2023 Heroes and Legends named

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

They called him a hero, but James Graham declined to take all the credit.

Graham, a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Fairfax, has been a family caregiver for more than 40 years and served more than 10,000 patients.

Jerry Butterbaugh, president of the board of the Osage County Historical Society, called Graham “the most caring man I know.” Butterbaugh introduced Graham during a recognition event May 4 in the Agriculture Building of the Osage County Fairgrounds.

Each May, the Historical Society bestows on five people the honor of being remembered as an Osage County Hero/Legend. The recognition event helps spread the word about the good deeds of people who have devoted their lives to the betterment of the county, but it also features a live auction that raises money for the operation and improvement of the county Historical Society Museum in Pawhuska.

Butterbaugh described Graham as a devout Christian who played an important role in keeping the local hospital in Fairfax functioning in spite of severe financial difficulties several years ago.

After receiving his award, Graham offered remarks that redirected credit for his behavior to others – to Jesus Christ, to a minister, a banker, a pharmacist, a county sheriff, and his first wife. He told something about the role each one played in his life.

“You see, you don’t do it alone,” Graham said. He has survived serious illness of his own (kidney trouble) and has provided care in a community (Fairfax) that has suffered natural disasters and economic setbacks, and he continues to gladly provide care for people who have trouble caring for themselves.

Archie Mason, of Pawhuska, the next of the Historical Society’s honorees May 4, did a little redirecting of credit of his own by refocusing for a moment on Graham’s achievements.

Mason, a 1962 graduate of Pawhuska High School who went on to become an educator and community leader, emphasized that medical professionals are essential to human well-being.

“We have to have them to keep us going,” Mason said, and looking out from the podium to Dr. Graham, added: “You, indeed, are a hero.”

Mason, who is of Osage and Cherokee heritage, spent three decades working in the Tulsa public school system, and continued to work in the education field after that in other capacities. He also served as the first speaker of the Osage Nation Congress created through the 2006 tribal constitution.

Other honorees May 4 included Kathryn Swan, who grew up in Bartlesville but fell in love with Pawhuska as an adult and championed the importance of community organizations and buildings. Garrett Hartness, of the Osage County Historical Society, said that following a 2013 fire at the museum, Swan was responsible for playing a key supportive role. Swan recalled that she also was among those who did their best to protect the Fire Station No. 1 building next to City Hall in Pawhuska.

Hartness added that Swan served for more than a decade as the Cavalcade Queen chairperson.

“Kathryn has said that she couldn’t ride a horse to save her life, but she could organize,” Hartness said. “Kathryn’s heart will always be right here in the Osage.”

Of the award she received, Swan said, “It is an honor and I am humbled by it.”

Posthumous honorees included famous western artist John D. Free and Major General Clarence Tinker, for whom Tinker Air Force Base is named. Both of them were of Native American descent.

Free’s grandson Cameron, who is also an artist, accepted the award for him. Archie Mason, who is a relative of General Tinker, accepted for him and pledged to pass the award materials along to others in the family.

Free’s work can be seen in the local area at the Ben Johnson Cowboy Museum and the Osage County Historical Society Museum, both in Pawhuska, and at the Woolaroc Museum.

Photo Caption: The Osage County Historical Society on Thursday night, May 4, presented its annual Heroes and Legends of Osage County awards. Pictured are, from left, Cameron Free accepting the award for the late John D. Free, Kathryn Swan, Archie Mason and Dr. James Graham. Mason also accepted the award for General Clarence Tinker, who died during World War II. Mason is related to Gen. Tinker.