Induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame has great meaning to me because I have studied the lives and contributions of so many Inductees who dedicated their lives driving the economy, improving our quality of life, and showing the rest of the world what it means to be an Oklahoman.
With roots in eastern and western Oklahoma, Bob Blackburn graduated from Southwestern State College with a degree in History before earning his Masters and Doctorate degrees in History from Oklahoma State University. At the time of his graduation from OSU in 1979 he already had published his first of 26 books and discovered the new field of historic preservation. That same year he began a career in public history as editor of The Chronicles of Oklahoma, the journal of the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1989 he was named deputy director and a decade later became executive director.
Under his leadership, with a widening circle of mentors, colleagues, and partners, Blackburn developed a new business plan for all Oklahoma Historical Society operations that included a combination of state investment, private donations, and self-supporting sustainability. Among his accomplishments are the Oklahoma History Center, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the Battle of Washita Monument as part of the National Park Service, and the Gateway to Oklahoma History—a rapidly growing digital universe of newspapers, photographs, manuscripts, and documents accessible to everyone at no cost.
Blackburn’s contributions have been honored by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, Leadership Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, Putnam City Schools, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, OSU, the Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Higher Education Hall of Fame, among countless others. He is married to educator and former state legislator Debbie Blackburn. Together they have one son, Beau, daughter-in-law Tori, and two grandsons, Bodhi and Waylon. Now retired, Blackburn remains busy writing books, designing museum exhibits, and sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of Oklahoma history.
Bob Blackburn's mother, Ida Blackburn, better known as Ida B., had her own television show from 1958 to 1975, and his father, Bob Blackburn, Sr., started his career as one of the original Oklahoma Highway Patrolmen and ended his career starting Seminole Junior College.
As the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, Blackburn had the good fortune to work with individuals and groups across the state to collect, preserve, and share the history of our great state.