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Oklahoma State Senate

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For Immediate Release: May 8, 2008

U.S. Treasurer Houston B. Teehee’s Portrait Unveiled at Capitol

A portrait of Houston B. Teehee, a Cherokee who served as United States Treasurer under President Woodrow Wilson, was dedicated today in a ceremony in the chamber of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The portrait of Teehee, by Oklahoma City artist Christopher Nick, was a gift of Cherokee Nation Tourism and commissioned by the State Senate Historical Preservation Fund.
“We were pleased to dedicate this portrait of an important Oklahoman who was in danger of having his story lost to history,” said Charles Ford, president of the art fund. “Teehee served as an early member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and also in a high office of the United States government at a time when Native Americans were shunned by most people. It was a tremendous accomplishment.”

Teehee’s greatest accomplishment was being appointed Registrar of the U.S. Treasury in 1914. His name appeared on all Federal notes and bonds during WWI, from 1915 to 1919, under President Woodrow Wilson. He was responsible for the Liberty Loans and other financial measures of the war and it is believed that he signed his name to documents representing more money than ever came under the control of another man in the history of the world at that time.

Born in Sequoyah County in October 1874 in Sequoyah County, Teehee attended the Cherokee common schools and later the Cherokee Male Seminary at Tahlequah. After graduation from the Seminary, he studied at Fort Worth University. He served as the Cashier of the Cherokee National Bank of Tahlequah in 1906. During this time, he studied law under Judge John Pitchford and finally resigned from the bank in 1908 to begin practicing law.

Teehee was highly regarded in public life serving as alderman and later as mayor of his hometown until he was elected to the legislature in 1910. He served as a Representative from Cherokee County for the Third and Fourth State Legislatures where he specialized in constitutional law before becoming Registrar of the U.S. Treasury. Nearly a century later, one of Teehee’s relatives Chris Benge has served since the 47th legislature and is currently the Speaker of the House.

In 1917, Teehee was a keynote speaker at the dedication of the statue of Sequoyah in the U.S. Capitol building.

After his time in Washington, D.C., he returned to Oklahoma and served for several years as an executive with Continental Asphalt and Petroleum Company headquartered in Oklahoma City. He also served as Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma (1926-27) and was a member of the Supreme Commission of Oklahoma representing the First Judicial District of the Supreme Court (1927-31).

Teehee spent the latter part of his life working in his law practice in Tahlequah. He rendered great service to many leaders in affairs of the Cherokee nation, acting as counselor and advisor in matters affecting individuals as well as families and communities. Teehee was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1942. He passed away in 1953.

The portrait, which will hang in the House of Representatives, was sponsored by Cherokee Nation Tourism. The Cherokee Nation is the second largest Indian tribe in the U.S. with more than 200,000 tribal members. Around 70,000 of those members live within the 7,000 square mile area of the Cherokee Nation which is not a reservation, but a jurisdictional service area that includes all of eight counties and portions of six in northeastern Oklahoma. The Nation is currently led by Principal Chief Chad Smith.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. can be found on the Internet at under “Senate Artwork”.

For more information contact:
Pam Hodges' Office:  (405) 521-5675

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