Theodore F. Dukes
The following article is printed with permission from The Hominy News Progress.
Shooting the Breeze…. With T.F. Dukes
Though he may be housebound, Mr. T.F. Dukes has maintained his quick whit and sense of humor. For a man who will be turning 90 this Oct 2, his mind is just as sharp as ever. A retired attorney who has resided in Hominy most of his life, Mr. Dukes willingly shared a few treasured memories with this reporter on Thursday, July 26, 1995.
Q: How long have you lived in Hominy?
Mr. Dukes: I have lived here since 1933. I guess that would make it 62 years.
Q: Tell me about your family
Mr. Dukes: I grew up around Talihina. I am a dangerous combination of Choctaw, Scotch, and English (with a Chuckle). My parents were very educated. They were both school teachers. My mother grew up in Texas when they had all the uprisings. She attended college in Texas. All my mom’s family were railroad people. Most of them were engineers. Dad’s family was in the farming and ranching business. My father was very well educated. He attended the well known Roanoke College in Virginia.
My grandfather was G.W. Dukes, Chief of the Choctaw Indians in LaFlore County. That was Choctaw country. Theodore Roosevelt was president at that time and he was good friends with my grandfather. You see, the president liked to be close to the chiefs of the different tribes. It was important back then. That’s who I was named after, Theodore –after the president.
Q: What brought you to Hominy?
Mr. Dukes: I was 26 years old with a military education. I served as attorney for the war department for a while. I became a lawyer when my wife’s family lived in Tulsa. The courts ran out of funds in Laflore County, so there I was looking for a firm. I checked around some in different towns, then my family said the bank in Hominy had a law office and needed a lawyer. They offered the office, a small stipend and al the business on could accumulate. It sounded good to me.
I ended up being the bank’s lawyer for 59 years. Mr. Mullendore and Mr. Wright were bank presidents and were good friends of mine. We had a good relationship. I helped them out and they referred business to me.
I also served as city attorney for 25 years, then as city judge for about 10 years. I was city mayor twice. I wanted to be. I wanted to do something for the city.
Q: what else did you do for the city?
Mr. Dukes: Well, our lake in the country dried up and we were bonded to the hilt. Nobody knew what we were going to do. It didn’t seem possible to get the funds to fix up the old one. So I said to myself, “What are you going to do to Duke?” then I got to thinking and decided we could form a common law trust and sell the bonds. That’s what we did and they went like blue chips! And they were paid off.
I knew we could save a lot of money by building a new dam instead of trying to fix the old one. So we got our heads together and I knew of a little creek right out side of town that we could dam up, but they turned the proposal down. But we went ahead and did it and now it’s just beautiful. It ought to be called Duke’s Lake. And then there’s the prison.
Q: What about the prison.
Mr. Dukes: the state needed a new prison and you know a lot of places don’t want a prison in their town. We were the only town friendly to the idea. I knew it would bring a lot of jobs so I worked hard to get the prison. It took a lot of doing but now we have ea lot of families employed there. It ought to be called Duke’s prison but…. (he added with a little chuckle!)
Q: How did you meet your wife?
Mr. Dukes: I was hotshot at the Tulsa University at the time and played a lot of sports. I played a lot of basketball, tennis, and baseball. I met Alice at one of the games. She was just a high school girl at the time. She was president of the girls T-Walkers club. I got teased a lot because she was just a high school girl, but she was the one. It has been a good marriage, I couldn’t have asked for a better wife than Alice Dukes. She is smarter than me. She was very industrious. She’s over in a nursing home in Cleveland now. I could write a book on her. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
We have only one child, a daughter, Florence Churchill, who now lives in Tulsa with her husband. We have two grandsons, on is Dr. David Churchill who had his practice in Hominy for awhile and now lives in New York and the other, Richard, lives in Houston, Texas and is a computer expert. We have also been blessed with three great grandchildren.
Q: I’ve heard you have a book over at the Library?
Mr. Dukes: Yes, it is called “Adam, Abraham and the Apocalypse. “I taught Sunday school for 35 years at Presbyterian Churches in Talihina, Tulsa. And Hominy. I really enjoyed it.
Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Hominy?
Mr. Dukes: It is a friendly small town. It is pretty substantial. There are more able people here than in most small towns. There’s a lot of educated people here. Hominy has been good city, but thank the Lord for that. We had a lot of good city engineers.
Q: Do you think the town has changed much?
Mr. Dukes: No, not much. It has always been a good town… (pausing for a moment) …far about the average I’d say.
Q: If there is one thing you could change about you life, what would it be?
Mr. Dukes: I can’t really think of anything I’d want to change. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do and have done it with a good hand… that’s what counts.
As I left Mr. Dukes’ home, I realized that I had only touched the tip of the great amount of memories that this man could share with us. Who knows, we may meet again.
Many thanks to Mr. Dukes’ caregiver, Jan Hartshorn, who helped so much in obtaining some of the information and setting up the interview for us.