PHS student council project pays tribute to WWII hero

Mike Erwin |
Maj. Jeffery Williams shows a portrait of Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker to Dr. Patrick Tinker.

Dedication of the Pawhuska High School lecture hall in honor of Osage County military hero, Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, was incorporated into Veterans Day activities on Friday.

In attendance at the Veteran’s Day Assembly at Oren Terrill Field House were 17 “special” guests — local veterans whose service spanned the Korean War to Operation Desert Storm. During a stirring performance of a patriotic medley by the high school band, the veterans would alternately rise to their feet upon hearing the anthem for their service branch.

Pawhuska Public Schools’ annual event had been organized by members of the PHS student council. Guest speaker was Maj. Jeffrey Williams, a U.S. Army Reservist who also is a first-year instructor at Pawhuska High. In addition to his teaching duties, Williams serves as the student council’s faculty adviser. Williams had been an adviser at the Pentagon prior to becoming a teacher

The guest speaker spoke briefly about the history of Veterans Day, which was originally to commemorate signing of the armistice ending World War I. Williams talked about Tinker, who had been born on the Osage Indian Reservation — a few miles north of Pawhuska — on Nov. 21, 1887. Tinker became the first Native American in U.S. Army history to attain the rank of major general. He went missing in June 1942, while leading a bombing mission in the Pacific.

Tinker was the first American general to die in World War II. A few months after his presumed death, a new U.S. Defense Department aircraft maintenance installation near Oklahoma City — Tinker Field, the forerunner of modern Tinker Air Force Base — was named in his honor.

Guests at Friday’s PHS dedication of Tinker Lecture Center included State Rep. Sean Roberts and State Sen. Eddie Fields, as well as official representatives for U.S. Sen. James Inhofe and U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas. Also in attendance was Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and members of the Tinker family — including Dr. Patrick Tinker and his parents, William and Twyla Tinker (who were both 1945 PHS graduates).

Student council members had proposed the Tinker Lecture Center project, which is still in its early stages, according to Williams. As part of the cerem0ny, Williams presented a portrait he painted of Tinker. When the project is complete, the instructor’s artwork will ad0rn the lecture center wall.

According to Dr. Tinker, his uncle had mistakenly been listed as Killed in Action one time, previously, in his career as an aviator.

“They thought he was dead, but he wasn’t,” Dr. Tinker said. “Before they figured it out, a funeral had been held for him here at the (Immaculate Conception) church.”