The Woodward News

May 19, 2013

Museum hosting history lectures

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — If you've lived here long enough then you've surely heard about Woodward's "favorite son" Temple Houston, his famous "Soiled Dove" speech, and his infamous shootout with the Jennings brothers.

But how much do you know about Temple's father Sam Houston, who is also considered by some to be a father of Texas?

Historian and retired social science professor Bob Cordell will be sharing information about Sam Houston's life and adventures during a free lecture at noon next Friday, May 24 at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum.

Cordell said some of the details he will share include how Sam Houston was "a veteran of the War of 1812 and he was mentored by Andrew Jackson."

He said he chose Sam Houston as a lecture topic because "he's just an interesting person that I don't think we know that much about."

For example, he said that some might not know about how Sam Houston "lived among the Cherokees both in Tennessee and Oklahoma."

"There are just so many things about him that I think make for a beautiful story," Cordell said.

The former professor said it is an especially fitting lecture for the Woodward area because of the family tie through his son.

"Since Woodward has Temple as its hero, there are some who might like to know about the things that were passed from father to son, such as being a man of integrity," Cordell said.


But Sam Houston isn't the only historical figure that Cordell believes that people should know more about.

That's why he will also be giving another noon lecture at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum on Thursday, May 23 to talk about "Very Special Marines: The Navajo Code Talkers."

"It's a story that needs to be told, because for so long it wasn't," Cordell said, adding "These Navajo code talkers didn't get the credit they should've for making a difference in the war with Japan in the South Pacific."

In addition to their contribution to the United States' campaign against the Japanese during World War II, Cordell said he plans to speak about how the Navajo were recruited, their training and what their military service was like.

He will also lecture on "the adjustment that the Marines had to make so that they could serve."

For example, the Marine Corps sets strict standards when it comes to the appearance of those who serve as Marines.  However, "the Navajos don't cut their hair," Cordell said.

So the Marines had to be willing to make adjustments for these cultural, dietary, and religious differences, he said.

While the code talkers might not have any direct or indirect connection with the Woodward area like with the Sam Houston lecture, Cordell said he believes there is public interest in the subject matter.

"Not long ago there was a major movie about them called 'Windtalkers,'" he said.


This is the 4th year for Cordell to present historical lectures at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum.

Cordell, who is a former Gage native but now lives in Vienna, W.Va., said he presents the lectures as "a way to give back to the community."

"When I was young, a lot of people were good to me in Gage and Shattuck.  All those people who were good to me have now all passed on, but I haven't forgotten how they shaped me.  So while can't repay those people, I can do things for the community and this is my way of doing that," he said.

He presents the lectures when he returns to his hometown to attend the Gage all school reunion each year around Memorial Day weekend.

This year, he said he will actually be presenting 3 lectures in 2 days.  Because in addition to the 2 lectures at the museum in Woodward, "on Thursday evening, I'll also speak in Gage at an event hosted by the American Legion on the topic of Franklin Roosevelt and his role as the World War II commander in chief," he said.

But more than giving back, Cordell said he also presents the lectures because history is his passion and talent.

"I think that's what you're supposed to do when you have a talent, to share it and that's what I'm doing," he said, noting "I'm a history teacher at heart."

He said he can't help wanting to share the knowledge he has acquired through obtaining various degrees, in his own teaching and, now that he's retired, through extensive reading.

"I've discovered so many things that I want to share," he said.

By presenting his programs at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum (PIPM), Cordell said he also feels as if he is helping to remind people that the museum is "a place to reconnect to the past."

"A museum is an educational institution. Sometimes we think of it as just a collection of old things, but it's for education and getting a handle on where we came from," he said.  "So maybe by me doing this, I'll help engender an appreciation for the people who came before us and the struggles they experienced."


PIPM Director Robert Roberson said the museum is glad to host Cordell's lectures because "it fulfills our mission statement to help educate the public."

"I find him to be very informative," Roberson said, noting "when he does his research, he always finds these tidbits that the history books don't tell you."

Beyond that, he said the museum enjoys having Cordell come lecture because he is a skillful, entertaining and "very personable" speaker.

"He's very animated when he speaks," Roberson said.  "He really kind of draws you into the subject matter and makes you want to ask questions and think about things."

The museum director said that Cordell breaks the mold of what people normally think of when they hear the word lecture.

"Often people talk about lectures being boring, but I always enjoy his lectures.  He makes them very stimulating and interesting," Roberson said.

He said he doesn't think anyone who is interested in learning about history would regret spending a lunch hour listening to Cordell.

"The hour goes by just like that and he leaves you wanting to know more," Roberson said.

And he isn't the only one who enjoys Cordell's lectures.

"We always have a full house when he comes," Roberson said.