George Nigh, Governor

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George Patterson Nigh

Birthplace: McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Wilbur Roscoe Nigh and Irene Crockett

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About George Nigh, Governor

George Patterson Nigh (born June 9, 1927), is a politician and civic leader in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Nigh served as the 17th and the 22nd Governor of Oklahoma. He was the first Oklahoma Governor to be re-elected and the first to win all 77 counties in the state. Additionally, short term vacancies in the Governor's office twice resulted in Nigh assuming gubernatorial duties while serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Nigh served on the Board of Directors of JC Penney and as President of the University of Central Oklahoma after leaving office of Governor. Currently he is a Director and Public Relations Advisor for International Bank of Commerce. Prior to holding statewide offices, he had been a schoolteacher and legislator.

Early life and career

He was born in McAlester, Oklahoma, and was the son of Wilbur R. and Irene Crockett Nigh. Nigh served in the United States Navy from 1945 to 1946 and graduated from East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma in 1951.

Political career

From 1951 to 1959, he alternated between service in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as a teacher in the McAlester public schools. During his tenure in the state legislature, he introduced legislation designating "Oklahoma!" as the state song. He served as the eighth Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma from January 12, 1959 to January 3, 1963, having been elected to his first term in 1958. Taking office at age 31, he became the youngest state Lieutenant Governor in the United States.

Upon the sudden death of U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr in January, 1963, lame duck Governor J. Howard Edmondson resigned, elevating Nigh to the office of Governor, where he promptly appointed Edmondson to fill Kerr's remaining term.

Nigh served as the tenth Lieutenant Governor from January 9, 1967 to January 3, 1979 for three four-year terms having been reelected in 1966, 1970 and 1974 making him the second longest-serving Oklahoma lieutenant governor in state history with 16 years of service. From January 3, 1979 to January 12, 1987, he served two elected terms as Governor and was the first Oklahoma Governor to serve consecutive terms, but took office five days early, as a result of outgoing Governor David L. Boren's swearing-in as a U.S. Senator. He was reelected in 1982, carrying all 77 of the state's counties, defeating the Republican Party nominee, then-State Auditor Tom Daxon. At the inaugural address for his second full term, Nigh quoted the Pogo comic strip "We have found the enemy, and he is us."

Executive Branch Reform Act of 1986

Governor Nigh appointed the Nigh Commission to recommend changes to state government. During his two consecutive terms of office, Nigh signed the Executive Branch Reform Act of 1986, which reorganized the executive branch into agency function categories, although stopping short of consolidation, of the vast number (over 250) agencies, boards and commissions. Nigh also signed into law the Oklahoma Franchise Tax Code, which established the franchise tax in Oklahoma.

Later life

Following his term as governor, he served as President of the University of Central Oklahoma from 1992 to 1997. During his tenure, Nigh supervised construction projects that transformed the institution from a mostly commuter institution to much more of a regional university with residential dormitories.

In 1990 he was inducted into the Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame and in 1992, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award. From November, 2005 to April, 2006, he served as Interim Director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, during the agency's search for a permanent director.

Nigh and his wife Donna appeared in walk-on roles in episode # 19 of the NBC soap opera Texas (playing themselves as Governor and First Lady of Oklahoma). The episode aired in August 1980. Cast member Lisby Larson (Paige Marshall) serenaded the couple with a rendition of "Oklahoma!"

On April 28, 2010, Nigh and his wife were robbed at gunpoint in the driveway of their northwest Oklahoma City home. They were uninjured, though Nigh's wallet was taken. No suspect has been found.

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George Nigh, Governor's Timeline

June 9, 1927
McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, United States