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Portrait of 'Chickasaw gem' graces Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – When the black linen was removed, Bill Scott drew a deep breath, his eyes filled with tears and a smile crossed his lips.

Unveiled before him was a portrait of his mother, famed Chickasaw aviator Pearl Carter Scott.

The oil on canvas depicts the dynamic Chickasaw woman as a 13-year-old girl. She is decked out in leather aviator clothing. Eye-saving goggles and protective leather cap are loosely held in her left hand. Scott also is adorned with a white scarf tied around her neck as additional protection. A frequent Oklahoma summer sight – puffy cumulus clouds – rises above the scene created by acclaimed Oklahoma City artist Christopher Nick.

In the background is a 1929 Curtiss Robin aircraft, a plane celebrated Oklahoma pilot and inventor Wiley Post presented to her after instructing her to soar high above the Oklahoma prairie. Post is depicted in the portrait as well. He is shown inspecting the tail section of the Curtiss Robin.

A genuine smile of happiness and gratitude radiates from her youthful face.

Thunderous applause echoed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives chamber at the unveiling Feb. 19. The portrait's formal dedication was attended by more than a dozen of Pearl Carter Scott's descendants. The House gallery was packed.

"Mother loved to fly," Louise Scott Thompson said during a reception following the unveiling. "He (artist Nick) captured her eyes perfectly. I have my mother's eyes," she said proudly.

Between Scott and Post, aviation history was written. She was the youngest pilot in the United States to fly solo in September 1929 and she later performed as a stunt pilot before giving up the controls to begin her family and rear three children. Nick, in his remarks before Oklahoma House lawmakers, was awe-struck with all she accomplished in a flying career that lasted a mere five years.

"Capturing someone's likeness on canvas isn't difficult," Nick said. "It is capturing the spirit – the DNA signature – of that person. She is a beautiful, elegant, graceful woman. What an absolute gem she was to the Chickasaw Nation and to Oklahoma," he added.

Scott was trained by the very best. Post was the first person to fly around the world in 1931. The trip took eight days. In 1933, he broke his own record, accomplishing the feat in seven days, 18 hours and 49 minutes. Post, despite a limited formal education and blinded in his left eye in an oil patch mishap, conceived, designed and tested the first fully pressurized flying suit and helmet. His design was the genesis of suits later worn by American astronauts. He reached the then unheard of altitude of 55,000 feet in the super-charged Winnie Mae airplane. He is credited with proving the existence of the jet stream.

Mrs. Scott was inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame, the International Women's Air and Space Museum Hall of Fame and is a charter member of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She served three terms as a legislator for the Chickasaw Nation later in her life. She died in March 2005 at age 89.

Her portrait will be displayed in the lounge of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in the state capitol building.


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