William H. Murray Collection

1891-1962 (bulk: 1919-1946)

9.08 cubic feet

portrait of Bill Murray

One of the most colorful politicians of Oklahoma history was William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray (1869-1956). A teacher, farmer, journalist, and lawyer, Murray first entered Democratic Party politics with the movement for Oklahoma statehood. Having served as the president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention and playing a major role in the drafting of the state's constitution, the "Sage of Tishomingo" became the first speaker of the new state's house of representatives. In 1912, Murray won one of the state's at-large seats in the United States House of Representatives. Two years later, he was elected as the representative of Oklahoma's Fourth District. During his four years in Congress, Murray served on three committees: Coinage, Weights, and Measures; Pensions; and Indian Affairs. Known as a debater, Murray opposed segments of the Federal Reserve bill, called for American intervention in Mexico, advocated agricultural education, proposed amendments to the Clayton Anti-Trust bill, and promoted preparedness for American involvement in World War I.

Following his defeat in the 1916 primary, Murray dabbled in various pursuits, including establishing an agricultural colony in Bolivia. Upon his return to Oklahoma in 1929, he reentered the political arena and won the 1930 gubernatorial general election. (He had run unsuccessfully for the office in 1910 and 1918.)

Although Governor Murray helped create the Oklahoma Tax Commission and instituted corporate income taxes to help finance schools, he was best known for his excessive use of executive orders and martial law. Projecting an image as the protector of the little man, he did little to develop programs to fight the effects of the Great Depression. In fact, he thwarted many New Deal programs, possibly because they threatened his control over patronage. After leaving office in 1935, Murray organized the anti-New Deal Association for Economy and Tax Equality. Some charged that his opposition to the federal programs was in retaliation for losing the 1932 presidential nomination to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Murray lost a bid for the governorship in 1938. He also waged unsuccessful campaigns for the United States House and the United States Senate in 1940 and 1942, respectively.

For the most part, the Murray Collection covers the colorful politician's post-congressional activities and family affairs. Although there are few items from his years in the U.S. House of Representatives, the papers provide good coverage for Murray's years as governor. Included in this portion of the collection are executive orders calling for martial law, decreed use of the unemployed for highway projects, pardoned persons charged with vagrancy, and appointed or removed state officials. Also included are extraditions and correspondence about legal cases and state-instigated investigations. In addition the papers document Murray's campaigns for elected office, his work for the Association for Economy and Tax Equality, and his failed attempt to found a Bolivian colony. Below are series descriptions with links to the box and folder inventory. In the inventory, Murray's name is frequently abbreviated WHM.

Series include:


Although this series consists primarily of correspondence, it also contains many other forms of materials including statements, speeches, articles, news releases, legislation and Congressional Record clippings, biographical materials, petitions, campaign materials, legal papers, publications, Governor's executive orders and proclamations, invitations, programs, and lists. The materials date from 1908 to 1947 with the majority of them falling between 1919 and 1946.

The series is arranged alphabetically by subject or personality. Folders containing miscellaneous correspondence are filed at the beginning of each letter of the alphabet. Within folders, non-correspondence items are filed chronologically and correspondence is filed alphabetically by surname.When folders contain both correspondence and other types of`materials, the correspondence is generally filed last.

Subjects of particular interest include the Association for Economy and Tax Equality (an organization founded by Murray opposing the New Deal and supporting economy in government); public reaction to Murray's 1936 speech on the Constitution; the Bolivian colonization attempt; the Red River toll bridge controversy; campaigns, including Murray's campaign for presidential nomination; the Guess and Crosby investigation of the killing of two Mexican citizens by sheriff's deputies; and biographical materials. Correspondents include William E.Borah, Robert Burns (Lt.Gov.), Arthur Capper, Melven Cornish, Wesley E.Disney, James A.Farley, Walter Ferguson, C.N.Haskell, Cordell Hull, HenryS.Johnston, Harold Keith, Bishop Francis Kelley, RobertS.Kerr, Alf M.Landon, Tom D.McKeown, Johnston Murray, Leon C. Phillips, William Allen Page, J.G.Puterbaugh, Henry L.Stimson, WilliamM. Tuck (Governor ofVirginia), Elmer Thomas, Claude Weaver, Lew H.Wentz, Burton K.Wheeler, and Robert L. Williams.

Box 1 Inventory
Box 2 Inventory
Box 3 Inventory
Box 4 Inventory

II. SPEECHES: Boxes 4 and 5

This series is divided into three sections: (1) speeches by WHM; (2) materials concerning WHM speeches; and (3) speeches by others.

The first two sections are arranged chronologically and cover the period from 1906 to 1917 with the bulk of the materials falling between 1931 and 1941. Topics include the Torrens Land System, lobbying, banking, vocational education, Indian affairs, agricul-ture, tariffs, suffrage, oil, and state political issues.

The third section is arranged alphabetically by the speaker's surname, and the dates of speeches range from 1914 to 1953. Topics are widely varied and include governor's; addresses to the Oklahoma legislature, government of the Philippines, Indian affairs, racial discrimination, and politics. Speakers include General Hugh S. Johnson, Governor Douglas H. Johnston, Hon. David H. Kincheloe, and Governor Johnston Murray.

Box 4 Inventory
Box 5 Inventory


This section includes manuscripts, correspondence, and materials concerning the publication of WHM works, materials to be included in publications, and orders for books. At the end of the series are miscellaneous short writings by WHM and others. All materials are arranged chronologically except correspondence, which is filed alphabetically by surname. Topics include education, taxation, forms of government, race, religion, and WHM memoirs. Correspondents include Lyle Boren, R.C. Garland, Walter Neustadt, J.G. Puterbaugh, and William M.Tuck.

Box 5 Inventory

IV. CLIPPINGS: Boxes 5 and 6

This series contains photocopies of newspaper and magazine clippings dating from 1811 to 1950 with the largest part centering on WHM's term as governor (1931-1935). Topics include political campaigns, WHM as chairman of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, as congressman, and as governor, his Bolivian colony, the Lew Wentz controversy, Mabel Bassett, Mrs.WHM's quilting bee, oil proration, the Red River Bridge controversy, and the Association for Economy and Tax Equality.

Box 5 Inventory
Box 6 Inventory


This section includes items that do not fit into the other series, such as reprints of a WHM photograph, odd cards, cartoons, lists, a blotter with WHM's signature, and a religious leaflet. The only dated item is a 1914 membership card.

Box 6 Inventory


Materials in this series include family and personal correspondence, family clippings, genealogy, and personal papers, dating from 1899 to 1950. The bulk of the material centers around the death of Alice Hearrell in 1938.

Box 6 Inventory


Included here are a small scrapbook of election clippings, copies of WHM publications, a guest book from the Governor's mansion, a cardholder, a button, and a pendant. Dates of materials range from 1891 to 1892 and from 1931 to 1948.

Box 7 Inventory


Included here are all materials too large to be filed in the series in which they belong. The first four folders hold miscellaneous items such as campaign materials, resolutions, circulars, advertisements for the Association for Economy and Tax Equality, charts, and posters. The materials date from 1892 to 1946. The next group consists of newspapers and newspaper clippings dating from 1893 to 1953, with the majority in the 1920's and 1930's. Topics include political campaigns and issues, the Bolivian colony, WHM's term as governor, anti-New Dealism, and WHM's speeches. The final two boxes contain paintings by Alice Hearrell Murray, two Bibles containing pencil notations by WHM, and issues of the Oklahoma Federationist newspaper . The paintings are undated except one from 1894, the two Bibles were published in 1892 and circa 1900, and the newspapers range from 1930-1942.

Box A Inventory
Box B Inventory
Boxes C-E Inventory

For more information on the archival holdings, please contact the Carl Albert Center.


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