Governor Leon Chase Phillips, 1939-1943
by Leonard D. McMurry
Commissioned by the Oklahoma State Legislature
Dimensions: 25 height
Leon Chase Phillips was born on December 9, 1890, in Worth County Missouri, and moved to Oklahoma at an early age. While a student at Epworth University in Oklahoma City, he studied for the ministry, but changed to law and received his LL.B. from the University of Oklahoma in 1916. He was admitted to the State Bar in that year and to practice before the United States Supreme Court later. After service in World War I, he returned to Okemah, where he practiced law. He was a member of the State Legislature from 1933 to 1938; Speaker of the House in 1935; Governor from January 9, 1939, to January 11, 1943. He was a practicing attorney in his home of Okemah until his death on March 27, 1958 and is buried in Weleetka.
Known as Oklahoma’s own “Michelangelo”, Leonard McMurry was born to a family of prominent cotton farmers in the Texas panhandle. McMurry moved to Oklahoma in 1955 and then lived in Stilwell and Oklahoma City. Under the teachings of sculptors Carl Mose and Ivan Mestrovic, McMurry perfected his craft. His magnificent sculptures of Oklahoma icons can be seen across the state including the ‘89er statue on Couch Drive in Oklahoma City and the Praying Hands that grace the lawns of Oral Roberts University.
In accordance with Oklahoma’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1982, Leonard McMurry was commissioned to sculpt busts of 21 past Oklahoma Governors. The Hall of Governors exudes Oklahoman’s pride in her past legislative guardians. Regarding his works, McMurry states, “Each piece must have a soul, a living quality that’s far more important than just physical representation. A piece has to have guts: the strength, power, and dignity, that makes it a monument.” McMurry has accomplished that very feat within the grandiose Hall of Governors in which visitors may come face to face with naturalistic representation of Oklahoma leaders.