Senator Judy Eason McIntyre along with the a group of Buffalo Soldiers were in attendance with Governor Brad Henry for a ceremonial bill signing today that honors African American soldiers that served in the Civil War. Senate Bill 659 was signed into law on Wednesday, May 18, 2005.
Eason McIntyre, principal author of the legislation, stated that the bill creates the "Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Corridor," a heritage district that extends from Boley to Vinita. The men were given the name "Buffalo Soldiers" by Native Americans who respected their courage and fighting ability. SB 659 honors all African American veterans, especially those who served their fellow Americans during the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars, land runs and World War I.
"I can't express how happy I am to be a part of this important project that gives credit and honor to those men who gave their best to settle the west and serve their country. When Governor Henry signed the bill in May, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to establish the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Corridor," stated Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa. "These brave men joined the Union Army and fought to protect the land on which we now live and I believe it is extremely important to honor them as well as educate others about their contribution."
Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at Fort Gibson and Fort Sill, helping to build the important Oklahoma forts as well as fight off bandits and cattle thieves.
"Recognizing and honoring these Soldiers is acknowledgment of an important part of our history," said Dr. Bob L. Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "We are pleased that some of our employees who are also re-enactors are here to represent the Buffalo Soldiers who served from 1860 to the 1920's."
SB 659 does not have a direct fiscal impact upon the state, but does establish a revolving fund as well as obligations for the monies that are deposited into the fund. The Oklahoma Historical Society will staff and coordinate the corridor project. The Tourism and Recreation Department is fulfilling the promotional and marketing requirements of the bill.
SB 659 also establishes a five-member advisory committee that will consist of the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department or a designee of the office and the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society or a designee. The Governor will also appoint three members to the committee that will consist of one representative from the Greenwood Cultural District, one member from the All-Black Towns and one member from the public at large.
"Any town in the state is encouraged to participate in the preservation and celebration of African American history or the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers. I believe the creation of the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Corridor will work to further education of the history of our state as well as stimulate economic development for the towns and cities along the Corridor," concluded Senator Eason McIntyre.