Interviews and videos: Oklahoma Hall of Fame names 2019 inductees, including Gray Frederickson, John Herrington, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts
An abbreviated version of this story appears in Friday's The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Hall of Fame names 2019 inductees
For Gray Frederickson, the opportunity to join the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is an even better than winning an Oscar.
“Oscar is an award for best picture. Oklahoma Hall of Fame is an award for me, so that’s why this is the best,” said Frederickson, who won his Academy Award in 1975 for producing “The Godfather: Part II.”
“It’s special because of Oklahoma. I’m Oklahoma. I mean, it’s like another appendage for me. It’s part of me; it’s who I am. And to be accepted by Oklahoma is really the pinnacle of everything for me.”
A trailblazing astronaut, two football stars who later became Congressmen, and the Choctaw chief who suggested the state’s name also are among the eclectic 2019 class of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The honorees were revealed Tuesday at the hall’s annual announcement luncheon at its Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
This year’s honorees are Frederickson, of Oklahoma City; James Day, of Pond Creek, an oilman who was chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president of the Noble Corporation; Tricia Everest, of Oklahoma City, a philanthropist and former state assistant attorney general; John Herrington, of Wetumka, an astronaut who was the 143rd person and first Native American to walk in space; John Nickel, of Muskogee, who established Greenleaf Nursery Company Wholesale, now one the nation’s largest wholesale producers of shrubs and trees; J.C. Watts Jr., of Eufaula, a former University of Oklahoma and Canadian Football League star, past Congressman and author; and Steve Largent, of Tulsa, a NFL Hall of Famer, former Congressman and CEO.
Also, Choctaw Chief Allen Wright, whose Choctaw name was Kiliahote, will be inducted posthumously. A Presbyterian minister, diplomat, linguist and rancher, he is best known for suggesting the name “Oklahoma” for the new territory during negotiations of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Treaty of 1866.
“Being inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is Oklahoma’s highest honor,” said Shannon L. Rich, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum, in a statement. “The recognition of our state’s greatest asset – our people – is the foundation upon which our organization was created.”
For Largent, Oklahoma’s people prompted him to return to his native Tulsa with his wife Terry after retiring a few years ago.
“It was my family, my wife’s family, and we just love the people in Oklahoma. We’re Oklahomans through and through,” said Largent, who was a record-setting receiver with the Seattle Seahawks.
“I was kind of an everyday, red clay-raised kid who played baseball and football in Oklahoma, and loved both those sport. It was just kind of a normal guy. That’s how I would like to be remembered.”
Although he no longer lives in Oklahoma, Herrington said his upbringing here was core to his success with the space program and beyond.
“It goes back to the idea of a work ethic and my family. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a mechanic on the pump station out here south of Wetumka. He could take apart a diesel engine and put it back together, but he had a minimal education growing up. So, I think being able to work with your hands and being able to appreciate how to solve problems is really part and parcel to what I came from,” said Herrington, who now lives in New Meadows, Idaho, and works with Native American students on the Duck Valley Reservation.
“A member of the Chickasaw Nation, I’m honored that I have the opportunity to share my background and my growing up with kids.”
As a fourth-generation Oklahoman, Everest said being named to the hall of fame is an especially meaningful honor.
“To have a generational start from the very beginning of statehood … and to know that the inductees that I have been fortunate to meet and to follow are including me in that, I believe it’s having the state of Oklahoma have that faith that I’m to be a good steward,” she said. “I really think of it as a start to what we can all build together to make it a better state.”