stone to the presidency in 1984. 41 The 80th convention in Oklahoma City saw a familiar name filed for office. George Stone, who returned to Oklahoma after his retirement in March, filed for his old position as chaplain. Another candidate at the meeting was doorkeeper Doug Harryman, who drew no opposition. 42 The big news at the convention was Jimmie Jarrell's decision to resign the presidency in February of 1985. The board of the 100,000member organization appointed vice-president Jack Kelsey, who had been serving as president of the insurance company since October, to fill out Jarrell's unexpired term. The board also promoted Nelson McQueen, former manager of the Oklahoma Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, to the post of chief executive officer (CEO) of the firm and named John Stermer of Arapaho as vice-president to fill out Kelsey's term. Lee Streetman, OFU director of public relations and managing editor of The Oklahoma Union Farmer, was given extra duties as education director. The extraordinary changes in the top management positions had been brought about because of problems in the insurance business. It would take several years and more changes before the economic problems were solved and the company was back on solid ground again. In the meantime President Jack Kelsey's task was to keep the Union sound. 43



EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION At the state convention on February 11,

1985, the executive board of the Oklahoma Farmers Union confirmed Jack Bill Kelsey as president of the Union by a unanimous vote. Kelsey, an Oklahoma director and officer for more than 25 years, was promoted to the top position in the Union primarily to straighten out matters in the insurance business. The selection ofNelson Mc Queen, the former general manager of the Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company, to the position of chiefexecutive officer of the firm would help Kelsey meet the problem he faced. Kelsey, an active farmer who owned and operated a farm near Waynoka in Woods County, was born on June 15, 1925. The land he farmed was originally homesteaded by his grandfather. His father, Burtus Kelsey, who everyone called J.B., worked hard to put his sons through high school during the depression years. His mother, Pearl, often made bread and cottage cheese to help raise money during the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. Kelsey later recalled: You'd see a wall of dust all the way to the ground coming your way. It would engulf everything! You would have to light kerosene lamps to see in the DAYTIME! We would have to wrap towels and cloths around windows. At night, we'd have to put wet towels on our faces. Next morning, everything would be covered with dust.1 Kelsey was raised in a small frame home. The family had no electricity and the outhouse stood about 100 feet away. The house was 184


Jack Kelsey loved working his farm near Waynoka.



Emil Kastl discussing farm issues.

heated by a wood stove, and it was his duty to gather kindling each night so his older brother could build a fire in the morning. Kelsey graduated from Waynoka High School in 1943, bought his first car in 1944, and joined the Oklahoma Farmers Union when he bought his car insurance. At the age of 18 he was inducted into the U.S. Army. Shortly after finishing infantry training, he was preparing to be shipped from California to participate in the invasion of Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped. After serving almost two years in the Philippines, he returned to Oklahoma. The veteran soon married his high school girl friend Norma Jean Hull, and in time the Kelseys were the parents of one son. A cattleman, Kelsey bred and raised Simmentals and Salers. One of his Salers won Grand Champion at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. When he was elected president, the 59-year old farm official was active in numerous organizations that promoted agriculture and livestock in the state. He belonged to the Woods County Cattlemen's Association, the Federal Land Bank at Woodward, the Far-Gas Co-op in Enid, the policy committee of the National Farmers Union, the Oklahoma Simmen­ tal Association, and the Oklahoma Flying Farmers. The newly named CEO, Nelson McQueen, was a native Oklahoman who had been employed by the Oklahoma Farmers Union as an auditor in 186

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION 1977. Promoted to comptroller in 1978, he became treasurer in 1982, and general manager ofthe insurance firm in October, 1984. Previously, he was executive vice-president with an Oklahoma City computer firm for eight years, and manager ofthe accounting-computer division ofSouth­ western Bell Telephone for nine years. A graduate ofNorthwest Classen High School, McQueen received his college degree from Central State in Edmond. The new vice-president ofthe Union was John Stermer, a 63-year old Custer County farmer who raised wheat, cotton, alfalfa, milo, and cattle on 920 acres that his father, a member ofthe Union, had farmed and lived on since 1924. As a student at Arapaho High School, Stermer won the Reserve World Grand Champion Hog in San Francisco after winning contests in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The other employee given additional duties in 1985 was Lee Streetman, a 37-year old native of Oklahoma City. After attending John Marshall High School, he received a degree in journalism from Oklahoma State University in 1970. Serving as sports editor of his school paper, Streetman worked for four years as a reporter for the Oklahoma City Times and six years as a senior information specialist and editor for U.S. Army Reserve publications. Joining the Oklahoma Farmers Union in 1978, Streetman was a member of the Oklahoma Agriculture Day Steering Committee, the Oklahoma Agricultural Cooperation Council, Committees for Interna­ tional Land, Pasture and Range Judging Contests, and the Farmers Union Press Association. He had served as a judge for several public speaking contests at 4-H Roundups, the state finals ofFuture Farmers ofAmerica speech contests, Farmers Union speech contests, and Oklahoma's Dairy Princess Contest finals. With reorganization completed, 56 Oklahoma Union members participated in the National Crisis Action Rally in Ames, Iowa, in February of 1985. Called by farmers from across the nation, thousands attended the four-hour rally in the Hilton Coliseum on the campus oflowa State University. Secretary Emil Kastl helped direct the overnight bus trip for the Union members from Oklahoma City. The rally had been planned by the National Union in coalition with several farm organizations concerned about the status of agriculture in the country. The Farmers Union was saddened the following month when Joan Elaine Bailey passed away of cancer on April 8, 1985. The executive 187

CHAPTER VII secretary for the past three state presidents and coordinator of the youth activities had served dutifully. Her presence would be greatly missed. Farmers Union officials established a memorial scholarship in her honor to recognize this outstanding Union member. Shawn McNish was hired to replace Bailey. In late March, Kelsey led a group of Union members on a lobbying venture to Washington, D.C. Afterwards, he concluded that President Ronald Reagan was "the most uninformed leader we've had in a long time." He said that one senator had told him that Reagan "throws out a lot offigures on agriculture but hasn't the least idea about what he is saying." Kelsey agreed. At one point during his meeting with the farmers, Reagan, intending to be funny, said, "I think we should keep the grain and export the farmers." To his astonishment, no one laughed. Instead, the farmers took exception to the remark. Accompanying Kelsey were Kastl, Ray Schiltz, Burton Thompson, Bart Brashears, and Tommy Thompson.2 On April 14 Kelsey appeared on the "Richard Hogue Show" to talk about "The Farm Crisis in America." Joining him were David Sentor, American Agriculture Movement, Jack Craig, Oklahoma Agriculture Commissioner. and Don Sherrill, Oklahoma Farm Bureau.3 On July 3, 1985, Kelsey wrote a public letter to President Reagan asking him to remove the head of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, and the Secretary of Agriculture, John Block. Aware that there was little to be gained from the President, Kelsey, like many others around the country called for the dismissal of some of Reagan's men. In a brief, desperate appeal, Kelsey begged Reagan to fire both men: Mr. Block does NOT represent our farmers, but is only a voice for Mr. Stockman's often inaccurate statistical data. He does not represent the thinking ofthe Republican Party or of your administration, just that of the Budget Director. Mr. President, I just cannot believe that you endorse the Block-Stockman position if you truly are interested in saving the family farm system of agriculture.4 Only a few days later, Stockman resigned his office. Kelsey could take some pride in the fact that he had joined a mounting chorus ofofficials who demanded the removal of the unpopular budget director. In answer to his critics, Reagan had sacrificed Stockman, but he refused to fire Secretary of Agriculture Block. The Oklahoma Union joined other state Farmers Unions in opposi­ tion to another Reagan farm policy, the use of the so-called "moving 188

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION average" of commodity prices for either the past three or five years as a means of determining future farm support levels. At a meeting held in Denver in June, attended by almost all state presidents and legislative staff members, the National Farmers Union executive committee, including Kelsey, agreed that the price support method currently under review by Congress was self-defeating because it led to lower commodity prices each year.

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Kelsey reserved a place for the Republican President at a farm rally.


CHAPTER VII As the 1985 Farm Bill was being written, Congress considered setting farm commodity support prices at an average of market prices for either the past three or five years. Union leaders strongly opposed the idea. Low prices were largely responsible for the present rural depression, according to Kelsey and the Union presidents. Kelsey argued that to set support prices at an average already unacceptably low was simply intolerable.5 As part of a national lobbying effort to present their views to Congress, a delegation of Oklahoma farmers scheduled a "fly-in" to Washington in September to try to obtain improvements in the 1985 bill. Led by President Kelsey, 12 Oklahoma farmers joined others from around the nation to push for a better bill. As Kelsey said, "This may be our last chance to have some input into the farm bill." At a meeting with Block on September 9, the delegation especially hoped to convince him of their needs. Accompanying Kelsey were John Stermer, Emil Kastl, and board members John Ogden, Jene Mungle, and Dick Hodges. Others making the trip were Terry Detrick, Ames; Paul Hayes, Tulsa; J. Carl Richeson, Eldorado; Bill Kosanke, Lone Wolf; Leonard Liles, Roosevelt; and Phillip Klutts, Okemah. Before Congress recessed for the summer, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released tentative versions of a new bill. The Reagan administration, wanting to reduce the government's role in agriculture by eventually eliminating all forms of subsidies and programs, had their own version. Under Block's leadership, the administration pushed for a "free market" philosophy, a concept that most farmers definitely opposed. They argued that this would cause farm prices to fall even farther by making them more competitive in the world market and allowing American agricultural interests to dispose of surplus produce. In their opinion, small family farmers would be forced out of business in favor of large corporate style operations. Kelsey decided there was no such thing as a free market in agricul­ ture. Every nation subsidized its farmers one way or another, he said, and to compete in the world market without government support would be "suicide." Oklahoma Farmers Union officials spent part of that August during congressional recess holding discussions on the farm situation. Meetings were called with U.S. Senator Don Nickles and Congressman Jim Jones. 190

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION President Kelsey, vice-president Stermer, and director of legislative services, J.D. Fleming, attended two round table discussions with Senator Nickles in his Oklahoma City office. Each of these conferences lasted more than three hours and probed the depth of the difficulties concerning agricultural financing and the overall farm credit situation. There were various proposals made, accord­ ing to Kelsey, but what emerged from the meetings was the view that "unless net farm income can be improved, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for agriculture." The situation would continue to deteriorate until a "tum-around" occurred, he said, but none could predict when that might happen. "That tum-around is possible only with improved net farm income," pointed out Kelsey. Senator Nickles proposed to solve the problem with a scheme to allow decreased plantings without loss of payments and crop history, while allowing farmers to follow an individual supply management plan. He suggested this would cut production. Still, there was little progress. At the invitation ofthe United Auto Workers, Kelsey and Oklahoma Farmers Union officials met with Congressman Jim Jones in Tulsa. Jones expressed his concern and interest in the farm problem, but like Senator Nickles, he had little success in arriving at a workable solution. He promised to look closely, along with others in the congressional delegation


Kelsey does a radio interview.


CHAPTER VII in Washington, to enact a suitable farm policy. Unfortunately, no one could agree what it should be. 6 After Kelsey's return from Washington in September, he reported that the Oklahomans had been treated well by Oklahoma congressional members, but little had been gained. He did become a frequent radio guest at several local stations interested in the agricultural crisis. He appeared on Nate Webb's KXY's "Summit Conference" talk show and later with James Banzer, news director for station KOFM. A number of Union offices were up for election in December of 1985. President Kelsey filed for office again, while John Stermer, the incumbent vice-president, announced his intention to not seek his office again, but he would run for re-election to the board. To confuse matters more, Emil Kastl announced his intention to retire. In view of these moves, board member John Ogden filed for the vice-presidency and Ray Schiltz announced for the secretary's job. In the meantime, incumbents Jene Mungle and Ronal McMurtrey filed for board seats. Others filing for positions were Stermer, Phillip Klutts, who filed for Ogden's seat; Terry Detrick, who filed for Schiltz's; and Billy Perrin, who filed for Mungle's seat. 7 One of the reasons given for so many challenges and candidates was the popularity of the Zig Ziglar courses going around the headquarters. Vernon Dorton, who had become the manager of the Hail-Crop Depart­ ment after the retirement of Rex Miller, offered the positive thinking courses for his Union employees. It proved so attractive that great numbers joined the classes. The groups held discussions, viewed Ziglar's television cassettes, and took reading assignments from the guru's book entitled See You At The Top. The classes were designed to help people feel better about themselves and to get more out of their lives, personally and profession­ ally. For a time, the method swept the Union. 8 By filing date only two candidates, President Kelsey and Ronal McMurtrey, had failed to draw an opponent. In the contested races there were two candidates for vice-president, John Ogden of Oktaha, and Billy Cope, Eakley. Running for a two-year term as secretary were Ray Schiltz, Ponca City; Delvin Jech, Kingfisher; Wayne Allen, Perkins; and George Stone, Stratford. Running for the executive board (three-year term) were Jene Mungle, Atoka; Billy Perrin, Antlers; John Stermer, Arapaho; and Derald Brainard, Enid. Running for the board (one-year term) were 192


SERVING OKLAHOMA'S YOUTH Young people are the future of family farms in Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Farmers Union has worked hard to keep kids in agri­ business. Fortunately, the OFU has been blessed with a number of leaders who have dedicated them­ selves to youth, including Joan Bailey, Kerensa Darnell, and Dora Barney, who served the Farmers Union as director of youth pro­ grams from 1957 to 1971. A native of Kansas, Mrs. Barney came to Oklahoma at the age of nine and settled with her family near Fort Cobb. She earned a life certificate as a teacher from Central State College, then attended the University of Oklahoma, where she received an education degree. For 31 years Mrs. Barney served as a Caddo County English and home economics teacher, including a stint as principal ofa school in Washita. As a Farmers Union employee she proudly remembered that she listened to more than 3,000 contest speeches, supervised 6,000 young people at summer camps in Oklahoma and Colorado, and worked with more than 300 Farmers Union scholarship winners. She toured the East with speech winners 12 times and each year conducted a series of leadership training programs around the state. She also participated in every state and national convention during her tenure as director of education for George Stone. After her retirement, she received hundreds of letters and cards from former students expressing their appreciation for guidance and advice, all courtesy of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. 193

CHAPTER VII Phillip Klutts, Okemah; Howard Secondine, Vinita; and Joe Colclazier, Durant. Running for board member (two-year term) were Terry Detrick, Ringwood; Dale Lively, Sharon; Cecil Condreay, Chester; Wally Schieffer, Perry; and John J. Petrick, Medford. Before the convention met, Rex Miller, who had recently retired after 32 years, was designated as the new chap lain, succeeding George Stone who was running for the secretary's position. Doug Harryman was selected as doorkeeper. There was still work to be done before election, however, and President Kelsey had to leave politics alone for a time. One program that had interested him recently was the effort to encourage Oklahomans to join with rural Americans in other states to explore ways of sharing U.S. food abundance with the hungry and developing third-world markets by supporting a special project called "Sharing Global Harvests." The goal of the program was to relieve world hunger and poverty by helping other countries, as well as helping America at the same time by developing markets overseas for American goods. The Farmers Union had been involved in the project since its beginning in 1984, and Kelsey determined that Oklahoma should play a larger role in the program. Sponsored by the Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and CARE, in the summer of 1985 these groups joined the National Cooperative Business Association, Land O'Lakes, WIFE (Women Involved In Farm Economics), and the North American Farm Alliance to broaden the program even more. President Kelsey, explaining the need to become more involved in "Sharing Global Harvests," said: "Down the road, the most valuable long­ term market for farm commodities is likely to be in the third world. For today, we must help them develop their own economics to the point that they can provide for their own people and pay for the food they must import from the U.S. and other countries." 9 President Kelsey became involved in another issue prior to the election. The problem came when he decided that the farm bill for 1985 contained a "rip-off' for Oklahoma towns and rural areas because less money would be available for taxes and consumer spending. Kelsey traveled across the state asking community leaders to "fight back" against the situation. He recommended that mayors, teachers, church leaders and everyone with a stake in the community begin sponsoring town meetings and conducting letter writing campaigns to Washington to oppose the 194

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION farm bill being proposed by President Reagan. He charged the farm bill would result in lower farm incomes because it attempted to create foreign export markets where there were none. Lending his support to the "Fight Back" campaign was Cy Carpenter, national president of the Farmers Union, who appeared at a news conference with Kelsey to publicize their idea. 10 When the elections were finally held at the 81st annual convention on February 9-11, more than 600 family farmers braved a winter snowstorm to meet at the Lincoln Plaza Forum. Why so many members turned out was, of course, because of the great number of candidates in the election. When the voting was over, Oktaha farmer John Ogden won the vice­ presidency for his first term. Ogden's opponent, Billy Cope, had dropped out of the race before the election was held. In the race for secretary, Ray Schiltz gained 254 votes to George Stone's 116, Wayne Allen's 81, and Delvin Jech's 32 to win the post. In one race for the board, incumbent Jene Mungle was defeated 353 to 129 by Billy Perrin for a three-year term. In another, Phillip Klutts won the right to complete Ogden's remaining year on the board by gaining 307 votes to Secondine's 103 and Colclazier's 70. John Stermer, who had been vice-president, won a board seat by besting Derald Brainard, 290-188. In the wild scramble for Schiltz's two-year board seat, Terry Detrick, Ames, won over Wally Schieffer, Perry, in a run-off election, 202-163. In an earlier election these two had defeated three other opponents, Dale Lively, Cecil Condreay, and John P. Petrick.11 With the officers and board finally set again, President Kelsey went on to play an important part at the 84th national convention held in Spokane the following March. Kelsey proudly served as escort for speaker Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO. He was especially honored to be the one making the seconding speech for the winning candidate for the national presidency, Cy Carpenter. Kelsey took the time to offer some valuable advice to Oklahoma farmers being forced out of business in the harsh winter of 1986. Kelsey told the Oklahoma farmers that they should pursue a little known section of the 1985 Farm Bill called the "Homestead Protection" provision. The article specifically enabled qualifying farmers to rent their farm homes and a"reasonable amount" of land for three to five years. They would have the first option to repurchase it later. This option was available, according 195


Kelsey leading a Farmers Union meeting, while National President Cy Carpenter looks on.

to Kelsey, only to farmers who were foreclosed on by the USDA Farmers Home Administration or the Small Business Administration, or who filed bankruptcy or voluntarily liquidated to avoid foreclosure by FmHA or SBA. "What this does," said Kelsey, "is offer some hope to some of our desperate family farmers who see little hope in the current economic situation." To qualify, Kelsey told his members, farmers had to apply to FmHA or SBA before 1989, exhaust all other debt restructuring and extension remedies, and have made gross annual sales of at least $40,000 in at least two of. the years 1981 through 1985. In addition, Kelsey explained, farmers must have received at least 60 percent of their income from fanning in two of those years and have occupied the property during the five-year period. For those farmers who qualified, each would be required to pay reasonable rent during occupancy and maintain the property in good condition, said Kelsey. Then, he added, at the end of the three to five-year rental agreement, the borrower would have the right to repurchase the property. The sale price would be based on an independent appraisal. He urged those farmers that needed the protection to check into the program as a possible means of saving their family farms. 196

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION Kelsey was also happy to announce a familiar name as a new addition to the Farmers Union in March. Kris Ann Weidner Moyer, a teacher in Colorado, was appointed as the National Farmers Union Education Director for the summer of1986. The daughter ofFlo Burtnett of Gage, the new director had entered the Farmers Union youth program in Ellis County at the age of six. She had also served as a delegate to the OFU convention five different years, served on the credentials committee for four years, and in 1983 represented Oklahoma as a delegate to the national convention in San Diego. Her mother was a well-known Farmers Union agent in Shattuck, who had served as a youth leader for more than 25 years.12 On April 12 Kelsey received an honor ofhis own. He was elected to the board ofdirectors of the Insurance Acquisition Corporation {IAC) in Minneapolis. It was the first annual meeting of the stockholders of the insurance company since its reorganization. According to IAC President Stanley M. Moore, who served as vice-president of the National Union, more than 768,190 shares were registered out ofthe association's 856,636 outstanding shares. In June Kelsey participated in another "Fly In" to Washington to encourage members of Congress to seek an end to the rural economic crisis. The president ofthe Union, along with State Senator Gilmer Capps, Synder; Donald Johnson, Cordell; and Max Glenn, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, joined with more than 100 representatives in an effort to pay personal visits to members of Congress on June 16 and 17. During their lobbying efforts, they tried to make the congressmen aware of the group's theme, "It's Everybody"s Crisis; No one is Immune to the Family Collapse." 13 When the FmHA hired a collection agency to demand immediate payment for past-due debts from strapped farmers, Kelsey reacted with anger and bitter disappointment--a position he was unaccustomed to showing in public. Stating that there was "nothing constructive about this at all," Kelsey attacked the decision to tum more than 6,000 delinquent farm accounts over to a private collection agency in New Jersey. Although he agreed that debts should be paid, Kelsey added that "considering the present situation," and the fact that many farmers thought they had worked out their problems with the FmHA, they had been betrayed. "This latest shocker makes me sick, sad and mad at a govern­ ment that has inflicted so much harm on the American food producer already--and now this!" 14 197


Kelsey and J.D. Fleming discuss policy with Gary Sherrer.

In January of 1987 Rex Miller, citing health reasons, stepped down as chaplain, and was replaced by Reverend Max Glenn. Incumbent Dick Hodges and Phillip Klutts received no opponents and were re-elected automatically at the convention. Overshadowing those internal changes was a new look and a new name for the newspaper, The Oklahoma Union Farmer. Rechristened the FarmNews and Views, the paper was published by a new printer, the Journal Record Publishing Company of Oklahoma City, and given new features. Beginning with the September issue, the paper accepted both farm and non-farm related business advertisements for the first time: In July, Russ Florence was hired as the first director of advertising. The 1986 Oklahoma State University graduate also wrote feature stories, laid out pages, and handled some photographic chores. Also employed to assist managing editor, Lee Streetman, was Mrs. Bonnie Davis. Formerly in the insurance company, Davis joined the editorial department to help with the newspaper copy that went via telecommunication to the printer each month. At the 82nd annual convention held February 8-10 in Oklahoma City, delegates voted to amend Article III, Section I, of the OFU Bylaws to raise annual memberships to $10. The last increase had been in 1984, when dues were raised to $7, but that amount went to the National Union. Of the $3 increase, $1.50 was designated to go to the state organization, $1 to the county, and 50 cents to the local. Oklahoma still had the lowest membership dues of any state, according to Kelsey. 15 In May of 1987 Kelsey launched another new idea designed to 198

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION increase the influence of the organization on the legislative process. Delegates were asked to vote approval on the Congressional Action and Legislative Fund (CALF). This fund, governed by the OFU Board of Directors, was designated for exclusive use for work on legislative issues. The lobby fund was gathered by donations from individuals, locals, county organizations, and groups, all funds to be accounted for in regular reports. CALF was to be administered by the state secretary, and used to conduct letter campaigns, make telephone calls, and pay personal visits to as many congressmen as possible. Through the Union newspap�r Kelsey asked each member to contribute $5, $10, $20, $100 or more. Stating that the money would be used primarily to lobby for rural Oklahoma, Kelsey asked the membership to "feed the CALF" by sending their donations to Secretary Schiltz, and "they would begin work." Quickly, $2,450 was donated to CALF by Union supporters. A few months later the secretary reported the amount had doubled to more than $3,000. 16 Kelsey and other officials participated in another "Fly In" to Washington in May, 1987. This time they demanded "Action Now-No Excuses!" Their motto clearly meant that they wanted revisions in the farm legislation being introduced to Congress. As usual, there was little action. Those involved in the effort this time were Burton Thompson, administrative assistant to President Kelsey and vice-president of the Farmers and Ranchers Life Company and board member Terry Detrick. The two were among 30 teams of the Rural Urban Action Campaign, a coalition of organizations that participated in the "Fly In." 17 At the 83rd convention a number of candidates filed for the vice­ presidential post and two seats on the executive board. No opponents filed against either President Kelsey or Secretary Schiltz, and they were automatically re-elected, as were Reverend Max Glenn as chaplain and Doug Harryman as doorkeeper. Vying for vice-president were John Ogden, the incumbent, and Terry Detrick, whose resignation to run against Ogden had opened up a board seat. Four candidates filed for Detrick's seat. These included Wallace Denny, Guthrie; Wally Schieffer, Perry; Merle Shepherd, Purcell; and Paul Teel, Grove. Denny was an OFU agent, farmer, and director of the Soil Conservative Board; Schieffer was an agent; Shepherd was an agent and adjustor; and Teel was an agent and farmer. Incumbent Ed Preble, Norman, was also challenged for a board seat by Curtiss Walker, 199


The new Oklahoma Farmers Union headquarters at 6200 NW. Second, Oklahoma City.

Shawnee. Preble, first elected to the board in 1982, was an OFU agent and farmer, while Walker owned an agency. Kelsey, easily re-elected, announced his plans to seek the vice­ presidency of the national organization. The incumbent, vice-president Stanley Moore, had announced his retirement. Kelsey's opponent was Charlie Nash, Director of the Ohio Farmers Union. Prior to the elections, in January of 198 8 the insurance company announced a new line of services and major changes in the company in an effort to restore the company's reputation. The LifeCo Investment Group of Maitland, Florida, had purchased Farmers and Ranchers Life, and with its reserves, put the company back on a sound financial basis. Because it


EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION also owned National Heritage Life, with its combined companies, the group was eligible to conduct business in 19 states. Officials announced the company would continue to operate from the home offices in Oklahoma City. In the change, Burton Thompson, executive vice-president of Farmers and Ranchers Life, would be give other duties with the farm organization. Accordingly, he was succeeded by Allen D. "Al" Mitchell, a graduate of Glencoe High School and Oklahoma City University. After being a graduate student of Southern Methodist University, Mitchell received his doctoral degree in business from National Christian University. In the organization, he was given the title of executive vice-president for marketing.18 In February, 1988, President Kelsey announced the beginning of another new program for the Oklahoma Farmers Union called "Together We Can Make A Difference." Started as a joint effort with Larry Jones' "Feed the Children" ministry in Oklahoma City, the program encouraged farmers and people around the state to donate food at grain elevators, co­ operatives, and businesses. The food was then transported to "Feed the Children" centers for distribution. Kelsey and Union officials and agents solicited surplus crops and grains for Jones' organization which then picked up the donations. There, the product was processed and packaged by Jones' group, and transported to points where it could be used by the needy.1 9 Political affairs once more took center stage at the 83rd convention in 1988. A new vice-president and a board member were elected, while one

Kelsey and Board members at the new building dedication.



BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS A key reason for the Farmers Union success has been the careful coordination ofefforts to affect public policy. The Union has been fortunate to have legislative co­ ordinators such as Barbara Webb, Gary Sherrer, Emil Greiser, and Paul Jackson. One ofthe most versatile was J.D. Fleming of Oklahoma City. Fleming, who served as director of legislative services for 18 years, excelled at working with cooperatives, agricultural programs, and farm legislation. Much ofhis effectiveness came from his background. A native Oklahoman, Fleming grew up in Custer County and graduated from Custer City High School where he partici­ pated in the Future Farmers of America and was a member of the winning livestock judging team at the Oklahoma City Spring Livestock Show. After graduating from Oklahoma State University as an agronomy major, Fleming worked with the Cooperative Extension Service as an agent until World War II. Fleming's agricultural experience included serving as a 4-H Club agent for Muskogee County, assistant extension agrono­ mist for OSU, executive secretary of the Oklahoma Cotton Ginners Association, Oklahoma City, and as executive vice­ president of the National Cottonseed Products Association. He went to work for the Farmers Union in 1971 after years with the Oklahoma Cotton Cooperative Association compress in Altus, where he served as manager. Past president Jack Kelsey credited Fleming with most of the positive farm legislation passed in the state from 1971 to 1989. ''J.D. has been involved in almost every piece of major legislation affecting agriculture in the last 20 years," says Kelsey. "He was dedicated to the Farmers Union and knew our policy positions inside and out." 202

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION incumbent member was retained by the membership. Terry Detrick, a third generation family farmer and member of the executive board, defeated incumbent vice-president John L. Ogden for the number two position in the Union. Detrick, from Ames, was replaced on the board by Grove farmer and rancher, Paul Teel. Teel had defeated Wally Schieffer in an earlier run-off that included Wallace Denny and Merle Shepherd. Atthe same time, incumbent board member Ed Preble from Norman won re-election over Shawnee resident, Curtiss Walker. Interestingly, more than 900 members attended the convention in Oklahoma City, making it the largest attended in the past 10 years. Kelsey won the national vice-presidency on March 9 at the national convention in Albuquerque. Along with his election came a new president, South Dakota's Lee Swenson. 20 It was announced shortly after the convention that Kelsey would attend a two-day World Food Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Held in April, conference planners hoped to form a united front to make a recommendation on the latest issue in world affairs, the proposed General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. Among those planning to attend the conference was Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng. The National Farmers Union suggested that a new United Nations agency be established to accomplish for world agriculture and hunger what the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade could not. The Union planned to make the proposal at the meeting in Brussels, and called it the GAPP, the General Agreement on Agricultural Production and Prices. It would emphasize demand-management as well as supply-management, and minimize the need for acreage diversion. GAPP would address itself solely to lifting world commodity prices, while simultaneously augment­ ing the food-buying power of hungry nations. At Albuquerque members ofthe Farmers Media Association (FUMA) also selected officers. Oklahoma publicity director Lee Streetman was elected as vice-president. Held in conjunction with the annual convention, the media group selected officers for the 1988-89 year.21 In June it was announced in the OFU newspaper that Oklahoman Oma Gay Nichols of Isabella was to participate in the May 31 Farm Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. Nichols, president of the Major County Farmers Union and an agent of the Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company, was selected to join women from several states in a meeting sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 203


Kelsey conducts a meeting onfarm issues. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Jowa, is seated to the left.

the previous year, the meeting had attracted more than 140 women from 32 different states. 22 In September, 1988, the Farmers Union announced the appointment of Gary L. Sherrer, a member of the House of Representatives, as legislative analyst for the Union. President Kelsey lauded the teacher­ rancher for his background in the Farmers Union and his experience in the Oklahoma Legislature as reasons for his selection. Sherrer, 39, was from Snow, Oklahoma, and a graduate of South­ eastern Oklahoma State University, where he had earned a degree in speech and journalism. Prior to his election to the state House of Representatives in 1980, Sherrer taught school at Nashoba Elementary in Pushmataha County. 23 Another appointment made by Kelsey was Weldon "Dub" Schieffer, who was named assistant director of the youth and education program. A former participant in the youth program, Schieffer would work with director Burton Thompson to sponsor the youth camps. A native of Perry, Schieffer attended Northern Oklahoma College and had graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1981. His mother, Bernice Schieffer, owned an agency in Perry. 24 President Kelsey announced that the theme of the 84th annual 204

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION convention in Oklahoma City would be "There Is Power In The Triangle!" The triangle he referred to was the three-sided logo of the Farmers Union. Each of the sides symbolically represented education, legislation, and cooperation. According to Kelsey, the power of the organization was the result of the application of those three objectives. There was considerable interest at the next annual state convention with two races for board positions. Opposing candidates featured Billy Perrin, the incumbent elected three years earlier, and John L. Ogden, a previous member of the board. Perrin, owner of the Hugo Livestock Commission Sales Company, was an insurance agent from Antlers. Ogden, having already served as vice-president for two years, was a cattle farmer from Oktaha and the owner of an agency in Muskogee. Three candidates ran for the other board positions. They were Lillard G. Ashley, Boley; Bart Brashears, Weatherford; and Jerry D. Jones, Dewey County. Ashley was a vocational agriculture teacher and superintendent of Boley schools. Brashears was Custer County Farmers Union vice-president, former FFA state president, Torchbearer, and Farmers Union scholar at OSU. Jones was a fourth generation farmer, a graduate of OSU, vocational agriculture teacher, insurance agent, and president of the Dewey County Farmers Union. When the election was held at the convention, the winners were Perrin and Brashears. These two assumed office along with the officers who were re-elected without opposition. The convention also featured a Women's Leadership Conference planning session at a breakfast on February 20. The steering committee for the conference was composed of Nancy Workman, McAlester; Virginia Drew, Harrah; and Oma Gay Nichols, Isabella. The breakfast featured speaker Lou Watkins, chair of the political science department at East Central University and wife of Congressman Wes Watkins. The biggest news of the year was the ground breaking on January 24 for a new home office building in western Oklahoma City. Kelsey, stating that the 100,000-member Union needed more room, selected a site off Greenfield Center Drive, north of Reno Avenue and west of North MacArthur, a short distance north oflnterstate 40. The one-story building was built on a 37-acre tract already owned by the Union. Plans included a claims department, an "all-weather" drive­ in claims facility, extra storage space, a large parking lot, and office space for the entire headquarters. Farmers Union had been located downtown 205

CHAPTER VII since 1926 when President John Simpson had constructed a building at 18 N. Klein to house the headquarters. The new offices were located officially at 6200 N.W. 2nd. That same year President Kelsey, Burton Thompson, and Gary Sherrer traveled to Jefferson City, Missouri, to meet with farm leaders and government officials to help organize a state Union for Missouri farmers. Meeting with Frank Farmer, a veteran editor and columnist for Spring­ field Newspapers, Inc., and his son, Andy, who headed up the Missouri membership drive, the Oklahoma delegates were heartened by the spirited reception given them by Missouri leaders. The organization work pro­ ceeded rapidly in the state, and Oklahoma proudly sponsored Missouri's efforts to build a neighboring Union.25 In October, a retirement reception for long-time lobbyist J.D. Fleming was announced for November 6, 1989. The legislative represen­ tative had served since 1971. According to Fleming, during his tenure he considered his most important accomplishments to be the founding of the Oklahoma Agriculture and Home Economics Coalition and the Oklahoma Agriculture\Rural Council. 26 The convention changed locations in 1990 to the Oklahoma City Marriott. A number of candidates ran for office, and interest grew as election time approached. Veteran board member Dick Hodges drew two challengers, Windell Shockey of Chickasha and Don Smallwood of Temple. The incumbent, Hodges, was completing his fourth term in the office, having first been elected in 1978. President Kelsey, Vice-President Terry Detrick, and Secretary Ray Schiltz drew no opponents, nor did board member Phillip Klutts. The four men were automatically retained in office.2 7 Almost 850 family members joined officers and guests at the 85th convention. Stressing the theme of "Agriculture in the 90s," Kelsey presided over the three-day meeting that saw Windell Shockey elected after a run-off race with Hodges. The 35-year member of the Farmers Union was a resident of Chickasha who had a reputation for speaking his mind. Shockey was also the owner of a 1,400-acre cattle ranch outside Chickasha. At the meeting Kelsey presided over an opening night "blue-ribbon" panel of speakers who discussed issues of concern to farmers. Among the participants were Oklahoma House Speaker Steve Lewis, Shawnee; Senate Majority Whip Gilmer Capps, Snyder; Senate Agriculture Com206

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION mittee Chairman Bob Kerr, Altus; and Vice-Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Elmer Maddux, Mooreland. Oklahoma Farmers Union Director of Legislative Services Barbara Webb served as modera­ tor of the panel. The consistent theme at the convention for all the speakers was the importance of education in the future of the state. Lewis was a proponent of H.B. 1017, the education reform package being pushed through the Legislature.He was glad to lead the panelists in calling for support of the education proposal. Since the base of the "triangle" was education, the Farmers Union supported the bill. This same subject was discussed by State Senator Bernice Shedrick, Stillwater, at the Women's Leadership Conference breakfast on February 19. She commended the 200 ladies at the meeting for their efforts on behalf ofH.B. 1017 and urged their continued support. When the bill passed at the end of the legislative session, many credited retired lobbyist J.D. Fleming for its passage. Fleming had backed education reform for many years, recommending a system of broad-based taxes rather than ad valorem increases. The Union vice-president, Terry Detrick, found himself involved in another issue at the state capitol in December, 1989. At a meeting called by Attorney General RobertHenry at the request of the Legislature after the Corporation Commission had expressed reluctance to regulate rising propane prices in the state, Detrick testified as an expert on farm opinions of the issue. He told the group, including the Corporation Commission, that "the December price surge was just a warning to tell us how vulnerable we are and we must have some oversight to protect us." 28 Union lobby efforts increased greatly during the summer as calls were made for farmers to come to Washington to discuss the elements of a new farm bill being written in 1990. Jene Mungle of Atoka and Don Courtney, a grain farmer in El Reno, were among those who joined more than 50 of their friends and colleagues to make the trip. The recognized leader of the lobbyists was national president, Leland Swenson. The "Fly-ins" were joined by President Kelsey and board members, Phil Klutts and Billy Perrin. The members all felt the trips were vitally necessary, as President George Bush's Secretary of Agriculture, Clayton Yeutter, had not impressed the members with his announced farm proposals for the administration's policies in the 1990s.29 The 86th convention held in February, 1991, broke all attendance 207

CHAPTERVII records. More than 1,163 attended the conference, and there were 1,067 registered delegates, a number that topped the previous record ofJanuary, 1957. The banquet on the night of February 18, attracted 1,200, making it the second largest ever held; the largest was 1957 when 1,400 were seated. Featuring newly-elected Governor David Walters, the convention saw delegates Paul Teel, Grove, defeat John Ogden, Oktaha, for a three­ year term, and Ed Preble, Jr., Norman, succeed his father, who retired at the convention after nine years on the board. Preble won a run-off election over Wally Schieffer, Perry. The two faced each other following the general election, which had included Barbara Shephard, Purcell. There were a number ofprominent politicians present at the conven­ tion including Jack Mildren, Lieutenant Governor, Sandy Garrett, Secre­ tary of Education, and Gary Sherrer, newly-appointed Secretary of Agriculture. Also attending were National President Swenson, and presi­ dent of the Green Thumb, Inc., Andrea Wooten. Delegates at the meeting voted to change the method ofelecting state board members from an "at-large" system to one of election by districts. Approved was a method which divided the state into four geographic districts bounded generally by I-40 east and west and I-3 5 north and south. It was ruled that ofthe seven board members, at least one had to be elected from each district, three elected "at-large," and no district could have more than two directors.30 In August, 1991, former State Insurance Commissioner Gerald Grimes was employed by the Oklahoma Farmers Union as general manager ofthe Mutual Insurance Company. The four-term commissioner was a native of Oklahoma City who had a business administration degree from Central State University in Edmond. In July, 1991, Vice-President Detrick and a number of Union families played host to eight Japanese students and their principal, Isao Okumura, from the Kyoto Prefectural Agricultural High School in Japan. Kyoto, the sister-state of Oklahoma, was located in the central-western section of Honshu, Japan's main island. The host families for the week-long exchange visit, arranged by the Oklahoma Farmers Union and Lieutenant Governor Mildren's office, were Kenny and Belinda Beams, Kingfisher; Don and Yvonne Courtney, El Reno; Terry and Rita Detrick, Ames; Tom and Irene Garrett, King­ fisher; David and Mitz Habben, Luther; Tony and Sheryl Kennedy, 208


President Kelsey addresses a crowd in Legislative chambers.

Edmond; and Kenny and Sue Yost, Kingfisher. Assisting in hosting the students and their principal were Jim and Kimila Bates, Purcell, and Burton and Barbara Thompson, Oklahoma City. The Farm News and Views proudly announced that a new National Farmers Union youth textbook had been written and was ready for publication in August, 1991. The author was Shattuck agency owner, Flo Burtnett. The book, entitled Let's Visit the Farmers Union States, was designed for use by younger children in the youth programs. A new youth director was selected at the same time. Jim Bates, a former agricultural education instructor at Kansas, Oklahoma, was chosen for the position. The 1980 graduate of Poteau High School had received his degree from OSU in 1984, and had served as a vocational agriculture teacher in the Kansas and Jones Public School since 1985. 31 A short time later the Farmers Union Foundation, designed to fund youth and education programs, was established in Oklahoma City. Its function was to fund not only youth programs but also scholarships, speech contests, summer youth camps, and young farmer programs. A seven-member board composed of three board members, the president, 209

CHAPTER VII one representative from the insurance company, and two members selected at the 1992 convention was created to administer the foundation. In 1991 a number of OFU officers were given recognition for their work during the year by being named to prominent boards in the state. Governor Walters named several to an agricultural task force that he had created called "Ag 2000." The group was charged with establishing both short-range and long-range priorities for agriculture and agri-business in Oklahoma. Walters chose Jack Kelsey and Billy Perrin from the Union to serve on his task force. Another comparable organization was established by House Speaker Glen D. Johnson. His group was given the duty of examining the quality of the environmental regulations in the state. The members of the group were legislators and private citizens, led by Speaker Johnson and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert V. Cullison. The 33 members of the panel were empowered to review recent enactments by the Legislature pertaining to the environment and to make recommendations to the Legislature. Stating that "Environmental issues will assume a key role in public policy debates during the decade of the '90s," the Speaker proudly announced that Phillip Klutts would represent the Farmers Union on the task force for the environment. The most gripping news regarding politics, however, was the announcement by President Kelsey that he intended to retire at the convention in 1992. This opened the race for the presidency, as well as board positions for regular election. Five candidates quickly filed for the positions on the ballot. One was Phillip Klutts, who announced his intentions to run for the presidency. Another race would involve Jene Mungle, Atoka, and Royce Meek, Broken Bow, for the executive board director, at-large position. Another race involved Russell Tucker, Poteau, executive board director, district 4-southeast and Billy Perrin, Antlers, executive board director, district 4-southeast. Other filings included Terry Detrick, Ames, for president; Ray Schiltz, Ponca City, for secretary; Vincent Coffey, Prague, for vice­ president; and Rona! McMurtrey, Cherokee, for executive board director, district I-northwest. In addition, Doug Harryman, Newcastle, filed for vice-president; Delvin Jech, Kingfisher, for board director, district 1northwest; and Wally Schieffer, Perry, board director, at-large. By the time of the election there were two candidates for each 210

EDUCATION, LEGISLATION, AND COOPERATION pos1t10n. For president, Terry Detrick and Phillip Klutts; for vice­ president, Doug Harryman and Vincent Coffey; for executive board director, district 4-southeast, Billy Perrin and Russell Tucker; for district I-northwest, Ronal McMurtrey and Delvin Jech; for at-large, Bart Brashears and Wally Schieffer; and for at-large, Jene Mungle and Royce Meek. 32 The meeting was held in the Great Hall of the Myriad Convention Center. Kelsey officially gave up the presidency on February 18, 1992. Retiring to his 1,000-acre farm near Waynoka to raise registered cattle, he left the presidency to his successor, Phillip Klutts of Okemah. After his retirement President Kelsey received many awards. One was a proclamation from the Governor, one from the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and another from the Senate. He was also given an outstanding service award from the Oklahoma Farmers Union and the meritorious service award from the Kansas Farmers Union. He received other awards and recognition from North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Texas. His most prestigious award was for meritorious service from the National Farmers Union, which he received at the 1993 annual convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 33



STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA Atter Jack Kelsey announced his retirement, many long-time, dedicated and interested Farmers Union members began to discuss, debate, and decide upon the person they felt was best qualified to become the next president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. Friends and associates turned to executive board member Phillip Klutts of Okemah. Klutts' background as a farmer-rancher, insurance agent, civic leader, and academic achiever in high school and college made him a top candidate to lead the organization. Above all, those who knew him knew that he had a long relationship and deep commitment and loyalty to the Oklahoma Farmers Union. After an intense campaign for the leadership reins of the Union, Phillip Klutts was elected state president at the largest convention in OFU history, along with Vincent Coffey, Prague, as vice president; Delvin Jech, Kingfisher, board member from District 1 Northwest; Russell Tucker, Poteau, board member from District 4 Southeast; and Jene Mungle, Atoka, and Wally Schieffer, Perry, at large directors. The new president was a fourth generation farmer and rancher from Okemah, Okfuskee County. The son of Quinton Klutts and Voysie York Klutts, Phillip was the second of three children, born September 20, 1935, on a North Canadian River bottom land farm in northern Seminole County purchased by his grandfather. The family farmed alfalfa, peanuts, cotton, and certified seed corn, raised cattle and hogs, and slaughtered farm­ raised cattle and hogs for local grocery stores. Phillip excelled both in sports and academics, graduating valedicto­ rian of his high school class. He was active in 4-H and FFA. Many times 212


President Phillip Klutts working his ranch near Okemah.


CHAPTER VIII during their school years, the Klutts children were told by their mother, "Go to school, get you an education so you won't have to work so hard on this farm like me and your daddy." Phillip listened to his mother's advice and the school superintendent who encouraged him to pursue a career in engineering due to his academic excellence in science and mathematics. He earned numerous scholastic and leadership awards during college, while earning a degree in petroleum engineering at the University of Oklahoma in just four years instead of the normal five-year required course of study. Following graduation, Phillip worked as a petroleum engineer, but could not quite shake the land from his boots. During college, Phillip had married his long time sweetheart, Jo Bean, and together they began the dream of returning to the land. In time they had two children, Annette and Stanley, and five grandchildren. They worked hard, saving everything they could, and in 1960 purchased their first land in Okfuskee County. In the mid-l 960s Phillip left the oil industry and moved to Okfuskee County to farm, raise cattle, and live the rural life which he and Jo dearly loved. While working off-farm jobs, Phillip and Jo toiled nights, weekends, vacations, and holidays farming and expanding their operations.

President Klutts and Willie Shannon, a long time friend and employee.


STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA In the mid-1980s he and Jo bought a Farmers Union agency in 'Okemah. For a time she ran it while Klutts farmed. As the agency grew Klutts joined her and added his daughter, Annette Bohannon, to the crew. Meanwhile, his son, Stanley, and a dedicated, loyal employee, Willie Shannon, worked the farm. Soon after returning to the farm, Phillip became involved in organiz­ ing and building a local rural water district to provide an adequate water supply for the community. As board chairman of the local water district for 22 years, Klutts became active in the Statewide Water Districts Association, was elected president, and served 10 years. For his work on rural water, Klutts would be honored in 1996 as a "Water Pioneer" by Governor Frank Keating. He also was involved in numerous other community activities including the school board, the local fair board, the County Livestock Association, and the Farmers Union. As he learned more about the Farmers Union, its policies and commitment to family farmers, agriculture, and rural Oklahoma, Klutts developed a keen interest in the organization and became actively involved at the local and county level. He was elected Okfuskee county president in the mid-l 970s and served until he became state president. His interest and involvement in the Farmers Union created an interest in Farmers Union insurance. At the first opportunity, he bought the local agency. In 1986, due to his background, interest, and active involvement in the Farmers Union, Klutts was elected to the state executive board and served until February of 1992, when he was elected state president. 1 The task before the new president would prove to be the greatest challenge of his life. On one side were the traditional "farm programs," such as political advocacy, youth programs, and the monthly newspaper. All were popular and all were structured to help support family farmers and promote a traditional way of life. Through years of institutional experience and a well defined constituency, these programs posed the easiest challenge to President Klutts. Hire good people, give them the right tools, and let them be creative. The other side of the challenge, and the one that not only paid the bills for all operations but also demanded the most skillful management, was the insurance business. As his predecessors had learned, running a multi-million dollar insurance company was tough enough in the free market place, but when you added the program demands of serving small farmers and the political balancing act of a member-driven mutual company to the mix, it became 215

CHAPTER VIII even more difficult to set a steady course and stay with it. Through the 1980s to 1992, when Phillip Klutts was elected president, the insurance company steadily sank deeper into troubled waters with a dangerously low level ofsurplus funds. Clearly, something had to be done. President Klutts was well prepared for the challenge. As a farmer and small businessman, he was familiar with capitalization and making money. As a native of rural Oklahoma, he understood the programming needs ofhis members. And as a successful agent and OFU board member, he had a firm grasp ofthe essential elements of the insurance business. When the discussion included technical terms such as re insuring, levels of brokering, interest and dividends on advance payments, excess loss, catastrophic coverage, quota share, non-renewal options, underwriting guidelines, claims processing, loss ratios, and commission levels for agents, President Klutts could speak with authority, not just listen to the advice ofstaff and consultants. He also understood the dynamics ofthe mutual insurance industry that in effect limited the leadership from solving financial problems through purely financial means. For example, the most critical issue facing the business was the ratio ofpolicies underwritten to surplus funds backing up those liabilities. In the insurance industry, the benchmark was and still is a 3-to-l ratio, whereby $3 million in premium liabilities must be backed by $1 million in assets. To maintain this balance, a traditional for-profit company either adjusted underwriting guidelines or lowered or raised rates to control new policies and even cancelled policies ofexisting customers. At the Oklahoma Farmers Union, ifpolicies were cancelled, ifrates were raised, or ifthe ability ofagents to sell more policies were affected, it was not just a matter of upsetting clients-it was a matter of upsetting those who pass judgment on election day. The other dynamic process that posed a financial limitation on President Klutts was serving the constituency ofthe Oklahoma Farmers Union. In a free-market, for-profit company, the leadership might look for the most profitable clients, in this case urban people with high incomes, new homes, and fancy cars. The rates would be better and the liabilities more predictable. But as President Klutts understood, if the Oklahoma Farmers Union was to be true to itself, those were not the people who needed the help ofthe Oklahoma Farmers Union. The clients who needed the company's services were largely middle-class, rural folks who wanted honest rates for a fair price, as well as policies and risks that many companies refused to underwrite. Faced with these multiple challenges, of 216 I

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA trying to balance political reality with tough financial decisions, ofserving a targeted constituency in a traditionally low profit sector, and ofdealing with the ever present dangers of the volatile insurance business, Phillip Klutts embarked on his tenure as President of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. The first move was bold but necessary. To reduce the mutual insurance company's exposure to loss, as well as to comply with state statutes and regulations imposed by the Insurance Commissioner, Presi­ dent Klutts and the board ofdirectors adopted a two phase, immediate plan of action. One step was to broker away a significant portion of the company's business, in effect reselling policies to other companies who thereby assumed the attached risk. The other strategy was to guard against catastrophic losses by purchasing reinsurance policies that kicked in when losses reached a certain level. It was expensive, but it had to be done to protect the company and give the leadership time to correct long term problems. While he grappled with these challenges, President Klutts jumped into a busy schedule that included leading the Oklahoma delegation to the National Union convention in Des Moines in March. In addition to transacting business that came before the convention, the Oklahomans also helped honor Jack Kelsey as he retired from the post ofnational vice-

President Klutts and Board Member Dick Stultz at the OFU booth, State Farm Show.



PROTECTION FROM HARM The backbone ofthe Farmers Union has always been the insurance business, which helps pay the bills so the other missions of the organization can be ac­ complished. One of the many employees who have made the insurance company effective for members was Rex Miller. Rex joined the Farmers Union in Blackwell, Oklahoma, at the age of 13 after hearing Zed Lawter give a speech. In 193 8 his father became a Union agent, and impressed on his son the Union philosophy of God, family, home, duty, and the "old time values." Recalling his father's method of recruiting and retaining new members, Miller remembered that he always served coffee and donuts. "That was a big deal back then. He always had an agenda written out for the meeting and he would stick to it. He made the members talk on only the subjects on the agenda. His meetings were usually attended by around 3 5 people but during campaign time there might be 200." Rex went to work for Lawter and Duffy in the Hail Crop Department. For a few years he worked as a field representa­ tive selling policies. He remembered one that he sold to a farmer in the backwoods of southeastern Oklahoma. Rex found his farmer customer, who invited him to come in and set in the "company chair," the only piece of furniture in the house. Miller made his sales talk, and the farmer excused himself and came back to pay the $2.50 policy fee in nickels and dimes. "It is Mama's egg money," said the farmer, "but she thinks it would be a good deal." During Miller's early stint it was common knowledge that Lawter's greatest fear was that as the insurance company prospered and grew the farm organization that he and John Simpson had helped create would be overshadowed. Lawter feared the original mission of the organization would be lost. 218

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA president. Kelsey, having held the position since 1988, planned to officially resign in March, 1992. The delegates to the convention included the officers and board members plus B.C. Cockrum, Stroud; Cecil Condreay, Chester; Cecil Doll, Ringwood; Alice Datin, Guthrie; Virginia Drew, Harrah; Edward Ertel, Harrah; William Firey, Sand Springs; Juanita Jesse, Yukon; Leonard Liles, Snyder; Ruth Moeller, Mountain Park; Geri Nel-son, Maramec; Juanita Owens, Mountain Park; James Russell, Durant; Mrs. Glenn Smith, Seminole; LeRoy Williams, Ponca City; Nelson Wright, Hendrix; Eva Marie Sparks, Roosevelt; James E. Johnson, Norman; Scott Muse, Stratford; and Don Schieber, Ponca City. During the business session at the state convention, delegates took an active interest in making policy changes for the Union. One such change was to place a moratorium on out-of-state sludge being imported into the state for disposal. The delegates voted to oppose any such practices that allowed Oklahoma to become an area for disposal or storage of materials until scientific determination was made of the effects on Oklahoma soils and people. In other actions the delegates called for protection of private property rights, including prevention of government agencies taking private lands without just compensation; for foreign aid to be used in the form of credit to buy American goods; and for the elimination of the state textbook committee and its replacement by local committees composed of teachers, administrators, parents, and commu­ nity leaders. By these measures the Union gave fair notice that it planned to resume a more active role as an organization devoted to securing a better life for its members. Klutts expressed the general philosophy as "working for the best interests of rural people" and "putting profitability back into agriculture." Leland Swenson, president of the 250,000-member National Farm­ ers Union, speaking at the 1992 state convention, told delegates that public policy decisions in Washington had pushed farmers into "extreme finan­ cial hardships, and changes must be made." Citing statistics to back his statements, Swenson charged that the Bush administration was support­ ing "big-money people" who were responsible for causing these "hard­ ships." The NFU president further accused corporate giants, Excel, IBP, and Conagra, with responsibility for farmers' problems because they controlled the majority of cattle and hog slaughter in the United States. 219


OFU members discuss 1995 farm bill with Secretary Dan Glickman.

Conagra and Excel's parent-company, Cargill, was also the leader in grain and soybean processing, added Swenson. He concluded that the corporations wanted lower farm prices and had gotten them with support from the most recent administrations in Washington. Now they wanted free trade for cheaper products and wages, charged Swenson. They would get their objectives, he stated, unless something was done to stop them. Swenson concluded that change would not occur until the government returned control to the people, rather than corporations and millionaires.2 Shortly after the convention, new and innovative programs began to emerge. One such project was the Japanese-Oklahoma student exchange progam whereby the Farmers Union sponsored eight Oklahoma students to visit Kyoto, Japan, in a cooperative progam with the Lieutenant Governor's office. Selected for a week-long trip were Travis Beams and Lori Garrett, Kingfisher; Greg Jeter, Copan; Fred Jordan, Dewey; Tracy Lee, Stratford; Becky Pfenning, Hobart; Justin Rogers, Hennessey; and Jeremy D. Scherler, Walters. The young people were selected by committee from more than 100 applicants who had written essays on the subject of "Why I Want To Participate in the Japanese Agriculture Exchange Program." Jim Bates, director of youth and education, and Lee Streetman escorted the young Oklahomans on the Japanese excursion. The program had been established originally by Lieutenant Gover­ nor Spencer Bernard in 1985, but the Farmers Union involvement was 220

STILL SERVING RURAL OKi..,AHOMA minimal. The Japanese had sent students to Oklahoma in 1987, 1989, and 1991, and the Farmers Union had only sent students to Japan in 1988.3 Within a month of taking office, Klutts attended his first seminar on agricultural issues. Held in Pryor at the Mayes County Extension Center and sponsored by the American Bank ofPryor, the meeting attracted more than 50 agricultural producers. The Union president and other staff members attended the conference because they believed active participa­ tion in such grassroots meetings was a good way to enhance member involvement at the local level. Klutts stated, "This is the grassroots involvement I've been talking about to our Farmers Union members." He then challenged agri-businesses and farmers to work together for the betterment of rural Oklahoma. 4 The Union leader announced the following month that four statewide meetings had been scheduled for the week of June 15 to precede the annual Washington "Fly-In." These meetings were held to include the voice of the membership in the discussions of central issues that farmers were interested in at the time. Topics included the GATT talks, NAFTA, rural health care, and agricultural credit. Klutts was most energetic in obtaining support from farmers around the state, because, as he said, "We need our members' opinions and input on the message we take to our congressional delegation." He and the Union leadership strongly urged the public to attend meetings scheduled at Stratford, Muskogee, Fletcher, and Enid.5 In July of 1992, 40 Oklahomans joined more than 200 Farmers Union members from across the country in a lobbying effort on interna­ tional trade, agricultural credit, and reorganization of the U.S. Depart­ ment of Agriculture. These issues were actively taken before Congress by a nationally-sponsored "fly-in" that included members from Oklahoma. This turned out to be the largest legislative effort of its kind yet organized by the National Union. President Klutts expressed his delight in the success of the "fly-in" when he won the support of Oklahoma Congressmen Glenn English and Bill Brewster, particularly on the issues of trade and reorganization of the USDA. "Both...are for the Farmers Union position...on GATT and the North American Free Trade Agreement," said Klutts.6 In August the National Farmers Union's Political Action Committee (NATFARMPAC) formally endorsed the Bill Clinton-AI Gore ticket for the White House at a rally in Farmersburg, Iowa. This was the first time NATF ARMPAC had publicly endorsed a candidate for any office. National President Leland Swenson insisted that it was done because 221

CHAPTER VIII "Farmers want change." He added that recent census statistics indicated that another 36,000 farmers had gone out ofbusiness in the previous year, a trend that had to be halted. Swenson believed the Clinton theme of "People First," meant that the Democrats would work to maintain family farms, reform the nation's health care system, and make efforts to "export products, not jobs." President Klutts reiterated this philosophy when he reported that he had "grave concern about NAFTA." Stating his opinion that the agree­ ment was "very clearly not in the best interest of agriculture and family farmers," Klutts maintained that: Considering the living and wage standards of Mexico in particular, the NAFTA will pull America's living standard more toward their level than it will bring their standard ofliving up to ours. The agreement will cause the movement of jobs from this country across the border into Mexico. Food quality and safety standards will be lowered. And pollution, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border, will be worse because Mexican standards are not as strict as they are in this country.... Another area affected will be the cattle industry where the almost certain movement of large numbers of livestock from Mexico into the U.S. will capture our markets. And, we will also

Meeting with Pat Roberts, chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, on the 1995 farm bill.


STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA have to contend with the threat of disease from Mexico into our herds throughout the U.S. 7 Klutts encouraged members to accompany him on the annual "fly­ in" to Washington in late June. As a result, Curtis Liles, Altus, Jene Mungle, Atoka, Ed Preble, Jr., Norman, Vincent Coffey, Prague, and Russell Tucker, Poteau,joined the president and other Oklahomans on the trek to consult with congressional leaders, along with more than 200 other Farmers Union members from around the nation. Among the more pressing issues was the need to discuss the current farm policy with administration leaders. National President Swenson was particularly interested in reviewing the methodology used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in estimating farm incomes. Swenson argued that the net farm income estimates were historically a barometer of the financial health of rural America, but now, he stated, estimates in present years were being skewed in such a way that policy-makers and the public were being misled about the true financial condition of farmers. Swenson used harsh words to describe the USDA position of adding items, like the value of home-grown food and the possible rental value of farms, to make their calculations, items that the Internal Revenue Service did not recog­ nize as farm income. Among the congressmen visited by the Union members were Repre­ sentative Glenn English of Oklahoma and Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In a meeting with Henry Renscher, Geronimo, Medford Underwood, Atoka, and Arles Riggs, Jr., Laverne, the venerable old senator amused Director Mungle when he responded to the question as to why he had given up dairy farming years before. The ageless law maker quipped, "Because of those cockleburrs in that cow's tail!" 8 During one of their conference meetings, Klutts made a point in his discussion with President Bush's Secretary of Agriculture, Edward Madigan. He asked the department chief directly how NAFTA was supposed to help farmers, especially cattlemen. The secretary could not give a direct answer to the question. Accompanying Klutts to the meeting were national officers Leland Swenson, president; Frank "Bud" Daniels, vice-president and president of the Montana state Union; and, John Stencel, NFU treasurer and president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Soon after Union leaders returned home, Klutts announced another new and innovative program for the organization. This was the relocation 223

CHAPTER VIII of the AG-LINK Hotline and the Agriculture Mediation Program to the state headquarters. It manned an around-the-clock hotline number for farmers, provided financial management and counseling services, and maintained a network of qualified agricultural mediators to resolve disputes between agricultural lenders and farmer borrowers. Klutts, ever mindful of the 1,317 delinquency notices recently sent by the Farmers Home Administration, announced to members that it was apparent farmers continued to experience extreme financial and emotional stress. He believed that the Farmers Union should do all that was possible to help farmers by providing such services to them. The AG-LINK was initiated in the mid-l 980s when farm foreclosures were at a peak and farmers were being forced off the land in record numbers. The continuing distress of farmers weighed heavily on the Farmers Union leadership as political campaigns drew nearer to election time in 1992. The Union involved itself more than usual in the campaign by organizing a political action group as the national organization had done earlier. The Oklahoma Farm PAC, originally established in 1988, re­ sumed its efforts to collect support and contributions for candidates designated by Union leaders as sympathetic to Union programs and policies. The board had a staffing change to contend with after Secretary Ray Schiltz announced his decision to retire. Having served since 1986, Schiltz wished to return to raising wheat and cattle near Ponca City. 9 The intensity of the political campaign resulted in an entire issue of Farm News and Views being devoted to the campaigns in October. At the same time Vice-President Coffey urged that "Lawmakers Should Be Contacted About AG 2000 Task Force Bills." Coffey, after attending a meeting of the Oklahoma Agriculture 2000 Task Force, said more than 50 people had attended the session, where members of the House Agriculture Committee finalized plans for future farm legislation. The task force had labored for more than six months on the project. The committee, set up by Governor David Walters, was put together by Secretary of Agriculture Gary Sherrer in 1991. The committee had drafted several bills for legislative consideration. M.C. Leist, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, announced that those bills would be introduced when the Legislature convened again in January, 1993. Coffey, stating that the Task Force had offered an opportunity for new ideas in agriculture, said, "The emphasis here is that people need to get involved! This is a start." 10 224


President Klutts with youthful champion at the fair.

In November President Klutts awarded the Union's highest legisla­ tive honor to Congressman Glenn English of Cordell. Citing the law maker for his leadership on family farm issues, Klutts presented him with the "Golden Triangle Award." English, representing Oklahoma's Sixth Dis­ trict, had served as a member of the Agriculture Committee and had chaired the subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, and Rural Develop­ ment. The Golden Triangle Award had been instituted in 1988 to give special recognition to those members of Congress who had been most supportive of family farm issues.11 In 1993 newly-elected President Bill Clinton announced his choice for Secretary of Agriculture was Mike Espy. Based on his record as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Klutts saluted the former Mississippi congressman as an advocate of family farmers and the type of person who would be for agriculture and rural America. Espy's voting record favored farmers and rural citizens. National farm leaders around the country hoped that the change in administrations meant a better farm policy in Washington. For a brief time Klutts' attention was drawn to the arena of Union politics when two candidates filed in December, 1992, for the two directors positions up for election. Jene Mungle filed for the at-large position and Curtis Liles, Altus, filed for district 2-southwest director. With no opposition, the two candidates were elected. 225

CHAPTER VIII In the same month the National Union once more focused attention on the NAFTA and GATT treaty agreements. Urging rejection of both, Farmers Union leaders appealed to then-president Bush not to sign NAFTA. They were disappointed when the President paid little attention. The National Board, of which Klutts was a member, passed a resolution opposing approval ofthe agreement because it was not in "the best interest of agriculture." Klutts was busy on local radio and television shows in January, 1993, as the new Clinton administration took over. He was asked to discuss various subjects, including the new agriculture secretary, the economy of rural America, USDA reorganization, the closing ofFarmers Home Administration offices nationwide, and the AG-LINK Hotline. Within a short time he also appeared on the mid-morning "Carole Arnold Show" on KTOK-AM in Oklahoma City. A few hours later, he was interviewed by Deborah Kostroun, associate farm editor for the Oklahoma News Network. Part ofthe interview was heard on Ron Hays' early morning report on the Agrinet. Klutts, maintaining a steady pace, soon appeared on KOCO-TV Channel 5, on the "Good Morning Okla­ homa!" show. 12 In February, 1993, President Klutts had the pleasant duty of presenting the Meritorious Service Award to "Mr. Farmers Union," Rex Miller. The Union's highest award was presented to Miller at the convention in recognition of his many years of service. The retired Hail­ Crop Department manager and personnel department administrator was pleased to be recognized by his beloved Union. The Tonkawa native, instrumental in building the Farmers Union insurance company into the honorable industry that it was, joined an elite group ofpast award winners. The award had been given previously to Jack Kelsey in 1992, Emil Kastl in 1991, J. D. Fleming in 1990, John Stermer in 1989, George Stone in 1988, Spencer Bernard in 1987, and Leland Stanford in 1986. It was also announced by President Klutts that Emil L. Grieser, a 10year veteran ofthe state House ofRepresentatives, had been employed as the lead lobbyist for the Union. The legislator, who represented Washita, Kiowa, and Caddo counties from 1982 to 1992, had served as assistant majority floor leader, chairman ofthe County and Municipal Government Committee, and the Revenue and Taxation Committee. 13 A life-long rancher and farmer from the Hobart area, "Emil repre­ sents the type ofleader who can help us bring farm and rural issues to the forefront of public attention... ," said Klutts. Unfortunately, the legislator 226


AN AGENT WHO CARES The insurance business of the Farmers Union relies on an army of local agents who are dedicated to both the company and their customers. One agent who has taken that goal to heart is Florissa Weidner Burtnett. Born in Elk City in 1936, Flo was reared on a farm near Durham where her father, A.E. Bell, a Farmers Union insurance agent and farmer, introduced her to both farming and unionism. As a youngster she learned farming by doing chores. She milked cows every morning and night, chopped weeds o.ut of the cotton crop, and picked the cotton when it was ready in the fall. Flo married Reuben Weidner, a farmer from Follett, Texas, and together they started an agency in Shattuck with 12 clients. When her husband died of a heart attack in 1969 she was left with a farm and an agency to run. "I can sincerely say that I love the insurance business. I like the freedom of the job, the friendships, and the people that are part of an insurance career," she said. In 1979 she married Dale Burtnett and continued to work as an agent. "I sell insurance to Farmers Union members and non-Farmers Union members. I sell all types of insurance, auto, crop hail, property, farm liability, life insurance, and health insurance. As a general rule, my clients are my friends. In fact, they almost become family, and it's sad when they suffer a loss ofany kind." As an active youth leader for more than 35 years, her daughters, Diana Weidner Chapman and Kris Ann Moyer, have gone through the Union youth programs. Her youngest, Kris Ann, served for several years as the national director of education in Denver. Flo has served as secretary and treasurer of the Local Square Top Union in Ellis County for more than 30 years. She has also written a children's educational text for the national Union and a number of cookbooks for Farmers Union groups. Flo Burtnett is a member who cares. 227

CHAPTER VIII died unexpectedly February 16, 1994, following a massive heart attack. 14 At the 91st national convention held in Sioux Falls, President Klutts applauded Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy's announcement of a suspension of Farmers Home Administration foreclosure actions pending reviews by Washington. Klutts, calling the action most appropriate for Oklahoma, stated that "It is absolutely essential to prevent a disastrous repeat of the 1980s farm crisis." Klutts added that the Farmers Union had begun calling for a suspension of foreclosures the previous December in direct response to an increased number of calls and appeals from financially-stressed farmers in the state. He stated that the action by the Clinton administration would help keep the "farmer on the land." It was a signal from Washington that a new approach was being adopted toward the farm problem, according to Klutts. He added, "It's now apparent that we have a Secretary of Agriculture who is concerned about the welfare of rural America." Klutts participated in a panel discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement at the convention. Expressing his concern over in­ creased imports of livestock from Mexico, Klutts questioned the wisdom of such action because consumer safety could not be properly maintained with food imported from Mexico, where health and sanitation standards were lower than in the United States. Most of the panelists agreed with Klutts' assessment of NAFTA. The other members of the panel included National Farmers Union official Mike Dunn; president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, Alan Bergman; and legislative aide for Senator Kent Conrad, North Dakota, Tom Mahr. All agreed with Klutts that NAFTA offered more negative provisions than positive ones. Returning to Oklahoma in March of 1993, President Klutts had the pleasurable duty of publicizing the Union. Accompanied by Vice-Presi­ dent Coffey and Director Russell Tucker, Klutts attended the 4-H and FFA Junior Livestock Show in Oklahoma City, where he purchased animals in support of the youth movements. On behalf of the Farmers Union, Klutts bought the prize-winning animals of several Union family members. 15 In April of 1993, President Klutts announced another new program for Farmers Union members, an agreement with the Chevrolet Motor Division to provide a $500 discount to members purchasing a new 1993 pickup. Stating there were more than 107,000 members in Oklahoma, Klutts saw the deal as mutually beneficial for the company and the Union. 228


President Klutts consoles OFU employee Bertha Nichols; whose car was damaged by the Murrah Building blast.

Hopeful of continuing the program in the future, Klutts urged members to take advantage of the offer. He noted that nothing would please him more than to receive a call from Chevrolet that members were buying too many vehicles. "This would mean that farm income is up and OFU members are replacing their vintage trucks with safer, more reliable new equipment." Klutts added, "Increased rural income, more U.S. jobs, and more people who can afford to buy our quality food-that's our goal at OFU." 16 Klutts announced the appointment of a new youth coordinator in May. She was Kerensa C. Darnell of Mason, a 1989 graduate of Oklahoma State University and a former speech contest winner. She assumed her duties in time for the summer youth camp in August and the annual fall speech contests.17 On June 8, 1993, President Klutts participated in a news conference to denounce the House Agriculture Committee's proposal to increase the so-called "flex acres" provision of the farm program. He was accompa­ nied by Ernest Schmidt, president of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, and David Von Tungelen, board member of the Oklahoma Grain and Stocker Association. As suggested by President Clinton's budget-balancing plan, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees had been studying ways to cut farm program costs by an additional $2. 9 billion over five years. When the House suggested a five percent increase in flex acres as the best means to 229

CHAPTER VIII achieve this goal, the Union president went immediately on the offensive. In his opening statement at a news conference called to discuss the matter, Klutts let the world know his opinion of the suggestion. He called it the worst of all possible options, because "It will take additional income directly out of the pockets of our state's farmers." The flex acres program had been introduced as farm policy by the 1990 Budget Reconciliation Act. It represented that portion of a farmer's acreage which was ineligible for deficiency payments; 15 percent of a farm's acreage was classified as flex acres by 1993. It was pointed out that a five percent increase would reduce farm income by as much as $1.8 billion over the next five years, a situation that would be critical to farmers. Schmidt and Von Tungelen agreed with the Farmers Union position. The OGSPA leader said that even increasing the unpopular Acreage Reduction Program (ARP) would have less of a negative impact than increasing flex acres. The ARP program, part of the current farm bill, set aside a portion of a farm on which no crops were planted and no payments were reserved. The farm leaders argued that an increase by one percent in this provision would achieve the same savings goal, while causing less :financial damage to farmers. When asked what one single thing could be done to improve the farming sector, Klutts immediately replied, "Raise commodity loan rates to levels closer to the actual cost of production." The news conference held at the state headquarters was covered by Tulsa'sKVOORadioFarmDirectorCarey Martin, theDailyOklahoman 's Jim Stafford, and KOCO-TV's Cindy Wall-Morrison. The farm organi­ zation then urged its members to contact Senator David Boren, since he was a key member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. 18 Meanwhile, Board member Wally Schieffer, president of the Noble County Union, operated a county fair booth in Perry in mid-September, taking donations to keep the County OSU Extension Office operating through June, 1994. The local had arranged to make the collection in honor of the memory of Atoka dairy farmer, Jene Mungle. The dedicated Union director had contributed his life's work to agriculture and the dairy industry. In the southeastern part of the state the annual Mungle barbecues were reknown among young people. 19 In the same month the editor of the Union newspaper began a new publishing system in order to change to a more efficient and timely paper. Lee Streetman converted theFarmNews & Viewsto a desk-top publishing system that allowed for a lower cost of producing the paper in-house. The 230


Signing farm legislation with Governor Frank Keating.

August and September issues were combined to permit time for training and getting the system established. 20 Later in September, 1993, Klutts led a 35-member delegation on the annual lobbying trip to Washington. Among the national leaders visited during the "fly-in" was Secretary of Agriculture Espy, who consulted with the delegation and was photographed with Mr. and Mrs. Bill Pond of Fort Cobb, members who accompanied Klutts. The Oklahoma groupjoined more than 200 Farmers Union members from 23 states to lobby against NAFTA. After the delegation returned home, Klutts was interviewed on KTOK's the "Carole Arnold Show," where he again explained his reasons for opposing the trade agreement. 21 By December 13, 1993, seven members were seeking leadership positions in the Union. Three officers and three board positions were up for election. Klutts filed for another term as president and was challenged by Jim Billington, while Vincent Coffey registered for vice-president. Two candidates filed for the office ofsecretary, Ray Wulf, Enid, and Doug Harryman, Newcastle. With both at-large positions and the district 3 231

CHAPTER VIII position for three-year terms open, Ed Preble, Jr., filed for another full term for one of the at-large posts and Roy Perryman, Stigler, filed for Mungle's vacant at-large position. Bob Nick, Okmulgee, registered for the District 3 position.22 In 1994 there were two new directors, Bob Nick, Okmulgee, and Roy Perryman, Stigler, who replaced Jene Mungle and Paul Teel. There was also a new secretary, Ray L. Wulf of Oklahoma City. Phil Klutts was re-elected to his seco�d term as chief officer of the Oklahoma Union. He was selected by ballot to replace "Bud" Daniels as vice-president of the National Union at its 92nd convention in Fargo, North Dakota. After the swearing-in ceremony, Klutts declared that his greatest responsibility in his new office was to make certain that Union members "get the most out of existing Farmers Union resources." Elected on March 7, Klutts had the support of the large Oklahoma delegation and a majority of the delegates at the convention. He acquired a number of additional duties as the new second-in­ command of the large Union. He was obligated to serve as a spokesman for the organization, giving testimony whenever necessary before the House Agriculture Subcommittee, which he did on April 12. He also was chair of the NFU Budget Committee, which set spending priorities for the national Union. On April 5, at a meeting in Nebraska he was named chairman of the National executive committee, composed of the two chief officers of the Union, president and vice-president, and seven state presidents. Klutts was named vice-chair of the Green Thumb Board, which by 1994 oversaw expenditures of $100 million annually for Title V federal funds and employed more than 28,000 older Americans. The program operated in 44 states, including Oklahoma, where 500 were employed in the program. While admitting that the additional positions required more time and travel, Klutts felt honored to serve. He saw the position as having more advantages than disadvantages. He felt the position allowed him to participate in a more significant role on national issues to better serve "the best interests of family farmers and rural America." The Union's new secretary, Ray L. Wulf, also found himself busily learning the duties of his new position. On March 8 he attended a public hearing on the proposed rules and regulations of the Oklahoma Feed Yards Act, a hearing that attracted a large crowd to the conference room of the State Department of Agriculture. The meeting attracted a number 232

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA ofstate legislators, and Wulfrepresented the Farmers Union, offering his comments on the new rules. One week later, on March 15, Wulf chaired his first meeting of the Oklahoma Ag Rural Council. Succeeding Emil Grieser, who had died February 16, Wulfwas supported in the meeting by former legislative representative, J.D. Fleming. Wulf also attended the 79th annual 4-H and FFA Junior Livestock Show on March 25-29 with President Klutts, his wife Jo, Vice-President Coffey and wife, Juanita. Also attending were directors Wally Schieffer, Russell Tucker, Roy Perryman and Ed Preble. 23 In June of 1994 President Klutts attended the annual convention of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA), hosted by Commissioner Gary L. Sherrer ofthe Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. Commissioners from 15 southern states gathered in Tulsa for the conference, where they approved a wide-ranging agenda for 1995. The SASDA members sent their agenda directives to Washington for consideration by the administration and congressional leaders. Addi­ tionally, the commissioners adopted a list of resolutions, including one submitted by Oklahoma to support the Rural Credit and Development Act of 1994. Among others approved were resolutions dealing with interstate meat shipments, a Mexican fruit fly free zone, a national honey bee strategy, imported fire ant quarantine, and national uniformity standards for pesticide residues. 24 Klutts participated in the annual "fly-in" to Washington in Septem­ ber, 1994. The Sooner president believed in the lobbying effort because he believed that it provided a dual opportunity for farmers. It enabled them to gain first-hand experience in the legislative process, and it allowed them one-on-one visits with the nation's leaders. Klutts participated in the 1994 campaign for governor. Appearing as a panelist to ask questions in a "Meet the Gubernatorial Candidates'.' debate on July 28, Klutts joined others in a forum designed to make the voters more aware ofthe candidates. The conference was held in conjunc­ tion with the 42nd annual Oklahoma Cattleman's Association convention in Oklahoma City. The eventual winner of the election, Frank Keating, a Republican from Tulsa, promised to "do everything to make you more prosperous" in agriculture. Keating further added in his speech that people need to "understand that agriculture is number one" in Oklahoma-a theme that obviously worked to help him win the governor's chair. Klutts prefaced his first question to the candidates, Jack Mildren, Wes Watkins, and Keating, with the statement that the Farmers Union 233

CHAPTER VIII supported present statutes prohibiting corporate agriculture. He then asked for their positions on this issue. All stated their approval of these measures and promised to combat efforts to weaken the statutes. That summer Klutts traveled to Colorado to speak to Oklahoma's delegation and youths from other states at the annual All-States Camp in Bailey. Youth director Kerensa Darnell led Justin Rogers, Hennessey; Jacob Yunker, Alva; Kristi Graham, Oklahoma City; Jodi Woods, Gage; and Butch Houser, Wewoka, on the trip.25 Another youth service celebrated its 50th anniversary in October, 1994, when the speech contest was held in Alva. Called the "granddaddy" of all speech meets, the Oklahoma Farmers Union-sponsored event had been in operation for half a century. The speech contests had grown from a few participants at its inception to include hundreds of young people by 1994.26 A record 682 youngsters participated in the event that culminated in the top 165 competing in the state finals at Stillwater on November 5. The contestants spoke on the topic "How My Organization Promotes Good Community Living." The senior division winner was Amy Baggett, Talihina, while Quincy Morris, Ripley, placed first in the Student Organizations category.27 Meanwhile, Klutts was greatly disappointed to learn of the passage of both GATT and NAFTA. These were added to CUFTA-the Canada­ US Free Trade Agreement passed six years earlier. Klutts remained skeptical of the efforts because dropping cattle prices in 1994 demon­ strated little was being achieved as the prices of beef in grocery stores remained the same. The Oklahoma leader stated that it was time to. "analyze the environment in which farmers and ranchers will be operating in years ahead...and try to determine the best course of action Farmers Union should take...." 28 There were two candidates for board director, District 1, in 1995. Incumbent Delvin Jech, Kingfisher, and R.A. "Dick" Stults, Luther, were candidates for the position. There were three candidates for the at-large position. Wally Schieffer, the incumbent, faced Debi Thompson, an insurance agent in Camey, and Sam Cook, an agent from Miami, in Ottawa County. Stults and Cook were elected. 29 President Klutts looked forward to the 90th convention on February 19, 1995, at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Oklahoma City. The chief speaker was newly-inaugurated Republican Governor Frank Keating. Klutts, who had attended the inauguration of Governor Keating, 234

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA was "looking forward to working with him" on farm issues. Another leader attending to give a welcome at the convention was Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, the first woman to be elected to that post in Oklahoma history. 30 The convention theme was "Farmers Union: United for The Family, The Farm, and The Land." Delegates approved a far-reaching policy program following speeches by Congressmen Ernest lstook, Oklahoma City, Speaker Glen Johnson of Okemah, Congressmen Bill Brewster of Marietta, and United States Senator James Inhofe, Tulsa. The convention also featured the annual Farmers Union Youth Program, conducted by Kerensa Darnell, coordinator of the education and youth programs. After a 90-minute presentation of music, awards, and scholarship presentations followed by the solemn Torchbearer cere­ mony, Darnell pointed out the 763 posters submitted by first through fourth graders in the statewide poster contest. In March, 1995, Klutts announced the appointment of farmer­ rancher Paul Jackson of Ringling as the new legislative representative for the Oklahoma Farmers Union. The former agricultural legislative aide for Congressman Wes Watkins was employed to manage all farm and rural programs for the Oklahoma Union. Klutts explained that "One of his primary job responsibilities will be to represent our legislative needs at the

Klutts addresses the 94th National Farmers Union annual convention in Cincinnati.



President Klutts interviewed by Ron Hayes of OklahomaAgrinet.

State Capitol...." The May, 1984, graduate of Oklahoma State held a B.S. Degree in agricultural communications. He had been honored with the FFA American Farmer degree, and farmed alfalfa, peanuts, and grains in the community of Courtney near Ringling.31 Klutts, appointed to the board of Green Thumb; Inc., was elected its chairman at a March meeting in Arlington, Virginia, during which significant structural and organizational changes were made. Along with Klutts on the new board were Joe Rankin, president of the Texas Union, and Cy Carpenter, the former national president from Minnesota. President Klutts, vice-president of the National Farmers Union, led the Oklahoma delegation to the national meeting in Milwaukee in March, 1995. He urged cooperative effort by the full membership. Although disagreements occurred between states and individuals, Klutts stated "There is no doubt that those of us in leadership roles in the National Farmers Union...have the experience and capability collectively, to address those challenges and meet those challenges." Klutts was calling for a return to traditional values of the Union, to those values that had made it strong in the past. During the convention a very strong and intense disagreement erupted when a number of bylaw changes were proposed, including changes to allow delegate voting privileges at the National Convention for members who did not pay state membership dues. National memberships 236

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA were computed based on an assessment on insurance premiums. The bylaw changes would diminish Oklahoma's voting influence by one-third. Oklahoma alleged these "computed" members should not be allowed to vote, especially not on the bylaw changes and protested vigorously, even taking legal action. The proposed changes were passed over the objection of the Oklahoma delegation and after intense discussion and debate the dispute was compromised to the betterment of all concemed. 32 One month later President Klutts gave one of the lead testimonials at a field hearing in Woodward concerning the 1995 farm bill. The hearing, one of 16 scheduled in 14 states, drew approximately 300 people. It was moderated by United States Congressmen Frank Lucas of Okla­ homa and Bill Barrett of Nebraska. Klutts' testimony to the congressional subcommittee carried the warning that the "crisis in agriculture is far from over," and he called for a farm policy that would boost farm incomes while reducing federal spending. He appealed to the Washington leaders to take into account the situation that farmers had faced in the past few years. As they concentrated on farm problems, Klutts and the entire world were shocked by the blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19. Like so many Americans, the Union instantly offered its heart-felt assistance and aid to help the victims. President Klutts quickly contacted Mayor Ron Norick

President Klutts, on right, discusses farm issues with President Bill Clinton.


CHAPTER VIII and Governor Frank Keating with offers of support. The Union president offered the use of the Union buildings down­ town, and later established an Oklahoma Farmers Union Disaster Relief Fund to accept donations for the victims. State Secretary, Ray Wulf, made available Farmers Union promotional items, including pen lights for rescue workers' helmets, as well as ponchos to keep them dry. Surplus office equipment was made available to businesses damaged near the explosion, and numerous Union employees and members volunteered to answer telephones, donate blood, or help in any way. At a meeting of home office employees President Klutts established a fund to help "relieve the human suffering."Klutts invited all employees, agents, and officers from over the state to contribute as much as could be given to the fund. By June the donations had topped $13,235. Joann Whittington, personnel coordinator, said the home office had sponsored numerous hot dog lunches, bake sales, and raffles to raise money, and planned to do as much as possible to help with relief to the victims and their families.33 It was discovered that one of the bombing victims was a Farmers Union family member. The unfortunate member was Woodrow "Woody" Clifford Brady, who had won the 1971 state championship speech contest. The 41-year old was the first African-American to win the state title, and had been rewarded with an expense-paid trip to Washington, D. C. in the summer of 1972. Brady had been a customer in the third floor offices of the Federal Employees Credit Union at the moment of the explosion. In June members returned to the work of the Union by making another trip to Washington to visit with Oklahoma congressmen on the latest farm issues. Meeting with Senator James Inhofe and Congressmen Steve Largent, Bill Brewster, and J.C. Watts, the unionists also arranged for a conference with Kansan Pat Roberts, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. 34 In October the Union held a State Women's Leadership Conference for its members at the Shangri-La Resort near Grove. Participants had only accolades for the conference when it was over. This was the Union's first comprehensive women's meeting, and the members felt that it was time. Playing a significant role in the conference was Shawn McNish, longtime OFU executive assistant to the President. Women's issues were discussed by presenters Regina Sanders, director ofKTUL-TV in Tulsa, State Representative Betty Boyd of Tulsa, and State Senator Trish Weedn of Purcell. Specifically, the two women 238

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA legislators discussed state question 669, a measure that proposed to roll back taxes to 1983 levels, which would lower taxes paid by some landowners. The solons encouraged the women to study the proposal carefully and weigh its consequences on state and local governments and public schools before arbitrarily supporting general tax decreases. Be­ cause the Farmers Union had always supported the "base of the triangle," Union women were asked to carefully consider all sides of the roll-back question. A year later the proposal was badly defeated at the polls. A short time later President Klutts was back in the news as he announced the replacement of Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture. Mike Espy was forced to resign in the midst of charges of misuse of campaign funds and was replaced by Dan Glickman. The new Secretary had written Klutts informing him that due to severe thunderstorms in the past spring and summer, 70 Oklahoma counties had been designated as disaster areas. President Klutts also announced that a program to revitalize mem­ berships would be started soon by a "grassroots movement" designed to motivate and involve members at the local level. To help the project he appointed Jeramy Rich of Prague to the staff in August. A senior at Oklahoma State and a part-time field representative, Rich, the product of a farm family from Lincoln County, was busy setting up meetings explaining Union objectives and determining ways to increase member­ ships. Paul Jackson and Ray Wulf were also involved in the membership drives. The goal was to visit as many towns and counties as possible to generate interest in the Union again. A new publication, "Grassroots," was begun to communicate legislative issues to interested members. 35 At the 91st annual convention in 1996 in Oklahoma City's Clarion Hotel, there were two candidates for the office of vice-president and two for the position of board director, District 2. Incumbent vice-president Vincent Coffey faced Joe Ed Kinder, the mayor of Chattanooga and a member of the Union Policy Committee in 1995. Board member Curtis Liles was opposed by Wayne Spies, a farmer-rancher from Fort Cobb. Both Coffey and Liles retained their offices. 36 Secretary Wulf reported that the Oklahoma Union had 106, 140 members with 239 locals across the state. He proclaimed that 1,810 members had joined since the 1995 convention and that 12 locals had been reactivated. Along with President Klutts, the secretary believed strongly that "The union spirit was alive and well in the state of Oklahoma." President Klutts echoed the secretary's sentiments. He stated that 239


Insurance Commissioner John Crawford and President Klutts congratulate poster contest winners.

membership numbers were up substantially while insurance figures were the best in recent years. "In order to have a strong farm organization we must also have a strong and healthy mutual insurance company, and at year end the company had the highest written premiums and surplus in its history. In 1995, the company generated $74,333,668 in insurance premiums and had a $19,265,387 surplus at year's end." 37 These were figures to make the executive proud, but the more admirable facet of Klutts' administration was his determination to keep the goals of the Oklahoma Farmers Union alive. Like all members of the Union, he still believed sincerely in the dreams of founder Newt Gresham; the purpose of the Union was to improve the living standard and the life of the American family farmer. In April of 1996 Oklahoma Union members returned to the state following a successful meeting of the National Farmers Union convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Attended by 62 state members, the convention included an announcement from President Klutts that he would not seek re-election as vice-president of the National Union. Having served two years in the position, Klutts urged the organization to continue to "maintain a strong, unified voice and encourage grassroots activism." He stepped aside in order to devote more energy to the Oklahoma Union. The Oklahoma president had only recently returned from a confer­ ence of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), a national trade association of more thanl,200 companies 240

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA located in 40 states and Canada, that was attended by 95 chief executives of mutual insurance companies from around the nation. The organization was designed to provide a forum for an exchange of information and ideas by these top executives in the business. Klutts believed that "in today's business climate, our company cannot operate in a vacuum, but instead we must be well-informed on the latest technological advances, industry standards, and operational practices..." In order to keep the OFU on the cutting edge ofinnovations, he had decided to give up the vice-presidency of the National Union to devote more time to the state Union and the mutual insurance company.38 Spring brought passage of a new Farm Bill that severely attacked traditional farm programs. It was replaced by a seven-year contract with farmers that would phase out agricultural subsidies. The peanut program survived due in part to Farmers Union lobbying. While not happy with the "Freedom to Farm Bill," which did not offer a long term safety net, the OFU agreed it was the best bill possible in the current political climate and offered producers badly needed income. OFU leaders recognized it was the end of an era, but vowed to continue the fight. The Union would not give up on national farm policy, an issue that had been at the heart of farm activism for almost a century. Not long afterwards President Klutts, accompanied by Paul Jack­ son, manager of farm programs, attended the April planning sessions at the State Capitol to discuss the role of state government in dealing with the economic decline of rural Oklahoma. Hosted by Governor Frank Keating and attended by state legislators, the meetings were held April 11 and April 23 in Oklahoma City with farm leaders, banking officials, and other interested parties. Representative M. C. Leist of the House Agriculture Committee chaired the April 11 meeting and got the groups off to a good start by asking them to consider what they would do if they were in charge of fixing the problem. More than 40 individuals attended the April 23 meeting and Presi­ dent Klutts told the group that "the lack of profitability is the key" to the current crisis. He explained that "We need to put profit back in agriculture...and approve policies that set us on a new course in agricul­ ture." 39 In June the Farm News & Views announced that in the closing days of the 45th Oklahoma Legislature ad valorem tax reform, agriculture value-added tax incentives, additional rural fire fighting funds, rural development funds, and agriculture and small business estate tax changes 241



nchers Since 1905

President Klutts at a press conference explaining the OFU's position on use of AgriLink funds.

had been accomplished. All these were part of the Oklahoma Union's legislative agenda and had been actively promoted by Klutts. 40 On June 22 a delegation from the Union flew to Washington for a conference on farm issues with members of the Clinton administration. The Oklahoma delegates were joined by more than 150 members from around the country in the aru:1ual fly-in. Meetings with Leon Panetta, President Clinton's chiefof staff, and Robert Nash, director of presiden­ tial personnel and former undersecretary of agriculture, highlighted the event. Union members communicated to the White House that they were gravely concerned with the concentration oflivestock companies as being detrimental to producer prices, not to mention consumer prices. Union members further expressed their disapproval of the proposed merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads on the grounds that this would result in higher shipping rates for farm producers. Accompanying President Klutts on the fly-in were Vincent Coffey, vice-president, Ray Wulf, secretary, Paul Jackson, rural programs direc­ tor, and board members Ed Preble, Russell Tucker, Roy Perryman, and Dick Stults. Other Oklahoma delegates were James W. Roye, Stigler; Bill McCarley, Marlow; Henry Kretchmar, Medford; Bill Wilson, Kinta; Neil 242

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA Bolenbaugh, Enid; Lewis Bruner, Sr., Bristow; and Clarence Hardy, Castle. The meetings produced immediate results. Senators Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe made commitments to send a letter to the Justice Depart­ ment requesting an investigation of possible violations of anti-trust laws, and the following week Representatives J.C. Watts and Tom Coburn contacted the Union to express their interest in the problem.41 The next week President Clinton announced that he would release up to 16 million bushels of barley, sorghum, and com from the Feed Grain Disaster Reserve to help drought-stricken livestock producers in the Southwest. Furthermore, the Justice Department announced that a five­ member "beef monitoring group" would be assigned to follow-up on allegations of unfair packer practices.42 In July bankers, ranchers, and farmers met with congressional leaders in Elk city to discuss financial problems caused by the drought. Hearings were conducted by the House Banking Committee and chaired by Republican Representative Jim Leach of Iowa. One of the witnesses was President Klutts, who informed the law makers that weather was not the only reason so many farmers were attending the meeting. He explained that "In God we trust with regard to these things. It is much more difficult to trust those who operate with monopolistic or oligopolistic practices while government sits by and does nothing." 43 Following his statements Klutts blasted an application by hog producer Seaboard Farms Inc. of Kansas for a $1 million low-interest loan for a "hog factory" in the Panhandle through a state-funded agricul­ ture program. On July 17 at a press conference Klutts stated that the loan "smells like greed," and called for opposition to its approval. "This takes gall to come out here and take funding that was primarily made available to benefit family agriculture and family farmers," stated Klutts. The news coverage brought immediate results. Faced with a fight with the Union, Seaboard quietly withdrew its application for the loan from the state Agriculture Linked Deposit Program. The Union had won another fight and made available an additional $2.5 million in loans to distressed Oklahoma farmers.44

Fighting for family farmers. Helping neighbors. Opening doors of opportunity for new generations of rural Oklahomans-all of these goals 243

CHAPTER VIII Fighting for family farmers. Helping neighbors. Opening doors of opportunity for new generations of rural Oklahomans-all of these goals were still guiding the Oklahoma Farmers Union as 1996 drew to a close. President Klutts, after nearly five years at the helm, could look back and view his tenure as both a time of challenge and a time of progress. When he took office, the Farmers Union was at a critical crossroads. On the one hand the farm side of the organization had to be revitalized at the grassroots level and involve more members in addressing issues important to farmers and agriculture. The other task, and perhaps the most challenging, was to resurrect the insurance company and chart a path of steady growth. The farm programs, built on years of tradition, responded to the grassroots effort with renewed enthusiasm. In 1996 the speech contest reached new heights of popularity with 695 entrants and prizes exceeding more than $13,000 in savings bonds. The summer camp, with its leadership training, attracted 288 campers. The poster contest, always popular and guaranteed to attract local press coverage, drew 1,041 entries. And the scholarship program grew to 13 recipients who earned $7,500 for college tuition and expenses. All of this activity, promoted by the lively and informative monthly newspaper, was a sign of renewed interest among Farmers Union members. Although not as visible to the membership, the insurance company required as much or even more energy and skillful direction. In 1992 the challenge had been to raise the dangerously low surplus while controlling premium growth. Through austerity measures, significant rate adjust­ ments, and appropriate reinsurance, the company turned the comer and began the steady climb back to prosperity and growth. As the company rebounded, the need for expensive reinsurance diminished and the program was modified to reduce costs and further enhance surplus growth. The improved financial condition allowed the lifting of underwriting restrictions. To encourage even more growth and stability, and to position the company for the 21st Century, outside consultants were brought in to study and examine every phase of the company's operation. These studies revealed, to no one's surprise, that a total redesign and update of the company's automation program was essential. The study also revealed that restructuring of various departments and changes in procedures was necessary to improve tum-around time, 244

STILL SERVING RURAL OKLAHOMA reduce excessive paperwork, improve personnel utilization, and bring about overall improved efficiency in the company's operation. And it was improved efficiency that allowed time for personnel training programs, which further improved and enhanced efficiency in the company. When all of these efforts came together-systems reforms, careful balancing of growth versus stability, and skillful attention to financial position-the company roared back with new vigor. By the end of 1996 the surplus had nearly tripled in only four short years, all while holding premium growth to a minimum. To President Klutts and the members of the board of directors, these efforts to revive the insurance company meant more than mere numbers; they meant the very survival of the Oklahoma Farmers Union. "The insurance business provides the financial resources to support the farm side ofthe organization," said President Klutts in a recent interview. "And the insurance program provides a tangible and renewable service to our members. In this modem era, when organizations are struggling for people's time and attention, we have to have a product and service to hold us together. And together, we are strong." To President Klutts, unity and leadership skills mean success for the Oklahoma Farmers Union. "For 91 years," he said, "the Union has been blessed with both team players and forceful leaders." In his opinion, future leaders must be cut from the same cloth. President Klutts believes those leaders must be well rounded, mature, responsible persons who have a background of active involve­ ment and knowledge of business management, farming, agriculture, insurance, and rural community service. They should be creative and innovative with a genuine commitment to helping people and working for the public good. They must be of unquestioned honesty and integrity, have a strong work ethic, and possess the old fashioned values of "faith and trust in God Almighty." "Officers and board members of the Farmers Union must have the intellectual capacity to analyze and make sound business decisions dealing with a daily multitude of complex issues," Klutts added, "and they must have self confidence to be firm in dealing with controversial issues." Along with those attributes, Klutts believes that a good Farmers Union leader must have loyalty and dedication to the Union and place the Union above their own self interest. "They must forget their own interests and deal with matters on the basis of what is good for the company and the Union." 245

CHAPTER VIII And to President Klutts, the opportunity to serve farm families must not be limited to men. "I think it is time that women become part of the board membership," he said. "There are many exceptional women who are just as dedicated and loyal to the Union as the men. Oklahoma has one of the largest women memberships in the country, and they have always been an important part of the state Union." Developing the potential of young people is another strategy that must be encouraged. ''We must develop the leadership to deal with agriculture and rural issues and guide and direct our activities into the next century and beyond," said Klutts. "I want a strong union to promote those issues which are best for my daughter's children, Ty and Kelby, and my son's children, Sage, Cheyenne, and Gus, so they will have the same opportunities that I had." President Klutts' vision for the future of the Oklahoma Farmers Union is simple: "The Union needs to be strong. We need to streamline the insurance company and provide quality insurance policies and service. We need to get back to the grassroots of the Union. We need to get members active in the organization again, and get local leaders involved directly with the state organization. In this way the family farm can be kept alive and well." "I recognize the importance ofthe Oklahoma Farmers Union to this state, and it is my responsibility to see that the organization continues to address the needs of farmers and rural Oklahomans. The Union is still the same organization as it was in the beginning. Throughout the years many dedicated people have worked to keep it that way. Its goals and mission are the same today as they were 91 years ago." 46 Under the guidance of leaders like Phillip Klutts, the future of the Oklahoma Farmers Union is in good hands.




1 Gilbert C. Fite, American Farmers: The New Minority (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. 2 Ibid., 3. 3 Ibid., 7; Gilbert C. Fite, The Farmers' Frontier 1865-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974), 213. 4 Fite, American Farmers, 15; James C. Milligan, Oklahoma: A Regional History (Durant: Mesa Publishing, 1985). 5 Solon Justus Buck, The Granger Movement: A Study ofAgricultural Organiza­ tion and Its Political, Economic, and Social Manifestations, 1870-1880 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, n.d.); Richard Reeves, ed., Plowing Up a Storm (Lincoln: Nebraska Educational Television Network, 1985), 5; John D. Hicks, The Populist Revolt: A History of the Farmers' Alliance and the People's Party (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965); Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, I 860-1897 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1945); Dorothy Rose Blumberg, "Mary Elizabeth Lease, Populist Orator: A Profile," Kansas History, l, (Spring, 1978), pp. 3-15; Joseph G. Knapp, ed., Great American Cooperators (Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Cooperation, 1967), 10-13. 6 C.E. Huff and Perry Eberhart, The Voice of The Family Farmer (Denver: National Farmers Union, n.d.), 7; Gladys Talbott Edwards, The Liveoak Tree (Frederic, Wis.: National Farmers Union, 1953); News-Sentinel, Point, Texas, Sept. 3, 1902; Joseph G. Knapp, The Rise OfAmerican Cooperative Enterprise 1620-1920 (Danville, Ill.: The Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc., 1969), 176; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1961; National Union Farmer, March 31, 1981. 7 Roald A. Barbo, Farmers Union Past and Present (Denver: National Farmers Union, 1967), 9; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oklahoma City, May 1, 1923; April 1, 1923; John A. Simpson, The Military Voice of Agriculture (Oklahoma City: Mrs. John A. Simpson Co, 1934), 4; Charles S. Barrett, The Mission, History and Times of the Farmers' Union (Nashville: Marshall & Bruce, 1909), 16; Bobbie Rhodes, "Newton Gresham, Founder of the Farmers Union," unpublished report for Green Thumb, Inc., 1992; Gladys Talbott Edwards, Farmers Union Trek (Denver: National Farmers Union, 1952), 32. 8 Huff, The Voice of The Family Farmer, 8. 9 Ed Reger, "The Farmers' Education and Co-Operative Union,"Minutes of 47th Annual Convention, Jan. 15, 1952; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov. 1, 1922; · Fairview Republican, Fairview, Oklahoma, May 26, 1982. IO William H. Murray, Constitution And By-Laws of the Indian Territory, January 19, 1905. Copy in Oklahoma Farmers Union headquarters, Oklahoma City. 11 Reger, "The Farmers' Education and Co-Operative Union," l; H.L. Meredith, "The Agrarian Reform Press in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma L (Spring, 1972), 90; The Daily Oklahoman, April 17, 1906. 12 News-Star, Shawnee, Oklahoma, June 27, 1976; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1927.



William H. Murray, Memoirs of Governor Mu"ay and True History of Oklahoma (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1945), I, 320. 14 Murray, Memoirs, II, 17. 15 Edward Everett Dale and Morris L. Wardell, History of Oklahoma (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1948); Milligan, Oklahoma,148; W. David Baird & Danney Goble, The Story of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 333.. 16 Tulsa Tribune, June 9, 1982. 17

Minutes of 47th Annual Convention, January 14-16, 1952. Copy in OFlJ headquarters, Oklahoma City.


1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer (Oklahoma City), June, 1984; C.E. Huff and Perry Eberhart, The Voice of the Family Farmer (Denver: National Union Farmer, n.d.), 29. 2 Dora Barney to Rex Miller, Aug. 29, 1986, Miller papers. Collected by Rex Miller. Copies in Oklahoma Farmers Union headquarters, Oklahoma City; Gilbert Fite, "John A. Simpson: The Southwest's Militant Farm Leader," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXXV (Mar., 1949), 564. 3 The Oklahoma Union Farmer (Weatherford), Jan. 1, 1920. 4 O.A. Hilton, "The Oklahoma Council of Defense and the First World War," The Chronicles of Oklahoma XX (March, 1942), 36; Edda Bilger, "The 'Oklahoma Vorwarts': The Voice of German-Americans in Oklahoma During World War I," The Chronicles of Oklahoma LIV (Summer, 1976), 253; John A. Simpson to Editor of Daily Oklahoman, July 6, 1917, John A. Simpson Papers, MS62-4855, Box 3, F4, Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma. Hereafter cited as Simpson Papers. 5 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 20, 1920. 6 T. Bone McDonald, Jr., to Rex Miller, Aug. 21, 1986, Miller papers; J.S. Agan to Miller, Sept. 4, 1986, Miller papers; James C. Milligan interview with Ethel Barrick Mcinturff, Jan. 29, 1996; James C. Milligan interview with R.C. Teeter, Feb. 11, 1996. 1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1920; Donald A. Brown, "Southwest Oklahoma and T.J. Barton: 'They Cotton To Each Other "' Farm Credit Letter (Fall/ Winter, 1981), 6. 8 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1920; H.L. Meredith, "The Agarian Reform Press in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma L (Spring, 1972), 90. 9 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April 15, 1920. 1 Fite, "John A. Simpson," 565; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1921. 11 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1922. 12 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March 14, 1922. 13 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May 1, 1922. 14 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 1, 1922; February, 1975. 15 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 1, 1921. 16 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 1, 1922. 17 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 1, 1922. 18 James C. Milligan interview with R.C. Teeter, Feb. 11, 1996. 19 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 15, 1924. 20 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 1, 1924. 21 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar. 1, 1925. 22 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 1, 1926. 23 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June 1, 1926; June 15, 1926. 24 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1927.



25 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June 15, 1928; By-Laws Farmers' Union Co­ Operative Royalty Company, Oklahoma City; J. Staples to Harry V. Treadway, June 24, 1969, Miller Papers. 26 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar. 1, 1929; Mar. 15, 1929; Nov. 1, 1929; Dec. I, 1930. 27 Gilbert C. Fite, "Oklahoma's Reconstruction League: An Experiment in Fanner-Labor Politics," Journal of Southern History, XIlI (November, 1947), 535; Sequoyah Co. Times (Sallisaw, Oklahoma), June 3, 1982. 28 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct. 15, 1922. 29 Huff, The Voice ofFamily Farmer, 41. 30 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar. 15, 1924; Aug. 1, 1927. 31 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 1, 1927. 32 New York Times, July 13, 1930. 33 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June 1, 1931. 34 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, February 1, 1931. 35 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May 15, 1931. 36 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June 1, 1931. 37 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March 15, 1931; Roald A. Harbo, Farmers Union Past and Present (Denver: National Farmers Union, 1967), 9. 38 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June 1, 1931. 39 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 15, 1931. 40 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, December 1, 1931. 41 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1931; Fite, "John A. Simpson," 573; I.E. Howard to John A. Simpson, Dec. 26, 1931, Simpson Papers. 42 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1932. 43 Fite, "John A. Simpson," 575; Gilbert Fite, ed., "Simpson-Roosevelt Letters," Chronicles of Oklahoma, 337; Franklin D. Roosevelt to Simpson, March 7, 1932; Simpson to Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 28, 1932, Simpson Papers. 44 Fite, "Simpson-Roosevelt Letters," 339; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct. 1, 1932. 45 John A. Simpson to James A. Farley, Oct. 12, 1932, Simpson Papers; Fite, "John A. Simpson," 577. 46 The Oklahoma UnionFarmer, Nov. 15, 1932; James A. Farley to Simpson, Nov. 17, 1932, Simpson Papers. 47 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 1, 1932. 48 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May 15, 1932; Fite, "John A. Simpson," 578; John A. Simpson to E.H. Everson, Aug. 16, 1932, Simpson Papers. 49 Mildred Simpson to Gilbert I. Garretson, Sept. 29, 1933; E.A. Calvin to Simpson, October 5, 1933; W. Green to Simpson, Jan. 3, 1933; Simpson to W.H. Harvey, Feb. 13, 1934, Simpson Papers; Fite, "Simpson-Roosevelt Letters," 345. so Fite, "John A. Simpson," 583; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 1, 1933. 51 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April 1, 1934; John A. Simpson, The Military Voice of Agriculture (Oklahoma City: Mrs. John A. Simpson, 1934), 4;The Daily Oklahoman, Mar. 22, 1934.


1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1931; Jan. 15, 1931; Harry C. McDean, "The 'Okie" Migration As A Socio-Economic Necessity in Oklahoma," Red River Valley Historical Review, III (Winter, 1978), p. 80.


2 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 1, 1930. 3 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 15, 1931. 4 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March 15, 1931. 5 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May 15, 1931. 6 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 1, 1931; Lee Streeman interview with Rex Miller. 1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 1, 1931. 8 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 15, 1931. 9 Ibid· 10 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 1, 1931; Joseph G. Knapp, The Advance ofAmerican Cooperative Enterprise 1920-1945 (Danville, Ill.: The Interstate Printers & Publish�rs, Inc., 1973), p. 189; Dr. Michael Shadid Collection, Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma, "Special meeting of Directors," June 25, 1927, Fl, Fl. Hereafter cited as Shadid Collection. 11 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 15, 1931. 12 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 1, 1932; Minutes of Oklahoma Farmers Union Board Meeting, Jan. 16, 1932. 13 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March 15, 1932; National Union Farmer (Marissa, Ill.), Jan 2, 1937; Shadid Collection, May 7, 1929, April 2, 1935, Fl. 14 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 1, 1932; Daily News, Elk City, Oklahoma, Oct. 21, 1980. 15 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 1, 1932. 16 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 15, 1932. 17 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct. 1, 1932. 18 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 1, 1932. 19 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb. 1, 1933; Minutes ofOklahoma Farmers Union Board Meeting, April 1, 1933. 20 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar. 1, 1933. 21 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar. 15, 1933. 22 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 15, 1933. 23 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 15, 1933. 24 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug. 1, 1933; Minutes of Oklahoma Farmers Union Board Meeting, July 14, 1933.. 25 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 1, 1934. 26 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April 1, 1934. 27 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov. 1, 1934. 28 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 15, 1934. 29 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1935. 30 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1935; Minutes of the first meeting of the Red River Valley Local No. 237, Jan. 8, 1935, Frederick, Oklahoma. 31 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July 15, 1935; The Blue Valley Farmer, Sept. 8, 1938. 32 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 15, 1935. 33 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct. 15, 1935. 34 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov. 1, 1935. 35 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov. 15, 1935. 36 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1936. 37 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan. 15, 1936.


38 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 1, 1936. 39 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec. 1, 1936; National Union Fanner, Jan. 15, 1936. 48 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Mar. 1, 1937. 41 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April 15, 1937. 42 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Mar. 1, 1937; National Union Fanner, Mar. 15, 1937. 43 National Union Fanner, April 1, 1937. 44 National Union Fanner, Aug. 2, 1937. 45 National Union Fanner, April 15, 1937. 46 National Union Fanner, Dec. 1, 1937; Minutes of the National Farmers' Union Convention, November 16, 1937, Oklahoma City. 47 The National Union Fanner (Oklahoma City, Ok.), Feb. 9, 1938. 48 The National Union Fanner, July 9, 1938. 49 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, July 15, 1938. so The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April 1, 1939. 51 The National Union Fanner, Feb. 7, 1939; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 1, 1939, May 15, 1939. 52 The National Union Fanner, Sept. 22, 1939; Dora Barney to Rex Miller, Aug. 29, 1980, Miller Papers; Dora Barney, "The Tepee" (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Farmers Union, 1970), a pamphlet. 53 The National Union Fanner, Jan. 20, 1940. 54 The National Union Fanner, July 7, 1939; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 15, 1938. 55 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 15, 1939. 56 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept. 15, 1940. 57 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept. 15, 1940. 58 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Oct. 1, 1940; The National Union Fanner, Oct. 22, 1940. 59 The Oklahoma UnionFanner, Dec. 1, 1940; TheNational Union Fanner,Nov. 26, 1940; Tom W. Cheek to W.H. Eaton, November 9, 1940; Tom W. Cheek to Cecil Smith, Nov. 14, 1940, Miller Papers. 68 The Oklahoma UnionFanner,May 15, 1940; TheNationa/UnionFanner,Jan. 25, 1941. 61 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, July 1, 1941. 62 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept. 1, 1941. 63 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept. 15, 1941. 64 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Oct. 15, 1941. 65 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov. 1, 1941. 66 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec. 1, 1941. 67 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec. 15, 1941; Tom W. Cheek to Oklahoma Farmers Union Co-op, December 29, 1944, Miller Papers. 68 National Union Fanner, Sept. 15, 1945. 69 "The 39th Annual Convention: Oklahoma Farmers Union," Jan. 18-19, 1944, Oklahoma City. 70 "The 40th Annual Convention of the Oklahoma Farmers Educational and Cooperative Association of America," Jan. 16-17, 1945, Oklahoma City.



1 National Union Fanner, Sept. 15, 1945; "The 39th Annual Convention: Oklahoma Farmers Union," Jan. 18-19, 1944, Oklahoma City; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Jan. 1, 1947; "The 41st Annual Convention of the Oklahoma Educational and Cooperative Union of America," Jan. 15-16, 1946, Oklahoma City. 2 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Jan. 15, 1947; The Daily Oklahoman, Jan. 23, 1947; "Forty-Second Annual Convention," Jan. 21-22, 1947, Municipal Auditorium in Civic Center, Oklahoma City. 3 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 1, 1947. 4 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 15, 1947. 5 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April 15, 1947. 6 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, May 15, 1947. 1 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, June 15, 1947. 8 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb. 15, 1948. 9 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Mar. 15, 1948. 16 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1948. 11 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Oct., 1948. 12 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec., 1948. 13 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb., 1949. 14 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, July, 1949. 15 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, March, 1949. 16 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, August, 1949. 11 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb., 1950; "Forty-Third Annual Convention Oklahoma Farmers Union," Jan. 19, 20, 21, 1948, Municipal Auditorium in Civic Center, Oklahoma City. 18 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, September, 1949. 19 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, December, 1949; Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Directors, Dec. 24, 1949. 20 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April 16, 1951; Dale Kramer, TheTruth About the Farm Bureau (Denver: Golden Bell Press, 1964). 21 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, May 11, 1951. 22 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, June 15, 1951. 23 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept. 15, 1951. 24 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, February 9, 1952. 25 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, March 21, 1952. 26 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April 18, 1952. 27 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, May 16, 1952. 28 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, June 19, 1952. 29 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Aug. 15, 1952; Lee Streetman interview with Rex Miller, May 17, 1993. 36 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec. 19, 1952; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, March, 1953; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April, 1953; James C. Milligan interview with Spencer Bernard, Jan. 27, 1996. 31 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Aug., 1953. 32 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Aug., 1953. 33 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Oct., 1953. 34 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec,, 1953; Z.H. Lawter to Members, Sept. 17, 1954, Miller Papers.


35 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, March, 1954. 36 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Jan., 1955; James C. Milligan interview with Spencer Bernard, Jan. 27, 1996; James G. Patton to Ezra Taft Benson, July 2, 1954, Fl, Box 5, Homer Duffy Collection, Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma. Hereafter cited as Homer Duffy collection. 37 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb., 1955; James C. Milligan interview with John Stermer, Jan. 29, 1996; Homer Duffy to Herbert Fleming, July 9, 1955, Fl, Bl, Homer Duffy Collection. 38 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Aug., 1955; Z.H. Lawter, "The Oklahoma Farmers Union Cooperative," Aug. 27, 1955, a pamphlet. 39 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept., 1955. 40 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, December, 1955; Lee Streetman Interview with George W. Stone, May 19, 1994. 41 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, February, 1956; National Union Farmer, March, 1959; James C. Milligan interview with John Stermer, Jan. 29, 1996. 42 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Feb., 1969.


1 Lee Streetman interview with George Stone, May, 1994; Streetman interview with Rex Miller, May 17, 1993; The Oklahoma Union Fanner, May, 1953; Minutes of the Meeting of the Oklahoma Farmers Union Service Corporation, Feb. 20, 1957, Oklahoma City; Minutes of the Meeting of the Oklahoma Farmers Union Supply Association, Sept. 27, 1957, Oklahoma City; James C. Milligan interview with John Stermer, Jan. 29, 1996; James C. Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996; Daily Oklahoman, Jan. 16, 1956, Jan. 17, 1956; Annual Report, Oklahoma Farmers Union, Dec. 31, 1955, Dec. 31, 1979; James G. Patton to Homer Duffy, Jan. 26, 1956, Fl, Bl, Homer Duffy Collection; Leslie Miller, Jr. to Homer Duffy, Feb. 10, 1955, Fl, Bl, Homer Duffy Collection; Ramon Martin to Homer Duffy, July 12, 1956, F6, B6, Homer Duffy Collection. 2 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, March, 1956, Oct., 1958; National Union Fanner, April, 1959. 3 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, May, 1958. 4 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, July, 1959; Aug., 1959; James C. Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996; Milligan interview with John Stermer, • Jan. 29, 1996. 5 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Nov., 1959. 6 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Jan., 1960. 1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1960; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996. 8 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1960. 9 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Sept., 1960. lO The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Dec., 1960, Jan., 1961; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996. 11 The Oklahoma U�ion Fanner, March, 1961. 12 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, April, 1961. 13 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, June, 1961; George W. Stone, "Dedication Program of New Building," Dec. 12, 1961, Miller Papers. 14 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, August, 1961; Clem Cottom interview, Sept. 9, 1986. Copy on file in OFU headquarter, Oklahoma City. 15 The Oklahoma Union Fanner, Nov., 1961.


16 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1962. 11 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1962; George W. Stone to Co-Worker, February 23, 1962, Miller Papers. 18 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1962; Feb., 1964. 19 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1962. 20 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1963. 21 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1963; March, 1963. 22 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1963. 23 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1963 24 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1963. 25 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1964. 26 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1964. 27 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1964. 28 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1964; Oct., 1964. 29 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1965. 30 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1965; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996. 31 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1965. 32 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1965. 33 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1965. 34 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1965. 35 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1965. 36 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec., 1965. 37 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1966. 38 Ibid.; Jim Patton to Delegates, March 16, 1966, Miller Papers. 39 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1966. 40 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1966. 41 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1966. 42 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1966; Jay Summers to George Stone, July 15, 1966, Miller papers. 43 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1966. 44 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1967. 45 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1967. 46 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1967. 47 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1967. 48 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1967. 49 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1967. 50 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1967; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996. 51 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1967. 52 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1967. 53 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1968. 54 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1968. 55 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1968; Robert B. Ward to Rev. Max E. Glenn, Aug. 21, 1986, Miller Papers; Bob Ward, (ed.), "The Older Worker," Green ThumbJnc., VI (Sept., 1986), p. I. 56 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1968.


57 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec., 1968; Daily Oklahoman, Sept. 23, 1979. 58 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1973. 59 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1973. 60 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1973. 61 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1974; Daily Gazette, (Idabel), Jan. 15, 1974. 62 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar., 1974; James C. Milligan interview with John Stermer, Jan. 29, 1996. 63 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1974. 64 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1974. 65 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1974. 66 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1975. 67 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1975. 68 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1975. 69 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1976; Lee Streetman interview with J.D. Fleming, May 27, 1993. Copy in OFU headquarters, Oklahoma City. 70 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1976. 71 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1977. 72 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1977. 73 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1977, Sept., 1977; The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1978; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996. 74 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1978. 75 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1979. 76 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1979. 77 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1980; James C. Milligan interview with John Stermer, Jan. 29, 1996. 78 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1980. 79 Lisa M. Stone, "The National Farmers Union: The Voice of the Family Farmer," An Unpublished Senior Paper presented to the Department of History, Humanities, and Government, Oral Roberts University, Nov. 20, 1989; Daily News, Anadarko, Oklahoma, Jan. 13, 1980, Phoenix & Times Democrat, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Jan. 10, 1980; Tulsa Tribune, Feb. 12, 1980; Oklahoma City Times, Feb. 12, 1980; Milligan interview with George Stone, Jan. 15, 1996.


1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1980. 2 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1980. 3 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1980. 4 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1980. 5 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, August, 1980. 6 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, October, 1980. 7 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1981. 8 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1981. 9 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1981. 10 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1981. 11 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1981. 12 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1981. 13 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1981.


14 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1981. 15 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1981. 16 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Nov., 1981. 17 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec., 1981. 18 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1982. 19 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1982. 20 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1982. 21 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1982. 22 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1982; James C. Milligan interview with Spencer Bernard, Jan. 27, 1996. 23 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1982; James C. Milligan interview with Spencer Bernard, Jan. 27, 1996. 24 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1982. 25 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1982. 26 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1982. 27 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1982; James C. Milligan interview with Spencer Bernard, Jan. 27, 1996. 28 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1983. 29 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1983. 30 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Feb., 1983. 31 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1983. 32 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1983. 33 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1983. 34 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1983. 35 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1983; Hollis News, Hollis, Oklahoma, Sept. 9, 1982. 36 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1983. 37 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec., 1983; Spencer Bernard, Accepting the Challenge of Destiny (Detroit: Harlo Press, 1992), p. 207. 38 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1984. 39 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1984. 40 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1984. 41 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1984; Tulsa World, Mar. 3, 1984. 42 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1985. 43 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1985.


1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, March, 1985. 2 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1985; Jack Kelsey, "Southwest Farm Crisis Rally," April, 27, 1985, a pamphlet. 3 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, May, 1985. 4 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, July, 1985. 5 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Aug., 1985. 6 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Sept., 1985; James C. Milligan interview with Jack Kelsey, March 25, 1996. 1 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Oct., 1985. 8 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Dec., 1985.


9 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Jan., 1986. 10 The Oklahoma Union Farmer. Feb., 1986. 11 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, Mar., 1986. 12 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, April, 1986; Woodward News (Woodward, Oklahoma, May 7, 1986; Northwest Oklahoman and Ellis County News, Feb. 13, 1986. 13 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, June, 1986. 14 Farm News and Views, Oct., 1986. 15 Farm News and Views, March, 1987. 16 Farm News and Views, May, 1987. 17 Farm News and Views, June, 1987. 18 Farm News and Views, Jan., 1988; James C. Milligan with Jack Kelsey, March 25, 1996. 19 Farm News and Views, Feb., 1988. ZO Farm News and Views, March, 1988. 21 Farm News and Views, May, 1988. 22 Farm News and Views, June, 1988. 23 Farm News and Views, Sept., 1988; James C. Milligan withJack Kelsey, March 25, 1996. 24 Farm News and Views, Nov., 1988. 25 Farm News and Views, February, 1989. 26 Farm News and Views, Oct., Dec., 1989. 27 Farm News and Views, Jan., 1990. 28 Farm News and Views, March, 1990. 36 The Journal Record, February 19, 1991; The Daily Oklahoman, Feb. 26, 1991, Feb. 21, 1991; Tulsa World, Feb. 19, 1991; The Sunday Oklahoman, Feb. 17, 1991; Farm News and Views, March, 1991. 31 Farm News and Views, Aug., 1991. 32 Farm News and Views, Nov., 1991. 33 Farm News and Views, Feb., 1992; James C. Milligan with Jack Kelsey, March 25, 1996.


1 Farm News and Views, Feb., 1992; The Sunday Oklahoman, February 23, 1992; Tulsa World, February 22, 1992; The Daily Oklahoman, February 14, 1992; The Journal Record, Jan. 10, 1992; The Daily Oklahoman, Jan. 22, 1992; James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996. 2 Farm News and Views, March, 1992; The Daily Oklahoman, February 23, 1992; The Journal Record, Jan. 29, 1992; The Journal Record, Feb. 19, 1992. 3 Farm News and Views, May, 1992; Bernard, Accepting the Challenge ofDestiny, p. 195. 4 Farm News and Views, April, 1992. 5 Farm News and Views, June, 1992; James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996. 6 Farm News and Views, July, 1992. 1 Farm News & Views, August, 1992. 8 Ibid., p. 5. 9 Farm News & Views, Sept., 1992. 1 ° Farm News & Views, Oct., 1992.


11 Farm News & Views, Nov., 1992. 12 Farm News and Views, January, 1993. 13 Farm News and Views, March, 1993; Oklahoma Farmers Union 88th Annual Convention Program, Feb. 12-14, 1993, Oklahoma City. 14 Saturday Oklahoman & Times, Feb. 19, 1994; The Daily Oklahoman, Feb. 18, 1994; Hackney Funeral Home "Obituary," Feb. 20, 1994; Tulsa World, Feb. 18, 1994. 15 Farm News and Views, April, 1993. 16 Farm News & Views, May, 1993. 17 Ibid., p. 12. 18 Farm News & Views, June, 1993. 19 Farm News & Views, July, 1993. 26 Farm News & Views, August/September, 1993. 21 Farm News & Views, Oct., 1993. 22 Farm News & Views, November, 1993, December, 1993. 23 Farm News & Views, April, 1994. 24 Farm News & Views, July, 1994. 25 Farm News & Views, August, 1994; James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996. 26 Farm News & Views, Oct., 1994. 27 Farm News & Views, Nov., 1994. 28 Farm News & Views, Dec., 1994. 29 Farm News and Views, Jan., 1995. 36 Farm News and Views, Feb., 1995. 31 Farm News and Views, March, 1995. 32 Farm News and Views, April, 1995. 33 Farm News and Views, May, 1995. 34 Farm News and Views, June, 1995. 35 Farm News and Views, Nov., 1995; James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996. 36 James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996; James C. Milligan interview with Ray L. Wulf, Feb. 22, 1996. 37 James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, Feb. 22, 1996. 38 Farm News & Views, April, 1996. 39 Farm News & Views, May, 1996. 46 Farm News & Views, June, 1996. 41 Grassroots, Vol. 2 No. 13, July 5, 1996. 42 Larry W. Mitchell to "Fly-in Participants," July 15, 1996. 43 The Daily Oklahoman, July 7, 1996; Oral Testimony of Phillip Klutts Before the Committee on Banking and Financial Services, July 6, 1996, Elk City, Oklahoma. 44 The Daily Oklahoman, July 17, 1996. 45 Robert Steer to Mark Newman, July 22, 1996. 46 James C. Milligan interview with Phillip Klutts, July 19, 1996.



AAA, 55,71,77,79,80,81,88 Abbott, Melody, 149 Adams, Jesse, 11 Agricultural Marketing Act (1929), 47,50,63 Albert, Carl, 139,147 Aldrich, Charlie, 96 Alfred Murrah Building, 235 Alien and Sedition Acts, 29 Allard, Lou S., 131 Allard, Orville S., 35,131,147,148,157 Allen, Wayne, 192,195 Andersop, John, 165 Argo, Rev. Kermit, 119 Armour, Jack, 118,132,142 Armstrong, J.T., 110 Ashley, Lillard G., 129,205 Atkinson, W.P., 141,142 Auringer, Jean, 148


Bailey, Joan, 151,187,188,193 Barnes, Julius H., 46 Barney, Dora, 86,97,102,106,125, 136,150,193 Bartlett, Dewey, 146 Barrett, Bill, 234 Barrett, Charles S., 15,41,44,45 Barton, T.J., 76 Bassel, Violet, 176 Bastedo, W.W., 137 Bates, Jim, 209,217 Baxter, B., 231 Beall, Roscoe, 97,113,132 Beasley, Jack, 96 Bell, A.E., 227 Bell, Harlan, 108 Bellmon, Henry, 154 Bennett, Dr. Henry G., 80 Benson, Ezra Taft, 113,116 Bergland, Bob, 155,178 Bergman, Alan, 225 Bernard, Spencer T., 113,114,132, 169,175,216,224

Berry, John W., 118 Bever, Wendell, 144 Billinghausen, Louis, 176 Billings, H.W., 118 Billington, Jim, 229 Bilyeu, Gerald, 176 Birdwell, Joe G., 149 Black, John D., 47 Block, John R., 165,169,172,177, 178 Boatner, Roy, 155 Boecher, Sen. Roy, 103 Bodine, John, 166 Bolenbaugh, Neil, 240 Bolinger, John, 29 Booze, Lee, 177 Bond, Leslie, 150 Boren, David, 163,228 Bowman, Doris, 177 Boyd, Betty, 236 Boyd, Elmer, 102 Bradford, Marilyn, 150 Brady, W.C., 236 Brainard, Derald, 172,192,195 Brainard, Jeanette, 172,177 Brain Trust, 55 Brannan, Charles F., 99,104 Brannan Plan, 101,152 Brashears, Bart, 188, 205,211 Bray, S.C., 100 Brewster, Bill, 219,233,236 Briggs, John, 131 Briscoe, Bill, 127,132,133,140, 144,156 Brixley, Harvey, 177 Bromley, Ima Cheek, 103 Brown, Harold, 136 Brown, M.B., 19 Bruner, Lewis, Jr., 240 Burchfield, J.L., 131 Burtnett, Flo, 209,227 Bush, George, 207,216,221,223 Butler, B.S., 79 Butz, Earl L., 152



Callahan, James Y., 7,19 Callen, Lonnie, 177 Capper-Volstead Act, 1922, 134 Carpenter, Cy, 168,183,195,234 Carter, A.J., 16 Carter, Jimmy, 158,163,165,178 Cattlemen's Caravan, 116 CCC, 87,88 Chapman, Oscar, 104 Cheek, Torn, 41,50, 59-89,90,91 Chism, Tommy, 138 Christianson, Edwin, 143 Clark, W.J., 19 Clifton, Anna, 137 Clinton, Bill, 219,223,224,225, 226,237,240 Cobb, Sen. Joe Bailey, 103 Coburn, Torn, 240 Cochran, W.T., 11,12 Cockrum, B.C., 215 Cody, L.N., 34 Coffey, Vincent, 155,157,170,210, 211,212,220,222,238,223,226, 229,230,240 Coffman, Mrs. J.H., 110 Colclazier, Joe, 165,194,195 Collier, Will, 136 Cornbrink, Henry, 137 Compton, David, 149 Conrad, Kent, 225 Condreay, Cecil, 136,194,195,215 Conners, J.P., 16,19 Constitutional Convention, 20, 21 Cook, Mrs. Roy A., 110 Cook, Royal, 127 Cook, Sam, 233 Cope, Billy, 192,195 Coppock, Stanley, 93 Cottom, Chet, 177 Cottom, Clem, 136 Coulter, Herb, 131 Coxsey, Jacob S., 48 Craig, Harold J., 138 Crockett, Ashley, 9 Crossland, James A., 153,154



Dacus, Byron, 105,140 Daniels, Frank, 221,230 Darnell, B.L., 58 Darnell, Kerensa, 193,226,232,233 Datin, Alice, 215 Daugherty, Bob, 172 Davis, Beverly, 149 Davis, Bonnie, 198 Davis, Chester, 77 Davis, Chuck, 96 Davis, John H., 104 Davis, Marilyn, 150 Dawkins, Gerald, 126 Daws, S.O., 16,18,19,20 Dean, A., 180 Dean, E.K., 104,132 Dechant, Tony T., 138,143,146,148,157 Deering, F., 180 Denton, Paul, 166 Denny, W., 199 Detrick, Terry, 190,192,194,195, 199,206,207,210 Dewey, Thomas E., 99 Dickerson, E., 84,93,97 Dickerson, Robert, 78 Dickinson, M.F., 89 DobryMills, Inc., 114,115 Dockray, Rudy, 154 Dodd, Harold, 168 Doll, Cecil, 215 Donaldson, T.W., 11 Donnelly, Ignatius, 7 Dornblaser, O.F., 71,108 Dorton, Vernon, 172 Dole, Bob, 163,168 Dolezal, William, 93,124,127,132 Dreith, Darlinda, 149 Drew, Virginia, 205,215 Dudek, Edd, 150 Duffy, Charles, 115 Duffy, E., 19,41,92 Duffy, Horner, 41,58,73,89,90119,122,125,131,132 Dunn, Mike, 225 Dunn, W.R., 98


Ealdor, Rosemary, 164 Eatherly, Jim, 172 Eberhard, M.B., 41,58,73,85 Eckrich, Dr. J.A., 66,67 Edwards, Gladys Talbott, 107 Eisenhower, Dwight, 113,114,130,134,135 Eklund, John, 138 Enabling Act, 19 English, Glenn, 181,219,221,223 Erter, Edward, 215 Espy, Mike, 223,224,229,237 Estes, P.C., 16 Everson, E.H., 56,75,81


Fair Labor Standards Act' 90 Fallin, Mary, 233 Farmer Alliances, 5,6 Farmers' Holiday, 67 Farmer-Labor Reconstruction League, 43 Farmers Union Exchange, 31 Farmers Union Insurance Company, 34 Ferguson, Forrest, 136,142 Fields, John, 33,43 Finch, Calvin, 180 Finley, Ira M., 75 Firey, Bill, 177,215 Firey, Sylvia, 177 Fitzgerald, Q., 180 Flanagan, William, 152 Fleming, J.D., 155,172,173,191, 202,206,207,224,230 Fleming, Roger, 104 Florence, Russ, 198 Foley, Ed W., 90,93 Ford, Gerald, 154 Franklin, William M., 93,94,95 Freeman, Orville, 134,135,139,146,148


Garrison, William, 23 Gary, Raymond, 118 GATT, 203,219,223,232

Gasser, C.A., 118 Gentry, J.B., 150 George, Henry, 48 Gilbreth, Hubert, 150 Glenn, Max, 198,199 Glickman, Dan, 237 Gore, Sen. Albert, 51 Golden, Sam, 180 Graham, Pauline, 148 Grange, 4,5,7 Graves, C.P., 123 Graves, J.M., 41,58,73,80,93,106 Gray, Gus, 106,113,132 Green Com Rebellion, 22,23 Green Thumb, Inc., 149,180,208, 230,234 Greiser, Emil, 202,224,230 Gresham, Isaac Newton' 7,8 ' 9,10, 11,12,13,19,108 Griffin, E.A., 19 Grimes, Gerald, 208


Haire, Arvie A., 141 Hakel, William D., 153 Hale, John, 142 Hale, Mrs. William H., 136 Hall, David, 151,153 Hamby, Clifford, 133,153,154,156 Hampton, "Uncle" Sam, 15 Hanraty, Peter, 21 Hansen, B.C., 19 Hardy, Clarence, 240 Harper, Carl, 131 Harris, Art, 114 Harris, Fred R., 148 Harris, W.A., 10 Harrison, Earl, 102 Harrison, J.W., 16 Harryman, D., 176,183,199,210,229 Haught, Douglas, 150 Haught, Mark, 167 Haught, Sherry, 150 Hayes, Paul, 190 Hays, James H., 69,93,113,132 Hays, Ron, 175,224 Hazelton, AL., 150 Hefner, Robert A., 151


Henderson, Ray V., 177 Hendrickson, S.H., 58,73,86 Henry, W.D., 34 Henry, Robert, 163,207 Hern, Marvella, 137 Hester, Smith, 139 Hill, Marion L., 118 Hodges, Dick, 152,155,180,190, 198,206 Hoffman, Janice, 149 Hoover, Herbert, 46,47 Hones, Kenneth W., 89,96 Horlic, Frank, 118 Horton, Laura, 102 Houchin, J.W., 19 Houchin, O.B., 118 Housh, W.D., 43 Houston, A.F., 123 Huff, Charlie, 132 Huff, Clarence E., 45,47 Hughes, Charles Evans, 79 Humble, Elzie, 152 Hyde, C.H., 34,58,66 IFAP, 106,130,149,153,159


Igo, Mrs. Frankie, 131 Indiahoma Signal, 19 Indiahoma Union, 16,17,19 Indian Territory Farmers Union, 18 Inhofe, J., 233,236,240 Irvin, J.D., 19 Istook, E., 233


Jackson, Carrie, 180 Jackson, Paul, 202,233,234,238,239,240 Jamieson, Professor W.C., 64 Jarrell, Jimmie L., 155,160-183 Jeans, Bill, 166,172 Jech, Delvin, 107,170,192, 195,210,211,212,233 Jech, Robert, 137 Jeffords, T.M., 19 Jesse, Juanita, 215 Johnson, Edgar, 118 Johnson, F.L., 118


Johnson, Glen, 233 Johnson, James E., 216 Johnson, Leonard, 16 Johnson, Lewis, 153 Johnson, Lyndon, 135,139,140,146 Jones, Jerry D., 205 Jones, Maurice, 165 Jones, Ronald, 96 Justice, Bernice, 150


Kadavy, Freddy, 107 Kardokus, Don, 131 Karner, Herb, 146 Kastl, Emil, 125,127,131,132,133, 134,136,138,187,188,190,224 Keating, Frank, 232,233,235,239 Keeney, H.G., 56 Kelsey, Jack, 133,146,162,184211,215,224 Kennedy, John, 134,135,136 Kerr, Robert S., 105,114,118 Kilby, Judy, 148 Kinder, Joe Ed, 238 King, Earl S., 96 King, R.D., 15 Klutts, Phillip, 182,190,192,194, 195,198,206,207,210,211-243 Koltner, J.B., 16 Kosanke, W.R., 150 Kretchmar, Henry, 240


Lafollette, Sen. Robert M., 50 Lamirand, Bob C., 154 Lancaster, S.F., 93 Lancaster, W.R., 16 Langston, Czar, 139 Largent, Steve, 236 Latta, Olive E., 110 Lawless, Debbie, 153 Lawson, W.O., 72,118 Lawter, Z.A.,26,27,32, 74,92,99 ,106,111, 112,113,115,127,132 Lease, Mary Ellen, 7,68 Leasure, L.L., 108 Lee, C.C., 19 Lee, Sen. Josh, 83,86

Leist, M.C., 223,239. Legg, Jeny, 172 Legge, Alexander, 47,48 Lemke, William, 57,86 Lesch, Herny, 127,133,154,156 Liles, Curtis, 220,223,238 Liles, Leonard, 155,190,215 Lilly, D.P., 180 Lively, Dale S., 163,176,177,194 Loftiss, Doyle, 171 Long, Huey, 80 Long, Lloyd, 172 Looney, Celeste, 166 Love, J.R., 118 Lowden, Frank 0., 46 Lucas, Frank, 234

M Madigan, Edward, 221 Mahr, Tom, 225 Malcom, J.A., 18 Manion, Mrs. Howard, 117 Marino, Rosalie, 177 Marland, E.W., 75,77 Martin, Ramon, 111,112,126 Massad, Tony, 146 Massingale, Sam, 86 Matthews, O.H., 19 Mccarley, Bill, 240 McCarty, Bill, 168 McCarty, J.D., 141 McClain, D.D., 146 McCullum, Gene, 148 McDonald, Leon J. "T-Bone," 31 McGovern, George, 135,147 McFall, Ken, 137 McGreevey, Dr. W.R., 86,90 McGuire, Bird S., 19 Mclntuff, Ethel Barrick, 98 McKee, Dorothy, 177 McManus, James, 144 McMurtrey, R.G., 176,192,210,211 McNary, Sen. Charles L., 52 McNary-Haughen Bill, 45 McQueen, Nelson, 184,186,187 McReynolds, James C., 79 Meadows, Viola, 137 Meek, Royce, 210,211

Meisenhimer, M.R., 118 Mercer, Don, 142 Merrifield, F.R., 154 Metcalfe, Howard, 109 Mildren, Jack, 208,232 Miller, C.B., 157 Miller, Janelle, 107 Miller, Rex, 40,137,138,194,198, 218,224 Miskovsky, Sen. George, 103 Mitchell, Al, 108 Moeller, Mike, 171 Moeller, Ruth, 215 Mondale, Walter, 152,155 Monroney, Mike, 148 Moody, Glenn, 170 Moore, J.S., 16 Moore, Preston, 125 Moore, Stanley, 162,168,197,200 Morgan, Dee, 155 Morgan, Sherman, 142 Morris, J.B., 11,12 Motz, Ken, 168 Moyer, Kris Ann Weidner, 177 Mulder, Lee, 168 Mungle, Jene, p.155,156,157,173, 176,183,190,192,195,207,210, 211,212,220,221,223,228 Murphy, Pat, 75 Murphy, Robert, 163 Murray, Cicero, 77 Murray, Johnston, 103,104 Murray, J.S., 19 Murray, N.C., 15 Murray, William H., 16,18,19,20, 50,51,66,67,75,147 Muse, Scott, 216 Mussolini, Benito, 49

N NAFTA, 219,220,221,223,225, 229,232 Nall, Henry, 138 Nall, Roy T., 105 Naman, Jay, 153 Nash, Robert, 240 NBC, 52,55,81 Nelson, Geri, 215 263

Nelson, Odis, 102 New Deal, 71,77,83 Nichols, Beatrice, 110 Nichols, C.V., 118 Nichols, M.A., llO Nichols, Mrs. Anna, llO Nichols, Oma Gay, 203,205 Nick, Bob, 229 Nickels, Don, 190,191,240 Nigh, George, 157,163,165,169 Nix, D.A., 16 Nixon, Albin, 150 Nixon, Richard, 152 Norick, Ron, 235 Norman, E.E., 34,41,53 Norris, Sen. George, 77 Norton, M.T., 111 NRA, 71,77,�H NYA, 77,87,88

Populists, 7 Posey, G.F., 137 Pound, T.J., 11 Powell, R.J., 132 Powers, Lorena, 78 Pratt, B.A., 78 Preble, Ed, 132,137,170,171, 199,203 Preble, Ed, Jr., 208,220,229, 231,240 Price, Glen, 172 Producers Co-operative Oil Mill, 149 Pyle, O.P., 19


Radcliffe, Ben, 155,168 Rains, Walter, 118 Rankin, Joe, 234 Reagan, Ronald, 158,165,170, 0 172,176,178,188 Reeves, Russell, 142 Ogden, John, 165,170,190,192,199,203,205,208 Reger, Ed, 34,67,85 Reid, George, 137 Oldman, Joyce, 107 Reno, Milo, 41,44,47,51,67,68 Olson, Ole L., 89 Renscher, Henry, 221 Osborn, Henry, 80 Rhodes, O.B., 11 Owens, Earl, 137 Rich, Jeremy, 237 Owens, Juanita, 215 Richardson, Bill, 155 p Richeson, Carl, 166,177,190 Pancoast, Melva, 111,136 Ricker, AW., 56 Panetta, Leon, 239, 240 Rickerd, R.L., 67,68 Parkinson, J.A., 19 Ridgeway, J.J., 118 Patterson, Greene B., 16 Riggan, Joe, 40,ll2,131,152,176 Patton, James G., 87,88,97,99,108, Riggs, Aries, Jr., 221 116,126,127,128,138,140 Roach, Thomas, 19 Paul, Maj. John R., 137 Roberts, Owen, 79 Peeler, Sondra, 148 Roberts, Pat, 236 Perrin, Billy, 157,192,195,205 Robins, Larry, 177 ,207,210,211 Rogers, C.N., 72 Perryman, Roy, 229,231,240 Rolph, Herbert, 87 Peters, Pauline, 111 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 54,55,81,83 Petrick, John J., 194, 195 Ross, A.F., 16 Phelps, G.S., 118 Route 66, 87 Phillips, Leon C. "Red", 84 Rowland, A., 177 Pierce, G.W., ll8 Royce, James W., 240 Pierson, Russell, 151 Rural Electrification Authority, Pond, Bill, 229 77,90


Russell, Campbell, 16,43 Russell, James, 215


Samples, Tom, 118 Sanders, Regina, 236 Schieber, Don, 216 Schieffer, Bernice, 204 Schieffer, Wally, 195,199,208,210, 212,228,231,233 Schieffer, Weldon, 204 Schiltz, M.A., 127,133,134,155 Schiltz, Ray, 155,170,188,206, 210,222 Schmidt, E., 226 Scott, Joe C., 95 Scott, J.W., 19 Seaboard Farms Inc., 241 Seamster, Lee, 11 Secodine, Howard, 194,195 Shadid, Dr. Michael M., 65,66 Shedeck, W.E., 132 Shephard, Barbara, 208 Shepherd, Merle, 199,203 Sherrer, Gary, 202,204,206,208, 223,231 Shockey, Windell, 206 Shoup, Herb, 118,131,137,154,155 Simpson, John Andrew, 24-57,73 Simpson, Mildred, 83 Simpson, William, 50 Sisk, W.S., 10,11 Smallwood, Don, 154,206 Smith, Alfred E., 46 Smith, Andrew H., 58,72,73 Smith, I;>ane, 105 Smith, J.F., 39 Smith, Mrs. Glenn, 177,215 Smith, Walter, 85 Snow, Henry, 34 Socialists, 22,23 Solberg, Harvey, 96 Sparks, Eva Marie, 216 Spies, Wayne, 238 Stallard, H.H., 32 Stanford, Leland, 127,133,134,224 Steichen, John, 106

Stephens, James, 180 Stratton, J.G., 150 Stejskal, Eunice, 111 Stencel, John, 167,221 Stermer, John, 40,118,119,124,131, 152,157,179,195,224 Stewart, Wanda, 137 Stiles, Lee R., Jr., 157,166 Stillwell, H. Robert, 93,106 Stine, J.P., 115 Stockman, David, 188 Stolz, Nancy, 107 Stone, Dennis, 177 Stone, George W., 120159,183,195,224 Stone, W.A., 122 Stottman, Ted, Jr., 131 Stovall, Green, 118 Stratton, Jess G., 126 Streetman, H. Lee, 157,187,198, 203,217,228 Strong, Benton J., 104 Stults, RA., 233,240 Sullivan, C.E., 19 Sutherland, George, 79 Swart, Herman, 93,113,126 Swenson, L., 203,216,219,221 Synar, Mike, 181


Taber, Paul, 104 Talbott, Glenn, 96,128 Tarver, James D., 141 Tate, Ernest, 105 Taylor, W.O., 23 Teel, Paul, 137,199,203,208 Teel, Truman, 171 Templeton, Pat Neft, 89 Templeton, R.L., 89 Texas Farmers Union, 15 The Graphic Truth, 9 The Oklahoma Union Farmer, 32 Thomas, R.G., 108 Thomas, Ross, 111 Thomas, Sen. Elmer, 48,83,99 Thompson, Burton, 188,199,201,204,206,209 Thompson, Debi, 233


Thompson, T., 188 Thornborough, W.B., 118 Thurmond, Sen. Strom, 99,221 Tritsch, Cheryl, 148 Truman, Harry, 95,99,104 Tucker, Russell, 210,211,212, 220,226,231 Turner, J.S., 11,12 Turner Turnpike, 112 TVA, 77

U-V Underwood, Medford, 221 Union Party, 86 U.S. v. Butler, 79 Van Devanter, Willis, 79 Vandiver, W.G., 19 Vesecky, John, 83 Vogt, Stanley, 107 Voise, Henry, 177


Walker, C., 199,203 Wallace, Henry A., 55, Wallace, Wayne, 145 Walters, David, 208,210,223 Ward, RJ., 16 Wassell, L.C., 177 Waters, Jackie, 142,148,149 Watkins, Wes, 155,163,232,233 Watkins, Lou, 205 Watts, J.C., 236,240 Weathers, K.L., 142 Weaver, James B., 7 Webb, Barbara, 202 Weedn, Trish, 237 Wegner, Willard G., 108 Weideman, Anna Belle, 163,177 West, J.A., 19 White, E.O., 67,118 Whittington, Joann, 235 Wickard, Claude B., 88,104 Wideman, Mrs. Carl, 142 Willham, Oliver S., 142 Williams, "Cowboy" Pink, 127 Williams, Greg, 180 Williams, LeRoy, 215 Williams, Louis, 127,132,134,135,


145,155 Wilson, Bill, 240 Wilson, Milburn L., 47,54 Wingo, George, 148 Winsett, Wayne, 150 Witten, T.A., 43 Wood, Mrs. Ruth M., 111 Woods, J. Earnest, 26 Woolley, Don L., 138,139 Work, Mrs. Jimmy, 177 Workman, Nancy, 205 Worthington, Henry, 15,108 WPA, 77,85,87 Wright, Harold, 168 Wright, Nelson, 215 Wright, Houston, 77 Wulf, Ray L., 229,230,235,236

y Yeutter, Clayton, 207 Young, H.E., 177