Sandra Mackey was an Oklahoma pioneer. She lived a life of the mind and adventure. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma, Sandra earned an advanced degree in International Studies from the University of Virginia. With her husband, Dan, an OU graduate, she moved to Saudi Arabia, where Dan served as a Doctor. Sandra began a secret life as a journalist, writing under a pseudonym to evade Saudi censors. She was a regular in The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. Sandra went on to become a best-selling author, writing six superb books on the Middle East, some of which went through many editions. She interviewed heads of state from Arafat to King Hussein and traveled from China to Lebanon and everywhere in between. Sandra was also a fine photojournalist, who built up a portfolio of slides that is full of beauty and searing portraits.
Her knowledge of the Middle East and its complexities was rivaled by only the most seasoned Middle East hands. Many of her insights were prescient, none more so than that in the closing words of her book on Iraq, The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein, which she completed in 2002 on the eve of the US invasion. She cautioned policy makers who were pressing for regime-change in Iraq that they should not “ignore the threat to American security that could come with Hussein’s demise.” Her prediction was as wise as it was unheeded.
Sandra Mackey’s quick wit, charm, and expertise made her a fixture on NPR and BBC, as well as the major TV networks. She was a commentator for CNN during the first Gulf War and a consultant to the US military during the early years of the occupation of Iraq.
Most of all, however, Sandra was an educator. Her first job was as a teacher in Oklahoma City. Not content to profess only to a small class in Oklahoma and itching to explore the world, Sandra propelled herself onto an international stage, where see became an educator to a much larger audience. She was the best kind of public intellectual, always keenly aware that to reach people she had to entertain as well as instruct. Sandra returned to academe periodically throughout her life, teaching political science at Georgia State and developing a course on Middle East studies for one of Atlanta’s finer magnet schools. Sandra continued to lecture across the country at universities, to foreign affairs groups, and in Washington right up to her untimely death.
Sandra is a paragon of the Oklahoma Pioneer woman. Her life and spirit serve as an example to students, teachers, and Oklahomans of every stripe.