By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
This story first appeared online on Nov. 14, 2020.
OKLAHOMA CITY — After a year-long search, the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) Board of Directors has selected Trait Thompson to succeed Dr. Bob Blackburn as executive director. He will begin on January 4, 2021.
Dr. Deena Fisher, president of the OHS Board of Directors, thanked all the candidates who applied, but stated that “Thompson has a unique combination of skill sets that will help the OHS complete major projects now and tackle new challenges in the future.
“Trait has a master’s degree in public administration, experience as an educator and a proven record of managing a complex historical project with a budget exceeding $200 million,” said Fisher. “Plus, he clearly demonstrated to us that he has a passion for Oklahoma history.”
“I am humbled and excited by the confidence the board has placed in me,” said Thompson. “Over the past 10 years of my public service, I have had numerous opportunities to collaborate with the staff of the OHS and I have always been exceedingly impressed by the incredible professionals who work here.
“Dr. Blackburn has been a friend and mentor to me, and I am ready to embrace the challenge of following in his rather large footsteps,” Thompson added.
In 2014, Thompson was named Project Manager of the State Capitol Restoration Project by Preston Doerflinger, Director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Prior to that, Trait served as Legislative Director and Senior Policy Advisor to former President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman in the Oklahoma Senate.
According to the press release, while working with Sen. Bingman during that four-year period, “Thompson read every bill submitted to the senate, met with citizens from across the state and learned how to work with others to achieve shared goals.”
For the past six years, Trait has been the project manager for the Oklahoma Capitol Restoration Project, overseeing the preservation and restoration of the State Capitol.
In addition to his service in state government, Trait has worked in the business consulting, nonprofit, and telecommunications fields. He graduated from Oral Roberts University in 2000 with a degree in Finance and from Texas A&M University in 2007 with a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Thompson is also an adjunct professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.
Joining the Oklahoma Historical Society staff as editor of The Chronicles of Oklahoma in 1980, Blackburn, became deputy director for agency operations in 1990 and has been its executive director since 1999.
Blackburn has written or co-authored more than 20 books and numerous articles, journal entries, and screen plays. He is a constant source of historical information to the media and has appeared numerous times on The History Channel.
He was a principal player in planning and building the Oklahoma History Center and has served on numerous national and regional boards and committees, including the Western History Association, the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians, and Leadership Oklahoma City.
In retirement, Blackburn plans to continue writing books and serving the community.
“I have watched the OHS evolve over the past 41 years, and I have full confidence that Trait Thompson is the right person at the right time to work with a unified board, an exceptional staff and dedicated donors and legislators to keep the OHS moving forward in its mission to collect, preserve and share Oklahoma history,” Blackburn stated.
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state.
Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma.
For more information about the OHS, visit okhistory.org.