Russell Perry

Russell Perry

OCPAC, one of the state’s long-standing voices for conservative public policy and and advocacy, plans to host “a casual chat” between journalist/businessman Russell Perry and former Governor Frank Keating.
The event is slated for Tuesday evening, January 18, at the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association on East Britton Road in Oklahoma City.
 
Attendees will gather at 6 p.m. with the dinner commencing at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 a person for the event. Registration ends TODAY (Monday) at noon.
 
OCPAC promises a “ stellar entertaining, informative, and edifying program” as the men reflect on “Oklahoma's conservative movement – past, present and future.”
Keating served two terms as the state’s chief executive.
One of the event’s co-hosts is state Sen. Shane Jett, R-Oklahoma City, a well-known legislator and advocate for justice in our state’s “Indian Country.” Jett is someone who often dissents from the “establishment” views within his own tribe (Cherokee).
As a lifelong contrarian, I’m drawn to men like Perry, Jett and OCPAC legend Charlie Meadows (even when we disagree).
 
Among Gov. Keating’s appointments was putting Perry, a multi-issue conservative, whom he put in charge of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
In promotional material for Tuesday’s event, OCAC leaders said, “Perry's story is not only an Oklahoma success story but is also an American success story that underscores the promise that the American Dream is for every race, color, and creed if you are willing to work hard and not take "no" for an answer. His life repudiates the Marxist lie of Critical Race Theory currently embraced by the left and democratic politics.”
 
When I left The Oklahoman editorial page in 2002, some local politicians – both liberal and conservative – hoped they’d seen the last of me.
 
Perry, publisher of The Black Chronicle and owner of the largest privately-held radio broadcasting company in the U.S., wanted me to stick around the state, and that was my fond aspiration.
Russell helpful threw some “stringer” work my way. In the following years, when we talked often, he was the soul of kindness to me and my family, helping me find a way forward, earning my daily bread doing what I love.
 
Back when I was but a child, the burly media titan quarterbacked the Frederick A. Douglass High School Trojans. He was their gridiron field general for an historic matchup with the Capitol Hill High Redskins in 1955, when the teams met for the first time in history.
 
The reason it was the first meeting ever between the two schools was that until that night, black high school teams never played white high school teams in Oklahoma.
 
Competitors on both sides conducted themselves admirably. Capitol Hill won 13-6, and the state changed forever.
 
In one of my life’s blessed moments, in 2008 I stood a few feet away from members of the two squads, taking pictures as the competing team captains, including Perry, re-enacted the coin toss from that historic night in 1955 (the year after I was born).
 
I grew up in the inner city, so most of the black leaders I’ve known have been liberal Democrats. I consider many of them friends. Still, Russell Perry is not only a fellow journalist, he is a conservative fellow.
 
Before and after his stint at the Capitol Complex, Perry guided an independent path for The Black Chronicle, in local endorsements. His support is never a given, and always coveted.
That model of independence (albeit in a context of underlying policy conservatism of the Ronald Reagan tradition) has been a model for me over the years, whenever I’ve had the opportunity to craft personal or institutional endorsements.
 
He was older and wiser, and had certainly encountered his share of bruising challenges. At critical moments in the years after we became friends, in moments of quiet consultation, he counseled me in the ways of patience and impatience – and when one is preferable to the other.
 
Here’s a story that reflects his patience and his balanced approach to things.
 
Some years back, Perry was added to the Fair Board as a full-fledged voting member.
Edward L. Gaylord, the man for whom I worked at The Oklahoma for 12 years, seconded that motion adding Perry to the Board in a meeting held at the Petroleum Club, in what was then the tallest building in downtown Oklahoma City.
(Perry was the first Black man to serve as a voting member of the Fair Board, but the late Jimmy Stewart served many years in an advisory role.)
 
Over dinner one night, Perry later told me that when the Fair Board meeting was over, he stood by himself looking out, from the top story of the club’s building, at the city and state he loves. Looking, thinking and remembering.
 
Then, he walked down the grand staircase by himself, remembering and reflecting. As he told me, “I felt at peace, and happy over what had just happened.”
As he rounded the corner of the club’s grand staircase, standing at the bottom step was E.L. Gaylord.
 
Russell walked down toward the conservative publisher, without speaking.
Edward put out his hand, and said, rather shyly, “Welcome aboard, Russell.”
 
On 9-11 -- September 11, 2001 -- during his years with Gov. Keating, Russell, as part of the governor’s emergency management team, was called into an emergency meeting not long after the terrorist attacks on America became apparent.
 
After that meeting with Keating and others, Russell called me. He asked that I take his place at a speech at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater because, of course, state leaders were dealing with the aftermath of the terrorism.
Of course I said yes. I went to the campus (where my oldest son Josef, who scheduled Russell for the speech, was attending). I explained as best I could to business students the journalism business to which Russell and I have devoted our careers. That was a memorable evening, and to be sure it included a lot of questions about news coverage of the attack on America.
 
I owe a lot to Mr. Perry, including the “bridge to the future” he helped to provide me at a challenging time in my life.
 
It is good to see OCPAC honoring Perry, along with his former “boss.” The home builders building is
at 420 East Britton Road, Oklahoma City (zip: 73114), Again, to register, go here:
 
Note: This reflection includes excerpts from stories McGuigan wrote in 2013 and in 2015. A member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Patrick B. McGuigan was editorial editor at the state’s largest newspaper 1995-2002; before that he was chief editorial writer. He is the author of three books and editor of seven, including “Ninth Justice: The Fight for Bork (Free Congress/University Press of America, 1990).
 
  
 
 
 
 

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