Reba McEntire Receives Annie Oakley Award

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Reba McEntire with Governor Fallin, Cathy Keating and Lynn Friess.
The Annie Oakley Society Luncheon at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Reba McEntire Receives Annie Oakley Award

                 BY M. J. VAN DEVENTER


          For as long as Reba McEntire can remember, legendary Annie Oakley has been her idol and role model. That faithful admiration paid off for the popular country music singer Thursday, June7 when she was inducted into the Annie Oakley Society at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Governor Mary Fallin presented the award to Reba, a 57-year-old Oklahoma native, and called her a true “Woman of the West,” praising her for breaking through so many barriers many women often face.

Former Oklahoma First Lady, Cathy Keating, one of the founders of the two-year old society, said, “Like Annie Oakley who was a sharpshooter, trailblazer and pioneer, Reba is a trailblazer who has broken glass ceilings in everything she has undertaken by soaring to the top as a musical artist, actress, author, businesswoman, entertainer, wife, mother and champion of charitable causes. All the while, she has shown great compassion for other women.”

What many people might not have known, until Keating mentioned it, was Reba’s passion for working behind the scenes to help others. “She works quietly and is a big-hearted philanthropist,” Keating said, mentioning Reba’s charitable gift this year to the Annie Oakley Society. “She often gives back to those who choose to honor her.”

Accepting the small bronze statue ~ a great likeness of Annie Oakley ~ Reba said, “Annie Oakley was an early influence on my life. I watched the Annie Oakley show whenever our black and white TV set worked. She influenced me so much, I sneaked downtown to the old Western store and bought my first pair of cowboy boots with money I had earned barrel racing in rodeos.” Those boots represented several generations of hand-me-me downs and the soles were held together with flimsy tape, she recalled.

“I will treasure this statue always,” Reba said. “Any time I can be associated with what Annie Oakley stands for ~ especially children and families ~ I’m honored.”

In the movie, Buffalo Girls, Reba played Annie Oakley and learned to skeet shoot. Watching the Broadway play, Annie Get Your Gun, Reba turned to her husband, Narvel Blackstock, midway through the performance and said, “I’ve got to be on that stage.” She added Broadway to her list of credits.

Reba’s history with the National Cowboy Museum goes back a long way. In 1993, she was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers with Red Steagall presenting her the bronze medallion. She often pays tribute to Red, who encouraged her early career. At the Thursday luncheon, she praised Red’s influence on her career, noting. “I have no idea where I would be without Red Stegall.” The Ft. Worth, Texas western singer was present with his wife, Gayle.

Her ties to the Museum extend to her family. Reba’s father, Clark, and grandfather, John, were both inducted into the Museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in the 1980s. Thursday, her husband, mother, a niece and sisters, Alice and Susie McEntire Eaton, were guests at the Society’s luncheon. Susie, whose voice has the same husky, southeastern Oklahoma twang as Reba’s, sang the National Anthem for the Society’s opening ceremonies.

Ironically, it was the National Anthem that opened the doors to Reba’s stellar career when she sang it at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo. Steagall and the late Clem McSpadden both heard her sing. Steagall became a mentor and friend to her. Today, the Queen of Country’s voice is described in her Google biography as “technically staggering.”

Highlights from Reba’s 40-year career were visually showcased during the NCM occasion, touting her many achievements, including selling more than 56 million albums worldwide and winning 13 American Country Music and two Grammy Awards.

What’s next on the horizon for this iconic star who started her career as a gypsy traveling the professional rodeo circuit with her family?

Soon, she will add a new television show to her roster of achievements. “I play a disenchanted country singer who moves to Malibu. Lily Tomlin plays my mother. It’s going to be so much fun. Lily is witty, adlibs a lot and we never know what she’s going to say next.” Tune in for this new Reba adventure, which debuts November 2 on ABC.



          The Annie Oakley Society was founded in 2010 by Cathy Keating and Lynn Friess, who were inspired by the life of the 19th-century female pioneer.

Oakley was born in 1860 and learned how to combine talent, skill, beauty, femininity and humility as an entrepreneur, businesswoman, athlete, wife and as a genteel lady with steely determination. As a superb entertainer, she also brought verve and luster to the arena of life.

The Society was formed to honor and raise awareness of outstanding women in all walks of life who exemplify the character, perseverance and moral fiber in the tradition of Annie Oakley. Recipient of the Society’s first Annie Oakley Award was retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Since its inception, the Society has raised more than $2 million to benefit the National Cowboy Museum’s children’s programs. While some of the Society’s goals are “in the dream stage,” according to Keating, one plan is to build a Native American-style children’s playground at the Museum.

Also on the drawing board are plans to dismantle the current Children’s Museum and create a new structure that will provide a transformative, immersive learning experience for children by providing more visual and interactive learning tools.

The cornerstone of the Society’s plan is to build a new experience that will move beyond traditional static displays and reach a broader audience, especially in the mammoth 11-34-year-old population. For more information, or to join the Society contact the Museum at (405) 478-2250, Ext. 218.

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