Garrett praises Hannah Atkins, flags to fly at half-staff

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 23-Jun-2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, has uplifted the memory of former Oklahoma Secretary of State Hannah Atkins, who died last week. Garrett said:

“I have always respected and even revered Hannah Atkins. As a fellow

member of Governor Henry Bellmon’s cabinet in 1988 through 1990, she became my friend and mentor. I remember Hannah as having compassion for all Oklahomans, and sharing with us her wisdom, which was deep and wide. She would quip that she was one of the ‘flaming moderates’ of the state House.

“Today, she remains a role model for all young women who aspire to be ethical and forward-thinking leaders.”

In a photograph provided to CapitolBeatOK, the (circa) 1989 cabinet of Governor Henry Bellmon – including Garrett and Atkins — is shown after a meeting at the governor’s mansion on N.E. 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.

Identifications for the photo accompanying this story are:

First row, l to r:  Helen Arnold (Sec. of Administration/also Director of Central Services); Hannah Atkins (Sec. of State); Sandy Garrett (Sec. of Education); Janice Rodgers, (Cabinet Assistant); and Robert (Bob) Fulton (Sec. of Human Services).

Second row, l to r:  Dr. Alexander (Lex) Holmes (Sec. of Finance); Adj. Gen. Don Ferrell (Sec. of Safety/Security); Senator John McCune (Legislative Liaison; now deceased), and Glenn Sullivan (Sec. of Natural Resources);

Third row, l to r:  Neal McCaleb (Sec. of Transportation), Gov. Henry Bellmon, and Don Paulsen (Sec. of Commerce).

Governor Brad Henry today (Wednesday, June 23) issued an executive order directing flags to fly at half-staff to honor the life of Mrs. Atkins, the distinguished state official and civil rights advocate.

Under the governor’s order, flags on state property will fly at half-staff tomorrow (Thursday, June 24) and on Friday, June 25.

“Hannah Atkins was a dear friend and a great Oklahoman, and it is only appropriate that we honor her life and accomplishments in this manner,” said Gov. Henry.  “We will miss Hannah, but we will never forget her or her dedicated public service that helped bring positive change to Oklahoma.”

As a little boy, Henry sat on Atkins’ lap during visits to the Legislature.

Mrs. Atkins’ body will lie in state in the second floor State Capitol Rotunda from 11 am to 3 pm Thursday. At least two special services to honor her life have also been scheduled on the east side of Oklahoma City. Funeral services will be held Friday at 11 am at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Oklahoma City.

Atkins was the first African-American woman elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  During a lengthy and distinguished career in public service, she held a number of other top state positions, including Secretary of State, Secretary of Human Resources and Secretary of Social Services.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Atkins as a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations and she served as commissioner to the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

Atkins also held numerous teaching positions throughout her career, serving as an instructor at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. 

In recent days, members of the Black Caucus in the Oklahoma Legislature as well the immediate predecessor and successors in her District 97 post have declared their admiration and respect for the life and legacy of Mrs. Atkins.

Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.