The Putnam City Schools Foundation is delighted to announce that Dr. Bob Blackburn, a 1969 graduate of Putnam City High School, will be the organization’s 2018 Wall of Fame Celebration honoree.
Blackburn currently serves as the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, a post he has held since 1999. His work with the society extends back to 1980 when he started as editor of The Chronicles.
After graduating from Putnam City High School, Blackburn attended Southwestern Oklahoma State University where he met his future wife, Debbie, in a Civil War history class. He then attended Oklahoma State University for his master’s degree and doctorate in history.
Blackburn’s career as a published writer began before leaving graduate school where he wrote several articles and a book on the history of Oklahoma’s Department of Public Safety. Since that time, he has authored or co-authored 23 additional books, as well as articles, journal entries and even screenplays.
Oklahomans know Blackburn to be the eminent voice on Oklahoma history, as he appears regularly as the authority on a variety of topics related to our state. Many people don’t know that he was instrumental in planning the beautiful Oklahoma History Center east of the state capitol building.
His connection to his Putnam City and Oklahoma roots even extends to the home he owns, which is located in one of the neighborhoods built by Israel M. Putnam, the man for whom Putnam City Schools is named. Blackburn said the rock used in his home’s design was from an old military institute that Putnam built.
Blackburn fondly remembers a few teachers from his days as a Pirate. His accelerated English teacher Stroud Holt made quite an impact.
“Mr. Holt opened my eyes to the beauty of words,” said Blackburn. One day Holt brought a Beatles record into class and explained that “lyrics were another form of poetry, which helped us see the beauty not just in the music, but also in the choice of words and the structure of the poems,” he recalled.
Another teacher from the late 1960s that touched Blackburn was Ron Collier. Collier, a history and civics teacher, engaged his class by connecting the day’s events with American history. Blackburn eagerly followed Collier’s discussions that “went beyond the facts to the broader meanings hidden in motivation, outcome, and long-range impact.”
Today, Blackburn serves several organizations, including the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians, the American Institute of Architects, and Leadership OKC. Not surprisingly, his spare time is filled with reading, but he also enjoys golf, landscaping, and carpentry. He has been married for nearly 40 years to community leader and former State Representative Debbie Blackburn, and they have one son Beau who is a photographer in Denver, and one grandson “who is the center of our universe,” Blackburn gushed.
The celebration of Blackburn’s accomplishments will be held at the Skirvin Hotel on April 19, 2018. Music and art by Putnam City students will be featured and Putnam City’s staff and teachers of the year will be recognized to round out the fun evening. More information and tickets for this event will be available early in 2018.