For Immediate Release: February 28, 2007
Artist Timothy Tyler poses with sponsors Mr. and Mrs.
Russell Perry and president of the Senate
Historical Preservation Fund Charles Ford Wednesday following
the unveiling of the portrait of
Currin Green in the House Chamber.
Portrait of State’s First African American Legislator
In a fitting tribute to one of the state’s
first civil rights leaders, the Oklahoma House of Representatives
dedicated a portrait of Green I. Currin, an African American
who served in the state’s first territorial legislature,
as Black History Month came to an end Wednesday. The portrait,
by Oklahoma native Timothy C. Tyler, was sponsored by local
businessman Russell Perry and commissioned by the Oklahoma State
Senate Historical Preservation Fund.
“Currin was a true pioneer in every sense of the word.
He was the first African American to serve in the Oklahoma territorial
legislature, he also introduced the first Civil Rights bill,”
said Ford, president of the fund. “This will be yet another
painting at the State Capitol showcasing the strength of the
Currin was born in the early 1840s in Tennessee. Following emancipation,
he lived in Nashville until he joined the great westward “exodus”
movement. By 1877, he lived in Kansas, eventually establishing
himself as a lawman in Topeka. Showing an interest in politics,
Currin campaigned as the Republican nominee for the elected
position of police judge but lost despite the fact that Topeka
had fifteen hundred more registered Republican voters than Democrats.
Currin was not deterred. He staked out a claim in the Land Run
of 1889 near Union Township in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma Territory.
He now had the support of his fellow Republican voters and became
one of five delegates from the county elected to the House of
Representatives which convened in August 1890. The day after
his election, three white men clubbed and seriously injured
an African American in Kingfisher. Realizing the increasing
frequency of violent racial attacks against African American
in the Territory, Currin saw the need for legislative action
and introduced the state’s first civil rights legislation,
House Bill 119. The bill proposed penalties for racial violence,
but failed by one vote.
Currin served only one term in the Assembly but continued to
perform as a respected public servant. He served as Deputy United
States Marshal and was appointed to the Colored Agricultural
and Normal University (Langston) Board of Regents in 1897. He
also held the position of grand master of the St. John Grand
Lodge, A.F. & A.M. Masonic Order of Oklahoma for the last
nineteen years of his life.
He and his wife Caroline had five children: Henry, Janie, Winsor,
Thomas and Rosie. Currin died at his home in Dover on October
21, 1918, and was buried in Burns cemetery.
The Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund has commissioned
over 60 pieces of original art for the Oklahoma State Capitol
and selected other locations at no cost to taxpayers. These
works of art represent various moments in Oklahoma’s rich
and colorful history and several of Oklahoma’s famous
“When asked by Senator Ford if I would participate and
be the sponsor of this territorial legislator, I was deeply
honored,” said Perry. “While I was not that familiar
with Green Currin, the timing was perfect as this is Black History
month. That was not my intention when I first agreed to participate
in the program, but I’m very pleased with how this has
Russell Perry, like Currin, is a trailblazer. He is a businessman,
banker, community leader, former state official, publisher and
broadcaster. Through the years, he has utilized his talents
to serve the African American community. Governor Frank Keating
appointed Perry to serve as his Secretary of Commerce making
him the first African American to serve in that position. He
founded the Black Chronicle in 1979 which has grown to be the
largest weekly paid newspaper in Oklahoma. Then in 1993, recognizing
the African American community was not being served by radio
in Oklahoma City, Perry bought a daytime AM station, what is
now known as KRMP. He then purchased FM stations in Tulsa, Lawton,
Duncan and Anadarko. Today, Perry Publishing & Broadcasting
is the largest independently owned radio group in Oklahoma.
Its network of eleven stations reaches 99-percent of the African
Timothy Tyler has been an artist all of his life taking his
first commission for an oil painting at age 14 and exhibited
at Anderson’s Gallery in Oklahoma City by age 16. He was
the only artist in the U.S. to be accepted into three consecutive
Oklahoma Art Center Shows in 1980, 1981, and 1982, and also
the only artist to show bronze sculpture as well as oil paintings.
Today, his works can be found all over the world in both public
and private collections. He is a member of the Portrait Society
of America and has been a signature member of Oil Painter of
America for 12 years. He has been featured in numerous art publications
throughout his career including The Artist magazine, Southwest
Art and Art of the West.
"I was honored to be selected as the artist for the Currin
portrait. The project was challenging considering there is only
one known photo of Currin in existence, but hopefully I captured
his essence in a manner that pleases everyone," said artist
Tim Tyler. "I am also excited that my work will be on permanent
display in the Oklahoma State Capitol."
The portrait of Currin, along with other works of art commissioned
by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc.,
can be found on the Internet at www.oksenate.gov.
For more information contact:
Pam Hodges - (405) 521-5675