Choctaw Chief Gary Batton to be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame

Photo by Deidre Elrod/ Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Choctaw Nation
Michelle Weaver

DURANT – The Oklahoma Hall of Fame announced Thursday that Chief Gary Batton, The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is among the 2020 inductees who will be included in its 93rd class of outstanding Oklahomans.

Chief Batton will join 706 others who have been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame since 1928. The names of the honorees were announced May 21 during a special online event hosted by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the Gaylord-Pickens Museum.

“I am deeply humbled to be among the honorees,” Batton said. “I share this honor with my family and friends, coworkers and the entire tribe of the Choctaw Nation. God has truly blessed me by surrounding me with wonderful people who want to make a positive impact on our tribe, communities and our state.”

Gary Batton serves as 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation. Chief Batton was raised in the beautiful but rugged mountains of Pushmataha County, near Clayton, Okla., where he lives today. Batton began working for the tribe while still a university student in 1987, assuming a full-time position following his graduation from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. In 1997, he became Executive Director of Health and led its transformation from a 1930s-era hospital into a cutting-edge, state of the art, comprehensive medical healthcare system, anchored by a flagship hospital and served by regional clinics, wellness programs, and outreach programs. In April 2014, Batton became Chief following the retirement of Chief Gregory Pyle. He was confirmed in the position by an overwhelming vote of the Choctaw people in 2015.

He has made strengthening the position of the Choctaw language and culture central to his legacy, and a new Cultural Center is nearing completion.  He has continued and expanded the tribe’s economic development program, creating thousands of jobs across southeastern Oklahoma. In recognition of his efforts to broaden understanding among peoples and cultures he was awarded the 2019 Global Citizenship Award by the Happy World Foundation.

“We proudly continue our mission in honoring Oklahoma’s best and brightest with our state’s highest honor” said Shannon L. Rich, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum. “Since the first induction ceremony in 1928 the Oklahoma Hall of Fame has celebrated the inspiring stories of our native sons and daughters who committed their lives to overcome challenges for the betterment of Oklahoma, our nation and the world. The outstanding class of 2020 is no exception and we look forward to sharing their unique stories that bring an overwhelming sense of pride to communities throughout our great state”.

Chief Batton is the third Choctaw Nation leader to receive this high honor. In 2019, Chief Allen Wright/Kiliahote, Mississippi/Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation was inducted posthumously having been recognized for naming Oklahoma. The late Gregory Pyle, Choctaw Nation Chief, was inducted in 2007.

The other 2020 Oklahoma Hall of Fame Honorees are: Stephen M. Prescott, M.D., Oklahoma City; Charles “Denny” Cresap, Afton; John W. Smith, Del City; Terry Stuart Forst, Waurika; Francis Rooney, Tulsa; Calvin J. Anthony, Stillwater and Martha Burger, Oklahoma City.

Along with being honored at the formal induction ceremony in November, the 2020 Honorees will be recognized with the unveiling of their portraits at the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum. In addition, their biographies, photos and videos will be accessible through interactive exhibits in the Museum.

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame was founded in 1927 with the purpose of honoring Oklahomans in their lifetime with the state’s highest honor and educating Oklahoma’s youth on our rich history. The Gaylord-Pickens Museum, home of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, opened in 2007 with the intent of giving the public access to the stories of these and other inspirational Oklahomans.

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