James Hewgley

by Michael Cooper


James Hewgley, Tulsa’s 30th Mayor, is known for mostly for his work in providing for Tulsa’s low-income and minority citizens. He established the Tulsa Housing Authority, reopened Morton Health Center for the poor, and instituted programs to develop more jobs for the minority community.

But that was in the late 1960’s. 1966-1970, to be exact.

Today, he sits in front of me behind the beautiful oak desk in his office at the Philtower. That’s right: he still comes into the office. I was initially nervous about meeting such a prominent figure in Tulsa’s history, but he put me at ease without really trying. At 92, Hewgley watches CNN just like every other old person I know. He pops his morning pills and says with a wink, “Hopefully these will keep me alive for one more day”.

We kept our shots quick and the conversation at a minimum, but my curiosity about Hewgley’s past was piqued by the wall behind him. Framed photographs showed Hewgley pictured with every sitting American president from Richard Nixon onward (he didn’t have a photograph with Obama due to his health). He told me a few stories of how he came to meet the presidents and the kind of people they were. Hewgley and George H.W. Bush, for example, had a long-running friendship that traced back to Bush’s Central Intelligence days.

Although I’m telling you about all of these things that aren’t featured in the actual portrait, the truth is that you can see read everything you need to know in James Hewgley’s eyes.