- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Like many lifelong Oklahomans John J. Dwyer briefly strayed south to what appeared to be greener pastures. After journalism school at the University of Oklahoma he felt a calling to the seminary and spent some time teaching history in Texas.

The seminary taught him research and assimilation skills he never learned or needed as a sports journalist or newspaperman, according to The Norman Transcript (https://bit.ly/2fpNshj ). It was an invitation to research, write and edit a comprehensive text on Oklahoma history that boomeranged him home.

“It was this Oklahoma book that brought me back but if I hadn’t gone to the seminary I probably couldn’t have done it,” he said.

His 10-year, 324-page labor of love, “The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People,” made its official debut appropriately on Statehood Day Nov. 16 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.

Volume two, which picks up after the 1907 statehood, is in the works and is expected to roll off the presses by Statehood Day 2018.

“This is the busiest I’ve ever been in my life,” Dwyer, a Norman resident, said over a bowl of Bill’s chili at Midway Deli. “It’s been an incredible response.”

The book’s rollout party included Big Band music, food, free books for teachers, live and video appearances by state dignitaries. Another party is planned next month in Tulsa.

The book is a chronological look at our state, warts and all. It tells of the arrival of the first native peoples and the drama and tragedy that they experienced. The clash between European explorers is not overlooked. Gov. Frank Keating wrote the foreword and Steve Byas served as consulting editor.

The characters that were larger than life in the state’s past get pullout paragraphs and pictures. There’s no question the state was settled with a rifle and a Bible.

“There’s just so many facets to our state that make it fascinating,” he said. “It’s history told in a story that people will not find boring.”

The book contains hundreds of photographs, paintings, drawings and maps that makes for a pleasant read. Students of Oklahoma history and those ex-patriots now located throughout the country will find Dwyer’s work inspiring.

He spent countless hours researching primary source materials locked in the state’s storage bins and looking at newspaper and eyewitness accounts of events. This came while he continued to teach at Southern Nazarene University.

The book is part storybook, coffee table book and textbook. It was published by Red River Press with the assistance of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission and the Burbridge Foundation and is available through the Oklahoma History Center, on Amazon and at his own Website, Johnjdwyer.com. A book signing is planned from noon to 3 p.m. at Mardel’s on Dec. 10.

Over the years his university students provided perspective for his research and often helped him see how the state developed in the eyes of Native Americans or African Americans.

“If you are going to write, you need to also be teaching about that subject,” he said. “You want to write it and be sensitive to modern sensibilities but also be truthful and respectful of what actually happened.”

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Information from: The Norman Transcript, https://www.normantranscript.com

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