OKLAHOMA CITY – The late Rep. A.C. Hamlin is going to get his due.
In honor of Albert Comstock Hamlin — the first African American elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews will soon install signs on Interstate 35 between Waterloo Road and Charter Oak Road in Logan County.
That stretch of roadway was designated as the “A.C. Hamlin Parkway” by House Bill 2691 in 2008. Hamlin was elected to the Legislature in 1908 to represent Logan County in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1909-1910. Hamlin, a Republican, won a seat in the House due to a large number of African Americans in Logan County.
To honor Hamlin’s memory and mark the new recogntion, a dedication ceremony sponsored by state Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 23, at Christ United Methodist Church. The church is located at 1006 N.E. 17th Street in Oklahoma City.
Members of the Hamlin family are expected to attend the event.
“The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is pleased to be a part of honoring such an important figure in Oklahoma history,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “The signs being installed will rename this heavily traveled stretch of roadway after Representative Hamlin so generations can be reminded of his service to the state.”
Rep. Young says he began researching the rich African American history of Oklahoma and particularly the state House of Representatives, and noted that Representative Hamlin had never gotten his due.
“I was just excited about his service and his accomplishments when I took note that the signage had never been placed,” said Young, D-Oklahoma City.
Back in February 2008, state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, had introduced an amendment to H.B. 2691 to name a part of I-35 in southern Logan County as the “A.C. Hamlin Parkway.” The amendment was included in the enrolled bill signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry.
ODOT manufactured the signs to signify the naming of the highway, but inadvertently the signs were lost and never installed. Thus, a dedication ceremony was never celebrated.
The oversight was brought to ODOT’s attention recently, and the department reports that it looks forward to correcting the mistake by installing new signs to permanently dedicate the highway in remembrance of Representative Hamlin.
Prior to seeking the Logan County House seat, Hamlin served as a school board member and as a town trustee.
Originally a Kansan, Hamlin came to Guthrie (Oklahoma Territory) as a little boy in the 1890s. In the years leading to Oklahoma statehood, African-American residents of the territory, including black Republicans like Hamlin, fell victim to a worsening racist atmosphere.
In 1908, during the first political campaigns after statehood, Hamlin was elected from a heavily black and overwhelmingly Republican state House district. However, the Legislature then passed Jim Crow laws, including “grandfather clause” provisions, barring from elective office the descendants of slaves.
State Question 17, adopted in a primary election on Aug. 2, 1910, required an eligible voter to be “able to read and write any section of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma.” It further decreed that no lineal descendant of any person who on or after Jan. 1, 1866, “resided in some foreign nation” – in other words, was an African slave – was entitled to vote.
Hamlin lost his race for reelection, the legislative district he had held was redrawn, and he then lost a legal challenge to the grandfather clause.
Hamlin died on his farm on Aug. 29, 1912, from unknown causes, and was buried in Robinson Cemetery in Logan County.
The regular fund-raiser of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, held every two years, is known as the A.C. Hamlin dinner, in honor of the pioneer legislator.
Today, on the House side of state Capitol, a portrait of Rep. Hamlin hangs in a well-traveled corner near the House chamber’s entrance, and near the offices of African-Americans who presently serve in the Legislature.
NOTE: Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.