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Governor James Howard Edmondson, 1959-1963

by Leonard D. McMurry

Commissioned by the Oklahoma State Legislature
Dimensions: 25 height
Dedicated 1982

Governor James Howard Edmondson, 1959-1963 by Leonard D. McMurry

The Artwork

James Howard Edmondson was the youngest governor in the history of the state. Edmondson was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, September 27, 1925. He attended elementary and secondary schools in Muskogee and enrolled in the University of Oklahoma after high school graduation. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in March 1942, and served until December 5 ,1945.

He returned to the University and completed his law degree in August, 1948. After practicing law in Muskogee, he moved to Tulsa to become the chief prosecutor in the office of the county attorney of Tulsa County. He was elected county attorney in 1954 and was reelected in 1956.

Edmondson was inaugurated Governor of Oklahoma on January 8, 1959, after having been elected to that post by the largest majority ever given a gubernatorial candidate in the state. He resigned from office of Governor January 6, 1963, and was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the position left vacant by the death of Robert S. Kerr. At the time of his death on November 17, 1971, he was a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City.

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, Leonard 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.