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Oklahoma Arts CouncilOklahoma Arts Council

Governor George Patterson Nigh

by Leonard D. McMurry

Commissioned by the Oklahoma State Legislature
Dedicated 1982
Second Floor: Hall of Governors

Governor Henry Louis Bellmon by Leonard D. McMurry

The Artwork

George Patterson Nigh was born in McAlester, Oklahoma June 9, 1927, son of William R. and Irene Crockett Nigh. He attended public schools in McAlester and Eastern Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College at Wilburton, Oklahoma. He served in the U.S. Navy from June 1945 through September 1946. In 1950, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from East Central State College, Ada, Oklahoma.

From 1951 to 1959, Nigh alternated between service in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and as a teacher at McAlester High School. He served as Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma from 1959 to 1963.

Taking office at age 31, he became the youngest state Lieutenant Governor in the United States. In 1963, Nigh became the 17th Governor in Oklahoma, filling an unexpired 9-day term following the resignation for Gov. J. Howard Edmondson. He was elected Lieutenant Governor again in 1966, 1970, and 1974. From 1979 to 1987, he served two elected terms as Governor and was the first Oklahoma Governor to serve consecutive terms, but took office five days early, as a result of outgoing Governor David Boren's swearing-in as a U.S. Senator. He was reelected in 1982, carrying all 77 of the state's counties. Upon leaving office, Nigh served as the president of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond from 1992 to 1997.

The Artist

Known as Oklahoma's own "Michelangelo," Leonard McMurry was born to a family of prominent cotton farmers in the Texas panhandle. McMurry moved to Oklahoma in 1955 and then lived in Stilwell and Oklahoma City. Under the teachings of sculptors Carl Mose and Ivan Mestrovic, McMurry perfected his craft. His magnificent sculptures of Oklahoma icons can be seen across the state including the '89er statue on Couch Drive in Oklahoma City and the Praying Hands that grace the lawns of Oral Roberts University.

In accordance with Oklahoma's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1982, McMurry was commissioned to sculpt busts of 21 past Oklahoma Governors. The Hall of Governors exudes Oklahoman's pride in her past legislative guardians. Regarding his works, McMurry states, "Each piece must have a soul, a living quality that's far more important than just physical representation. A piece has to have guts: the strength, power, and dignity, that makes it a monument." McMurry has accomplished that very feat within the grandiose Hall of Governors in which visitors may come face to face with naturalistic representation of Oklahoma leaders.