Bartlett posts landslide victory
Dewey Bartlett defeated Democratic nominee Preston Moore in the 1966 race for governor. Bartlett coasted by a comfortable 79,000-vote margin out of more than 668,000 votes cast. Most of his support was in the state’s two metropolitan areas, as Bartlett won by just 10,000 votes outside of Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. Moore was an early favorite and considered the frontrunner through most of the campaign, but Bartlett, a 47-year-old oilman and state senator from Tulsa, hammered away at the Oklahoma City attorney’s political credentials and got a late surge. Both candidates favored more education spending and emphasizing technical and vocational education, but they differed on how to build highways. Bartlett favored a turnpike system and building a highway that would link Tulsa to Interstate 35, whereas Moore wanted highway projects to be decided at the local level.

Last man meets ‘Old Sparky’
On Aug. 10, James French received the dubious honor of being the last convict in Oklahoma to be executed in the state penitentiary’s electric chair. French, 30, a state prison inmate with an IQ of 177, was convicted by a Pittsburg County jury of strangling a cellmate in 1961, an act he told authorities he knew was wrong, but necessary because the cellmate was “stupid and refused to shape up,” according to Daily Oklahoman accounts. He was also was the last person to be executed in Oklahoma until Sept. 10, 1990, when Charles Troy Coleman died by lethal injection for a Muskogee County murder. French’s execution, in the state penitentiary’s notorious “Old Sparky” electric chair, was the only one carried out in the United States during 1966. The following year, states suspended executions in order to give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to consider the constitutionality of capital punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the death penalty by electrocution, as administered in Oklahoma, was cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional. Oklahoma adopted the lethal injection method of executions in 1977. French was the 83rd inmate to die in Oklahoma.

Military reduced in Oklahoma
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced in November a $477 million military cost reduction that included ending military operations at Davis Field near Muskogee and deactivating a missile complex near Altus Air Force Base. The 929th Troop Carrier Group was moved from Davis Field, defense officials said, because the facility was inadequate for the Air Force’s newer transport jets. The move, which was completed the following June, affected 798 reservists, eight active-duty personnel and 181 civilians. The Altus F Missile Complex involved 11 underground silos stretched across southwest Oklahoma and one in Texas that were manned by 950 military personnel and 12 civilians of the 577th Strategic Missile Squadron. Atlas and Titan I missiles located there were phased out by the following March and replaced by the more efficient Minuteman and Titan II missiles maintained elsewhere.

Golden Driller stands tall
The Golden Driller, a 76-foot-tall statue of an oilfield worker, was unveiled in May for the International Petroleum Exposition in Tulsa. It remains standing at 21st Street and Pittsburg Avenue on the Tulsa Fairgrounds as perhaps the city’s most recognizable figure. One of the world’s largest free-standing statues, the Golden Driller has more than 2½ miles of rods and mesh inside it. The driller is sculpted wearing a hard hat and with “Tulsa” emblazoned on its belt buckle, and is leaning on an oil derrick. It is the official symbol of the International Petroleum Exposition and is meant to represent that part of the state’s vital oil industry.

Kamm takes over at OSU
The Oklahoma State University Board of Regents elected Robert Kamm to become the university’s president, effective July 1, 1966. Inaugurated later on an October day before more than 3,000 people and gusting winds of 35 to 45 miles per hour, Kamm replaced Oliver Willham, who retired after serving 14 years as president. Kamm went on to serve for 10½ years. Kamm had been dean of OSU’s College of Arts and Sciences since 1958, and enrollment swelled in that time from 1,624 students to 4,153, making it the largest college on campus. Research and public service programs within the college also expanded during his time as dean. Within his first two years as president, though, some faculty members accused Kamm of not including them in the selection process of a vice president, of stifling academic freedom, and of not allowing faculty to participate in demonstrations. But Kamm also had his share of supporters among faculty and students, and he fought for increased state funding of universities. And while he wouldn’t permit what he called militancy, he didn’t mind dissenters seeking solutions who were “sincere in their views.”
-James Tyree, The Oklahoman