Giles Legacy Lives On In Upcoming Symposium
Gone but not forgotten, 50 years of marriage and public service by Ray and Mary Giles of Pocassett, are leaving a legacy at the University of Science and Arts, as the university hosts the Second Annual Ray and Mary Giles Symposium on Citizenship and Public Service. The event is made possible through endowment funds established by the family of Ray and Mary Giles and held at the USAO Foundation.
The symposium is scheduled Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. in Te Ata Memorial Auditorium on the USAO campus. Renowned photojournalist James Nachtwey will be the featured speaker during the evening presentation. Nachtwey will speak on A Visual Journey Through Critical Issues of Contemporary History.
Prior to the 8 p.m. lecture, a panel discussion is scheduled at 4 p.m. in the Davis Hall Amphitheatre and will feature Cheyenne Arapaho artist Edgar Heap of Birds, UCO Professor Brett S. Sharp, editorial cartoonist Bruce Plante and artist Jeff Stokes. Katie Davis, assistant professor of drama at USAO, will moderate the discussion on The Role of Fine Arts in Political Discourse.
On the bustling floor of the Oklahoma State Senate, Ray Giles was an icon. Year after year, the senator from District 23 stood tall for what he believed. He voted his conscience, pushed the agenda of the farmer and, throughout his long tenure at the state house, defended USAO. Standing behind the senator, supporting him through every endeavor politically and professionally was Mary Martin Giles.
Giles developed his views and ideals during World War II. After a four-year distinguished stint in the U.S. Air Force, where he was awarded three Battle Stars, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal for his service in Europe, Giles returned to Caddo County in 1945 and assumed the role of wheat farmer.
With one hand tied to the land and the other reaching into public issues, Giles was involved with county politics and the State Board of Agriculture prior to running for the state senate post.
After winning the District 23 seat in 1976, Giles became an instant leader at the capitol. Many of his legislative victories revolved around environmental issues. He chaired the senate’s Natural Resource Committee from its inception in 1981. A 1996 senate resolution honoring Giles, said he was “highly respected for the fair, evenhanded and impartial manner in which he tackled controversial and emotional issues concerning energy, conservation and the environment.”
During his 16-year political career, Giles also served on the senate committees for business, labor, finance, rules, appropriations and wildlife.
Honors and acknowledgments for his work came from a wide array of organizations: Caddo County Mineral Owners; Oklahoma Rural Water District, Oklahoma Mineral Owners Association, Hall of Fame and Conservation Friend of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts; Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientist; Oklahoma Wildlife Federation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Commission. In 1993 he became the fourth person inducted to the National Association of Royalty Owners Hall of Fame.
He was awarded for his work in soil conservation and rural water development. He received the Commander’s Award from the Disabled American Veterans in 1979 and the Soil Conservation President’s Award in 1987.
The senator was a member of the board of directors at Oklahoma National Bank and the Grady Memorial Hospital. He belonged to the Farmer’s Union, Farm Bureau, Cattleman’s Association and Disabled American Veterans.
Giles retired from public service undefeated. In recognition of his long and distinguished career in the Legislature, a banquet honoring Giles’ life and achievements was held at USAO in May 1992. State Senate leaders attended the gathering and spoke glowingly of him, friends recall.
Like her husband, Mary Giles too was interested in public issues, mostly in education. She attended the Oklahoma College for Women (now USAO) in the early 1940s and became an outspoken supporter in Democratic causes. She taught in Carnegie schools for several years. She also was a member in the Grady County Mineral Owners Association and served on the board of the Oklahoma Electric Co-Op for many years.
Celebrating their 50 years together, Sen. Ray and Mary Giles, now both deceased, were joined by family for this event not long before the senator’s death in 1995. To celebrate the lives and achievements of these two life-long Grady County residents, an endowment was established at the USAO Foundation, Inc. The Ray and Mary Giles Symposium on Citizenship and Public Service honors their memory.