Cherokee Nation honors connection to Claremore with new mural

The “Heart of Claremore” showcases six historical Cherokee figures

Descendants of the Cherokees featured in the mural gathered at the dedication Thursday evening.

Cherokee Nation officials gathered in downtown Claremore Thursday evening to dedicate a large-scale mural that celebrates its ties to the community.

“Storytelling is the foundation of Cherokee art, and this mural is the perfect example of how those skills are intertwined,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate our shared history and educate the public about the influential Cherokees who have called Claremore home.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief addresses a crowd of nearly 75 at the Heart of Claremore mural dedication.

The “Heart of Claremore” is displayed at N. Missouri Ave. and W. 4th St. and features the work of contemporary Cherokee artist Sherri Pack, of Rogers County, who passed away in 2021.

“We are thrilled Claremore is home to this new mural,” said John Feary, Claremore city manager. “Cherokee heritage is integral to Claremore’s roots and critical to our future, and we are grateful to the Cherokee Nation for their ongoing service to our community.”

The mural showcases several prominent Cherokees from the area, including the following:

Former Chief Jesse Bartley Milam (1884-1948) served as Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation from 1941-1949. Milam was raised in nearby Chelsea, Oklahoma, before co-founding and serving as the first president of Rogers County Bank in Claremore. Milam was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2017.

Admiral Jocko Clark (1893-1971), born in nearby Pryor, Oklahoma, became the first Native American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy in 1917. One of the most renowned admirals during World War II, he was sometimes referred to as the “Patton of the Pacific.” Clark was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2019.

Clem Rogers McSpadden (1925-2008), celebrated rodeo announcer and politician, served in the Oklahoma Senate from 1954-1972 and the United States House of Representatives from 1973-1975. Born and raised in nearby Bushyhead, Oklahoma, McSpadden was a nephew of Cherokee humorist Will Rogers. McSpadden was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2015.

Maggie Culver Fry (1900-1998), Oklahoma poet laureate (1977), published six books and more than 800 articles, stories and poems throughout her career. Much of her adult life was spent in or near the Claremore area. She was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2015.

Andrew Hartley Payne (1907-1977), born in nearby Foyil, Oklahoma, is perhaps best known for winning the 1928 International Trans-American Footrace along Route 66. Payne earned a law degree at Oklahoma City University and worked 38 years as a clerk of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Payne was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2010.

Lynn Riggs (1899-1954), born in Claremore, Oklahoma, is one of the American Southwest’s most distinguished playwrights. His play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” was adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein into the musical “Oklahoma!” He was inducted into the Claremore Hall of Fame in 2010.

“These may be familiar names to many, but too often the story behind the name gets lost,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Keith Austin. “These individuals are more than names on a street sign or a building. They made a tremendous impact on the world, and our hope is that the mural inspires the community to learn more about them so their legacies can continue to thrive for generations to come.”

The project was made possible through a partnership between Cherokee Nation Businesses, the city of Claremore and the Claremore Main Street Association.

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, Miss Indian Oklahoma Madison Whitekiller, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Claremore City Manager John Feary.

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