What Oklahoma does well 

I sat down to write a list of famous and distinguished people who have ties to Oklahoma. The list turned out to be too long to print.


The state has been a leader in energy for more than a century. Robert S. Kerr, Dean A. McGee, Frank Phillips and T. Boone Pickens have made us look good. Oklahoma's list of astronauts may be the nation's longest with at least six (Gordon Cooper, Owen Garriott, Thomas P. Stafford, Shannon Lucid, William Pogue and Stuart Roosa). In business, we get to claim J. Paul Getty, Alan "Ace" Greenberg and Henry Kravis; plus Sylvan Goldman, who invented the shopping cart, and Carl McGee, who invented the parking meter; Paul and Tom Braniff of Braniff Airways and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart.


In the field of science, Oklahoma claims Charles Gould, who established the first school of petroleum geology at the University of Oklahoma; Karl Jansky, a founding father of radio astronomy; John Sabolich, who pioneered advanced prosthetics; Jordan Tang, a pioneer in Alzheimer's research; and transplant surgeon Nazih Zuhdi.


Regarding arts and entertainment, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood and several others have reached the level of success where they are identified by their first name. They follow in the footsteps of Will Rogers, Patti Page, Hoyt Axton, Gene Autry, Woody Guthrie, Kay Starr, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O'Hara, Anita Bryant, Barry McGuire, Roger Miller, Jimmy Webb, Leona Mitchell, Roy Clark, Conway Twitty, Tom Paxton and David Gates.


Hollywood could have an Oklahoma neighborhood for Joan Crawford, Lon Chaney Jr., Blake Edwards, Ben Johnson, Rue McClanahan, James Garner, Van Heflin, Vera Miles, Tom Mix, Brad Pitt, Tony Randall, Chuck Norris, Mary Kay Place, Dennis Weaver, Alfre Woodard, Ron Howard, Dale Robertson, Cleavon Little, Rex Linn, George "Spanky" McFarland, Gary Busey, Megan Mullally and Jeanne Tripplehorn. There's at least a couple of dozen other notable names.


Don't forget Greg Burns, Maria Tall Chief, authors Louis L'Amour and Tony Hillerman, Pulitzer Prize winners N. Scott Momaday and Marquis James, and journalists Frank McGee, Bill Moyers, Douglas Edwards, Paul Harvey and Curt Gowdy.


In the category of statesmen are Speaker Carl Albert, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassadors Jeane Kirkpatrick and Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., and Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin. We've got six Miss Americas in Norma Smallwood (1926), Jane Jayroe (1967), Susan Powell (1981), Shawntel Smith (1996), Jennifer Berry (2006) and Lauren Nelson (2007). Famous American Indians with ties to Oklahoma include Wilma Mankiller, Ross Swimmer, Quanah Parker, Geronimo and Sequoyah.


Sports and athletics have a long history of excellence in Oklahoma, including Olympian Jim Thorpe, followed by Shannon Miller, Bart Conner (and his Oklahoman-by-marriage wife, Nadia Comaneci), Casey Bryan, Kendall Cross, Jarrod Hanks, Kenny Monday and several others. Bud Wilkinson, Billy Vessels, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell, Darrell Porter, Allie Reynolds, Mickey Mantle, Warren Spahn, Willie Stargell, Joe Carter, Johnny Bench, Darrell Royal, Steve Owens, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Lee Roy Selmon, Billy Simms, Wayman Tisdale, Bob Tway, Brian Bosworth, Terry Brown, Henry Iba, Barry Switzer, Steve Largent, Nancy Lopez, Sean O'Grady, Pepper Martin, Gil Morgan, Tommy Morrison and J.C. Watts are only a partial list.


Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.

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Vince Orza

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