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native son
An image of Charlie Christian graces the website of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, which has not inducted him as a member. (Screenshot)
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It’s rare that we will greenlight a question headline on NonDoc, but it’s also rare that we directly advocate for a public body to take a specific action.

For the second year in a row, however, we are nominating legendary guitarist and Oklahoma native son Charlie Christian for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, a distinction he has long deserved but, confusingly, been denied.

Today is the deadline for applications, but our submission for Mr. Christian’s posthumous induction is once again scant. We have little information available to list regarding his “civic involvement / community service / volunteerism.” Christian died at age 25, and he lived in a segregated America that prevented him from joining white social organizations.

A Boy Scout he was not.

A musical talent of magnificent proportions he was.

But since the Oklahoma Hall of Fame selection committee overlooked Christian in 2016, we have to wonder whether our state cares enough about the jazzy giant to warrant his consideration.

Basketballers more relevant to modern Oklahomans

Funny enough, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s own website features the above image. It shows children looking at some sort of exhibit on Christian, yet the musician has not been selected for membership in Oklahoma’s exclusive club of movers, shakers and stars.

Compared to 2016 Oklahoma Hall of Fame inductees, Charlie Christian stacks up pretty well, but perhaps his history has been lost upon two or three generations by now.

Modern Oklahomans likely know of Tony-winner Kelli O’Hara and newscaster Rebecca Dixon more than a black man who lived across the tracks 80 years ago and spent more time at Douglass High School building cigar-box guitars than mastering Shakespearean rhetoric.

Russell Westbrook is also far more relevant to modern Oklahoma than Charlie Christian. In November, he joined former teammate Kevin Durant in the Oklahoma HOF.

The 2016 class was rounded out by businessman Dan Dillingham, attorney Michael Burrage and Major Gen. Rita Aragon. They are all fine role models and well-established success stories.

But Charlie Christian’s story is one of success, too, even if you don’t own any of his albums or know how to play a guitar. Some of the world’s finest musicians will tell you how influential Christian’s brief time on Earth has been to them and their peers.

It’s time for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s nominating committee to recognize that.

If they need more information, they can start by visiting the Charlie Christian exhibit displayed on their homepage.

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