On Friday, April 28th, John Erling, Director of Voices of Oklahoma at the University of Tulsa, was inducted into the Historians Hall of Fame by the Oklahoma Historical Society. For over 25 years, Erling hosted the morning show on KRMG radio and interviewed not just celebrities, politicians, and news makers, but everyday people from across Oklahoma. When he retired in 2005, he began what became a regular series of lunches with Tulsa businessman and community leader, Walt Helmerich. During these lunches, Erling realized he was learning fascinating new stories about the state and its people–stories that needed to be shared.
In 2009, he began doing interviews with people who had played important roles in the history of Oklahoma, whether as teachers, tycoons, or artists. With these first pieces of oral history preserved, he then launched Voices of Oklahoma in April, 2010 by publishing his interview with Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee nation. Since that time, what began as a small project has rapidly expanded into a leading oral history project dedicated “to preserving history one voice at a time.”
Voices of Oklahoma moved to a permanent home at the University of Tulsa in 2014, where it resides in the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. Since 2010, Erling has produced over 200 interviews with figures like Roy Clark, Tommy Allsup, Senator Jim Inhofe, Peggy Dow Helmerich, Oral Roberts, and many more. On this site, you can hear the voices of those who stood witness to history as well as those who helped shape its direction. Erling’s induction into the Historians Hall of Fame recognizes the foundational and ongoing importance of this ever-expanding archive dedicated to Oklahoma and its people.