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African American Oral History Resources: O-STATE Stories Oral History Project

About the Collection

O-STATE Stories, a project of the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, chronicles the rich history, heritage and traditions of Oklahoma State University. People, places and events unfold through personal and compelling narratives of alumni, students, faculty and friends. Memories captured forever on audio and video recordings powerfully portray the significant contributions of OSU and its alumni to society and speak of the individual and shared experiences of current and former students.

Select interviews with OSU alumni and faculty

Students

Chester Pittman

            Chester Pittman, a 1961 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a degree in physical education and the first African American football letterman at OSU, recalls his experiences as a student during segregation. He details his early life growing up on a farm, participating in Negro Farmers of America, experiencing high school integration, and earning a football scholarship to OSU. Pittman shares his memories of Coach Harry Buffington, of the Bluegrass Bowl, of living in Bennett Hall, and of having Valerie Colvin as his academic advisor. He describes his career as an educator and what it means to be honored with the Trailblazer Award by the Black Alumni Association.

Claud Evans

           Claud Evans enrolled at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in 1961 and was one of the few African-American students on campus. He discusses his experiences at OSU as an undergraduate pursuing a degree in agricultural biochemistry and earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tuskegee Institute. Evans shares his career path which took him to Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, where he and his wife, Elayne, established a veterinary clinic. He also talks about his connection to OSU through the Black Alumni Association and other activities.

Elayne Evans

           Elayne Evans, a 1966 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with an office management degree, recalls her youth in Clearview, Oklahoma, where her father was a rural mail carrier as well as a farmer. She shares how she came to be among the few African American students, her life in Murray Hall, and her involvement in various campus organizations. Evans discusses deciding with her husband, Claud, to open a veterinary clinic in Okemah, Oklahoma, where he practices veterinary medicine and she manages the operation of the clinic.

Harold Fields

            Harold Fields, a 1968 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a degree in civil engineering, talks about his childhood and dealing with some of the racial issues remaining in his Tulsa, Oklahoma, community. He explains why he decided to come to OSU and how he became involved in student activism on campus. He describes some of his memories from his time at OSU, good and bad, and some of the people he worked closely with. Fields discusses how his experiences at OSU led to the other activist work he has dedicated much of his life to and some of the projects he has worked on in past years as well as more recent. Lastly, he comments on his success and why he has continued to encourage activism throughout his life.

Ira Scott

           Ira Scott earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Oklahoma State University (OSU) in 1967. He talks about being one of the few African American athletes on campus, playing for Henry Iba, and being involved in campus activities. Scott also discusses his career, his interest in politics and his work with OSU's Black Alumni Association.

Jo Ann Pegues

            Jo Ann Pegues, one of the first African American undergraduate students at Oklahoma A&M College (OAMC), earned a bachelor's degree in Home Economics in 1961 from Oklahoma State University. She discussed entering into the field of dietetics and her career that followed. She also shared her experiences as a minority student on campus.

L. Patrice Latimer

          Patrice Latimer, a 1975 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a degree in Sociology, discusses her college days. She talks about being a minority on campus, being elected the first African American president of the Student Government Association, and being involved in various student movements. Latimer outlines her journey after OSU which included earning a law degree and having a successful career in the legal profession.

Melvin Tolson

            Melvin Tolson, a 1950 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (OAMC) with a master's degree in French, recalls commuting from Langston, Oklahoma, to attend OAMC and being one of only a handful of African American students on campus. He shares some of his life experiences after graduating including earning a doctorate in French from the University of Oklahoma and joining the ranks of the faculty there. Tolson talks about his father's role in starting the debate team at Wiley and the impact that had. He also discusses Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and integration in higher education.

Melvin Wade

            Melvin Wade, a 1966 and 1969 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) majoring in speech communications, talks about his childhood and how he decided to come to OSU from Mississippi. He explains how he became involved with activism on campus through issues with University sanctioned segregated housing. He describes his continued activism with other problems of racism on campus and how that led to the work he did with the Friday Afternoon Tea and Glee Society (FATAGS). Wade mentions some of the other people who he worked with and against during this time. He goes into detail about his role in starting Black Heritage Week and trying to get guest speakers to come to campus. He discusses his interest in black studies and how his time at OSU influenced the rest of his life's work in black studies. Wade also comments on how he was able to help bring white and black student spheres together and how much he learned about himself and his passions while at OSU.

Nancy Randolph Davis

Nancy Randolph Davis, the first African American enrollee at Oklahoma A&M College (OAMC), earned a home economics master's degree in 1952. She talks about her youth in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, how her family came to be in Oklahoma, the value placed on education, and her decision to pursue a degree in home economics. Davis discusses her educational experience at OAMC, now Oklahoma State University, including the challenges she faced with being accepted and enrolled. She also outlines her forty-three years in Oklahoma's Public Education System.

Orlando Hazley

            Orlando Hazley, an inductee of the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Track Hall of Fame and the first African American letterman at OSU, is a 1960 graduate of OSU with a degree in education. He recalls Coach Higgins, traveling with the track team, carrying a heavy class load, and having a limited campus social life. Hazley talks about his childhood, his parents, and fellow students. He also discusses his career as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator.

Sam Combs

          Sam Combs, a 1980 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, discusses his role in the Minority Engineering Program and the Student Society of Black Engineers. He talks about intramurals and learning the value of teamwork. Combs also shares his family background, his support for OSU, and his successful career path.

Sam and Myles Pegues

            Sam Pegues, a 1962 graduate of Oklahoma State University (OSU) with a degree in Advertising, discusses being a member of the OSU track with a full scholarship and being one of very few African American students on campus. He talks about some of the unique challenges he faced and the campus environment at that time. His grandson Myles Pegues, an OSU student at the time of this interview, recalls his introduction to OSU and shares some of his activities in support of minority students.

Faculty

Earl Mitchell

           Earl Mitchell is a forty-year, 1969-2009, member of the faculty of Oklahoma State University (OSU) and was the first tenure-track African American. He recalls his first impression of campus, of Stillwater, and of Oklahoma. Mitchell talks about his childhood in New Orleans, his educational journey, and his interest in biochemistry. He also discusses his involvement on campus and in the community and his efforts to encourage young African American students to pursue their educational goals.

Thomas Sterling Wetzel

           Thomas Sterling Wetzel, a native of Chicago, Illinois, discusses his educational background before and after serving in the Vietnam War. He also shares some of his experiences as a black doctoral student (1980) and as one of the first African American faculty members at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Wetzel also recalled Dr. Wilton T. Anderson and the role he played in OSU's School of Accounting. He further discussed his efforts in helping to organize OSU's Black Faculty and Staff Association.

Interviews featured in a podcast

In this episode of Amplified Oklahoma, a podcast produced by the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, we highlight the stories of trailblazing women of color that attended Oklahoma State University. We'll listen to Nancy Randolph Davis, the first African-American student enrolled at OSU, and Patrice Latimer, the first African-American President of the Student Government Association, share their experiences on campus and describe the impact of Ada Lois Sipuel's landmark case that integrated higher education in Oklahoma. Later, we'll talk to Kayla Dunn and Kaitlyn Kirksey, two students of color that campaigned for SGA President in 2019 (with Kirsey winning the election), about the legacy these women who came before them left on campus.