One of the greatest pleasures in life is reconnecting with old friends, and I made that one of my goals during my sabbatical year. Although I didn’t catch up with everyone, I did manage to see many of the folks who are near and dear to me. Independence Day afforded me the opportunity to catch up with my old friend David Chapell, no not that David Chappelle! “My” David is the Irene & Julian Rothbaum Professor of Modern American History at the University of Oklahoma. We became friends not long after I landed here at Arkansas, and I came to cherish him as a friend and learn from his as a scholar.

David writes on the Civil Rights Movement and his works include A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow and Inside Agitators: White Southerners in the Civil Rights Movement. With the help of a year-long grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he is now finishing Waking from the Dream: The Battle over Martin Luther King’s Legacy and is at work on another book tentatively titled The Mind of the Segregationist, 1945-1965. Inside Agitators received a Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America and the Atlantic Monthly described A Stone of Hope as “one of the three or four most important books on civil rights.”

David is as terrific a friend as he is a scholar. He and I nurtured each other through a series of personal and professional challenges. When were together we talk of faith and politics and life, and well he’s just the best. Since I hadn’t seen him for about four or five years, his Fourth of July party seemed the perfect occasion to drive over to see him at his new school and meet some of his colleagues and friends. I was looking forward to seeing him. I headed out for Norman, Oklahoma that afternoon and arrived at the party a bit after 9:00, after a stop at my hotel. I was just in time for the Norman fireworks display. As in much of the Midwest, personal fireworks were banned because of the intense dry spell the region was experiencing.

As expected it was great seeing David and being able to spend time with him. He was gracious enough to chaperone me around town and the campus, given that I’d not been there before. We had breakfast together at a diner named Ozzie’s, in the Norman airport. This turned out to be a “deadly” choice because Ozzie’s offers all-you-can-eat breakfast, and the servers there encourage you to get it. Yikes! It’s not a buffet, you just ask your server to bring you more whatever and she (they were all women the day we were there) will gladly do so. It was a fun place where (seemingly) the locals hung out, the staff was warm & welcoming and the food hearty.

After seeing a bit of the tree lined streets of Norman, we drove over to OU College of Law, because I never (If I can help it) visit a campus and not see the law school. Plus, I’d met Dean Harroz at a deans’ conference and wanted to say, “Hi.” It’s a lovely building. A warm, funny young man working in the law library (whose name I’ve now forgotten, dang it) took us on a tour of the building. I have to say, it’s impressive. I’ve included several pics below. One of the loveliest features was the large collection of Native American art on display throughout the building. I also liked the gallery feature of the courtroom. It is a glass room overlooking the courtroom that allows students with classes to come and go without disturbing the speaker/program.

After leaving the law school we cut through the student union to visit David’s office in Carnegie Hall (yep). It’s a nice old building which is in the process of being renovated. Strolling around campus, we wandered into the University’s Western History Collections. The portion of the collection we visited was house on the third floor of a building that had ½ stories. I know it sounds strange, but between the 1st and 2nd and 2nd and 3rd floors, there were offices. Not sure if that would be, for instance, the first-and–a–half floor or what? But I digress, the space was extremely quiet and contained many interesting artifacts and papers. Apparently scholars from around the world who study the American West, travel there for their research. It’s worth a peek.

David and I also toured the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, located on OU’s campus. The building itself, is architecturally interesting, especially on the inside and it contained an impressive collection of art. The origins of the museum are quite interesting and I encourage you to read about it here. We were fortunate, too because was a traveling exhibit from Dizney Studios with many sketches, and frames from animated features. The museum also has an extensive collection of Native American Art, and works of Romare Bearden.

From there, we walked across the street to tour the wonderful Catlett Music Center, which houses and amazing collection of organs. David explained that the University of Oklahoma it famous for its American Organ Institute, where students can not only study to become organists, but learn to repair and make pipe organs as well. It is only college or university in the nation with a working pipe organ shop catering to those who wish to learn the technical side of pipe organ construction and maintenance. I enjoyed seeing the collection of organs in the Catlett Center, and hope next trip to be able to tour the organ shop.

After spending a good part of the day touring the campus, we had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, Coriander, which served light, fresh fare. It was the perfect meal for a hot summer, afternoon. After lunch it was time to say goodbye, with one additional stop—Fort Thunder Harley Davidson—for a t-shirt. It was a treat to spend time with David and delightful catching up on our lives, loves and professional achievements. I’m grateful for that time, and look forward to the next time we’re together.

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