OCTOBER 19, 2006


Oklahoma Military Academy history chronicled on new DVD

The complete story of the Oklahoma Military Academy, including detailed biographies of all cadets who walked through the doors of this esteemed military institute during its 53-year history, has been captured on an interactive DVD and is available to former cadets, their families, historians and the general public. The new DVD chronicles those killed in action while serving their country, the 10 distinguished U.S. generals who were once academy cadets and the historic buildings on the OMA campus, which is now Rogers State University in Claremore.

From 1919 to 1971, the Oklahoma Military Academy provided a four-year high school education, two years of college and armed forces training to legions of young men. The reputation of its academic and military training and quality of its graduates became known throughout the nation.

Today, former OMA cadet Charles Emerson, who lives in Oklahoma City, is helping the university’s OMA Museum and honoring his fellow cadets by creating an interactive DVD database that indexes every cadet who attended the academy. It’s a project that has taken countless hours of work, but for Emerson it’s time well spent.

“It’s been fascinating to chronicle the cadets and learn more about the history of the Oklahoma Military Academy,” said Emerson.

Emerson’s project began to take shape after he attended his first OMA reunion in 2004. While visiting the OMA Museum, located on the RSU campus, he searched yearbooks for nearly two hours for a listing of his friend Bill Johnson without finding him. He also realized that through the years he had lost his 1954 and 1955 yearbooks. He borrowed the missing books, scanned the pages and saved the information to a CD. Next he added photos from the recent reunion and sent copies of the CD to his fellow classmates. The response was positive, with more and more people asking for a copy of his work. After the 2005 reunion, he decided to reissue the CD with updated photos.

“My curiosity kept growing. I wanted to connect the faces of the contemporary pictures with the photos from past yearbooks,” said Emerson. “I contacted my friend and museum curator Gene Little to tell him my idea for an interactive DVD. Once I volunteered, he was completely on board.”

What began as a minor curiosity became Emerson’s personal endeavor to capture the academy’s entire history and put it at anyone’s fingertips in a very user-friendly format. The database runs on any Windows-based computer using the default Web browser. He has not only cataloged thousands of cadets by name but cross-referenced information to create specific profiles, including:

• The more than 100 graduates who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and were killed in action while serving their country. As a top U.S. military institute, the Oklahoma Military Academy had more than 2,500 graduates serve in the armed forces of the United States during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

• An index of all cadets and students who attended OMA (14,000 entries, one entry for each year attended).

• Meyer Hall, the first academy barracks named in honor of Sergeant Maurice Meyer (the first Oklahoman mortally wounded during World War I in 1918). Located on RSU’s campus, Meyer Hall houses the Oklahoma Military Academy Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

• The 10 U.S. generals who were once academy cadets including retired Lt. Gen. William E. Potts – the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army.

• The 19 fathers and sons who represent the generations of families that were shaped by the Oklahoma Military Academy.

• Selected Guidons (student newspapers) from 1950 to 1971.

• The OMA and aviation from 1932 to 1947.

• The history of the OMA Saber Society (cadet officers).

• OMA Bands from 1921 to 1971.

• Hall of Fame and distinguished alumni honorees.

“The academy was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Emerson. “The discipline it taught me was extraordinary and it set my course for life.”

After graduating from the OMA, Emerson went on to serve in the Army Security Agency and was stationed in Germany and England. Once he finished his military service, he took a job working with computers at Tinker Air Force Base. While working full-time, he went to the University of Oklahoma and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration. Later, his career led him to General Electric, Western Electric, AT&T and then Lucent Technologies, where he retired in 1996.

Emerson considers his digital history project an opportunity for people to learn more about their family’s legacy. He recently met a widow of a former OMA graduate who had no record of her husband’s attendance. By using the DVD database, Emerson was able to locate her husband’s photo and provide a summary of his activities as a cadet.

“The Oklahoma Military Academy was a significant chapter in many men’s lives, and the digital version of its history has been a wonderful gift to many people,” he said. “I’m proud to be contributing to the OMA Museum and expanding a portion of RSU’s history.”

The OMA Museum is located on the second floor of historic Meyer Hall on the RSU campus in Claremore. The museum is free and open to the public. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (and weekends during special events.)

For more information about ordering the DVD compilation of OMA history, call (918) 343-7773.