Tinker among 2023 heroes

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Osage County Historical Society’s annual Heroes and Legends program is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4 in the Agriculture Building at the county Fairgrounds.

Tickets are on sale through the Historical Society Museum, 700 Lynn Avenue, Pawhuska, or from members of the OCHS board. Tickets are being sold only in advance and are priced at $35 per person and $250 for a table of six seats. The event will include a catered barbecue meal. Contact the Museum at 918-287-9119. Board members include Faren Anderson, Jerry Butterbaugh, Garrett Hartness, Greg Hembree, Nona Roach and Shirley Roberts.

In addition to honoring the 2023 class of Heroes and Legends, the program for the evening will include a live auction. Cody Garnett will be the auctioneer. The event is both a means of educating the public about the county’s rich history, and of raising funds for the activities of the Historical Society and the Museum.

The 2023 honorees include two persons being inducted posthumously – Major General Clarence Tinker, and Pawhuska artist John D. Free.

Tinker died at the age of 54, while participating in a pre-daylight raid June 7, 1942 against the Japanese. Tinker and his fellow crew members perished when their plane fell into the Pacific Ocean. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Later that year, the Midwest Air Depot, in Oklahoma City, was renamed in his honor, as Tinker Army Air Field. Today the facility is Tinker Air Force Base, a key U.S. Department of Defense installation. Tinker, whose heritage was part Osage, was the first person of Native American descent to rise to the rank of Major General in the U.S. military.

John D. Free, of Pawhuska, initially took an interest in ranching and rodeo competition, but at the suggestion of a friend studied art and enjoyed great success in that field. He passed away in February 2014 at the age of 84. His artwork is held by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, the Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, and the Woolaroc Museum. It is also held by the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum and the Osage County Historical Society Museum, both located in Pawhuska. His work is owned by numerous private collections.

The three living Heroes and Legends honorees for 2023 are Dr. James Graham, D.O., who has been a primary care physician for more than 40 years in Fairfax; Mr. Archie Mason, a career educator who also served as speaker of the Osage Nation Congress; and Mrs. Kathryn Swan, who served as president of the Osage County Cattlewomen and also represented the Osage County Historical Society in several capacities. Mrs. Swan was employed with ConocoPhillips for some three decades.

Photo caption: Maj. Gen. Clarence Tinker died in action in 1942.