Former Oklahoma Governor George Nigh will be named the recipient of the Rogers State University Constitution Award at a ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 22, on the RSU campus in Claremore.
Each fall since 1987, RSU has presented the Constitution Award to an Oklahoman who has demonstrated a strong commitment to the principles of the Constitution through his or her life’s work.
“We are proud and honored to present Governor George Nigh with this distinguished award,” said RSU President Joe Wiley. “As a lifelong public servant, Gov. Nigh has diligently guarded the principles of the U.S. Constitution and has advanced the well-being of the state of Oklahoma through his service as governor, lieutenant governor and member of the state House of Representatives.”
Past recipients of the RSU Constitution Award include Lyle Boren, Fred Daugherty, Ross Swimmer, Carl Albert, William J. Holloway, Jr., Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Henry Bellmon, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, Patience Latting, Marian P. Opala, David Boren, Hannah Diggs Atkins, William J. Crowe, Jr., James O. Ellison, Alex Adwan, Thomas R. Brett, G.T. Blankenship, Charles Ford and Penny Williams.
Nigh was first elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1950 when he was a senior in college, becoming its youngest member at the age of 22. He continued to work as a teacher at McAlester High School while serving in the legislature.
In 1958, at the age of 30, he was elected lieutenant governor, becoming the youngest person to serve in that position in Oklahoma history and, at the time, the youngest in the nation.
In 1978, after 16 years as lieutenant governor, he was elected governor. Four years later, he was re-elected, becoming the first governor in Oklahoma to gain re-election and the only gubernatorial candidate to carry all of the state’s 77 counties.
He has served as governor of Oklahoma on four occasions, having completed two brief terms when Govs. Howard Edmondson and David Boren resigned when they were elected to the U.S. Senate.
In 1987, upon leaving the governor’s office, he returned to education to become a Distinguished Statesman in Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he also served as President from 1992 to 1997.
He was later appointed by President Clinton to serve as national chairman of the President’s Committee, charged with raising funds for scholarships for surviving children of victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
He currently serves as president of the Donna Nigh Foundation, named for his wife, which benefits residents in Oklahoma who have developmental disabilities. He also serves on the board of directors of IBC Bank and the advisory board for Express Personnel Services. He recently retired from 12 years of service on the board of directors of the JC Penney Co.
He has been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Vo-Tech Hall of Fame and the U.S. Jaycees Ten Outstanding Americans Hall of Leadership and received the national Martin Luther King Jr. Award.
The Constitution Award luncheon and ceremony will begin at 12:00 p.m. in Post Hall on the Claremore campus. The event is sponsored by Jan Miller and the Bank of Commerce. Tickets are $20 per person. To purchase tickets or get more information, call the RSU development office at (918) 343-7773.