Harold Holden inducted into Oklahoma Hall of Fame

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Harold Holden inducted into Oklahoma Hall of Fame

BY M. J. VAN DEVENTER

Harold T. Holden exemplifies all that is good about Oklahoma’s western heritage and its cowboy lifestyle – honesty, loyalty and solid down-home pioneer values.
Those are the qualities about his character and his art profession that were honored during his induction into the prestigious 87th annual Oklahoma Hall of Fame Nov. 13 in a gala black-tie ceremony at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center.

Charles P. Schroeder, a cowboy himself and a past president of the National Cowboy &Western Heritage Museum, served as the presenter for Holden’s induction.

An internationally known artist living on his ranch in Kremlin, 10 miles north of Enid, Holden – “H” to his friends and wife Edna Mae – is one of the few Oklahoma artists to receive the Governor’s Arts Award. He is also noted as one of the few Oklahoma artists who have an abundance of art in public places.
Of special note among those public works of art is the poignant sculpture, We Will Remember, at Oklahoma State University that pays tribute to members of OSU’s men’s basketball team and coaching staff who were killed in the 2001 tragic airplane crash in rural Colorado.

Holden’s art has been featured on a postage stamp, as well as in numerous private collections, galleries and museums. Travelers passing through Oklahoma City’s airport can view his iconic life-size sculpture of Will Rogers, Oklahoma’s native son.

Other distinctions include his paintings hanging in the Oklahoma State Capitol, which include a large western landscape and portraits of legendary lawman and cowboy Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton, Sheriff Bill Tilghman and 101 Ranch cowboy Bill Pickett.

“When I was a little kid, Frank Eaton came to Enid all the time. When I was five, I rode my pony in the Cherokee Strip Days parade and reared him up in front of the judges’ stand. I won first prize, which was $5 and got to sit in Frank Eaton’s lap and hold his gun,” Holden once told OSU’s O State magazine. For Holden, that youthful experience is still a priceless memory.

Holden’s art is special because of the authenticity he brings to his canvases and sculptures. He became accustomed to the western lifestyle as a child and notes, “I kind of grew up on a horse.” That early experience gave him intimate knowledge of the bone structure, movements and personalities of horses and cattle.

Wayne Justus, a fellow artist, said, “I think Harold’s greatest contribution to western art is being authentic. When he portrays a cowboy it is not the Hollywood version but it’s the real McCoy. He’s been there.”

In preparing a 2010 exhibit of Holden’s art for the Oklahoma Heritage Center, Karlee Chill said, “He gets a real look at what it’s like to be a cowboy. You can see it in each person’s face and through the details in the hands.”

Ken Fergeson, Chairman of NBC Bank in Altus, said, “H is one of those people who exemplifies our heritage and what we stand for in his artwork. When his involvements are taken in total, they are nearly overwhelming.”

An avid art collector, Fergeson notes, “H is one of those truly American heroes who not only lives the life of his chosen profession as a western artist, but he also lives a life as an example to the rest of us for giving back and making Oklahoma a better place in which to live. ”

Fergeson has worked with Holden for 25 years, securing funds for placing more public art around the state.

“I believe there are few who could match Harold Holden’s contributions to Oklahoma art, its public art and the many who have benefited from these contributions,” he said.

From 1986 to the present, 22 Holden monuments have been dedicated in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas showcasing each state’s history and legacy.

Other Hall of Fame honorees include Wanda Jackson, rock ‘n roll singer, Maud; Neal McCaleb, Ambassador-at-large for the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma City; Thomas H. McCasland Jr., retired oil executive, now of Dallas, Tx.; Blake Shelton, singer and coach on NBC’s The Voice; Ada; Peggy Clark Stephenson, community volunteer, Tulsa; and Alfre Woodard, actress, Tulsa.

Celebrity presenters included Miranda Lambert, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, who introduced Wanda Jackson; U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who introduced McCaleb; and Molly Shi Boren, OU’s First Lady and a former District Judge, who introduced Stephenson.

Other presenters were H. E. “Gene” Rainbolt, BancFirst founder and community leader, presenting McCaleb, and Pat Connelly, former budget director for the City of Tulsa, presenting Woodard.

Burns Hargis, OSU President, and Michael C Turpen, Oklahoma City attorney, served as masters of ceremonies. Channel 4 News Anchor Linda Cavanaugh, served as the Ambassador of Good Will.

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame is a flagship program of the Oklahoma Heritage Association, which was founded in 1927 by Anna B. Korn to preserve the state’s unique history and promote pride in Oklahoma.

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