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Oklahoma Historic Figures

Chester Gould
1900-85: Cartoonist; born in Pawnee, Okla. He created the newspaper comic strip, Fillum Fables, in 1924 for Hearst's Chicago American, and in 1931 he created for syndication a strip featuring a square-jawed police detective named Dick Tracy. The strip encouraged citizen involvement in crime prevention and a strong adherence to the law. In 1990 the strip was adapted to a full-length film starring Warren Beatty as Tracy.
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Will Rogers
1879-1935: Humorist, stage/film/radio actor; born in Oolagah, Indian territory (now Oklahoma). Part Cherokee, he was a practicing cowboy but went abroad to seek adventure, beginning his career (1902) as a rider and trick roper in Wild West shows in South Africa and Australia. Returning to the U.S.A. (1904), he moved into vaudeville and Broadway musicals, becoming an especial favorite in the Ziegfield Follies (1916--24), by which time his act had begun to feature his own cracker-barrel wit and homespun philosophy. By 1918 he was making the first of many movies, and soon he projected his persona of the common-but-shrewd man through many mediums - as a popular radio performer, a syndicated newspaper columnist, author of several books, and a presidential candidate on the Anti-Bunk ticket (1928). His trademark line was, "All I know is what I read in the papers," which he used to launch his wry comments on the current scene. When he died with Wiley Post in a plane crash in Alaska, he was mourned as an authentic American folk hero.
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Maria Tallchief
1925-Present: Ballet dancer, teacher, and artistic director, born in Fairfax, OK. Raised in Los Angeles, she studied with Ernest Belcher and Bronislava Nijinska. Touring with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1942--7), she met the choreographer George Balanchine; they married in 1946, and in 1948 she joined his newly founded New York City Center Ballet, where through 1965 her elegant and brilliant dancing won her acclaim. The ballet troupe and school she formed to serve the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1974 became the Chicago City Ballet in 1980.
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Jim Thorpe
1888-1953: Athlete, born near Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA. Voted in 1950 by an Associated Press panel as the greatest athlete of the century, he attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania from 1903 to 1912, where he starred as an All-American football halfback (1911--12). In 1912 he won gold medals in the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon but was later forced to return the medals because he had played semi-professional baseball in 1909, thereby losing his amateur status on a technicality. He excelled at every sport he played, including the traditional Native American sport of lacrosse. He played major league baseball as an outfielder for six years (1913--19) and dominated professional football during its formative years (1917--29). As first president (1920) of the American Professional Football Association, he helped found the National Football League (1922). After retiring from competition, he appeared in movie westerns and spoke on behalf of Native American education. It was not until 1984 that the International Olympic Committee returned the gold medals to Thorpe's family. The Jim Thorpe Memorial is located in Yale, Okla.
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Mickey Mantle
1931-95: Baseball player; born in Spavinaw, Okla. During his 18-year career as an outfielder for the New York Yankees (1951--68), the switch-hitting slugger hit 536 homeruns and was voted the American League Most Valuable Player three times (1956--57, 1962). In 1956 he won the American League triple crown with 52 homeruns, 130 runs batted in, and a .353 batting average. He became a restaurateur and television commentator after retiring from baseball. A fan favorite, he was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in 1974.
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