“When he quit teaching history, he started making it.”
George Patterson Nigh graduated from McAlester High School. Upon graduation, he spent a year and a half in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II. When he returned, Nigh attended Eastern Oklahoma State A&M (now Eastern Oklahoma State College) and earned a B.A. from East Central State Teachers College (now East Central University). He taught history in the local public school and, in 1950 while still a college senior, was elected to Oklahoma’s House of Representatives.
Nigh became lieutenant governor for the first time in 1959 and became governor for a full four-year term for the first time in 1979. He was re-elected as governor in 1982, taking office in 1983. Nigh has served as chairman of the Interstate Oil Compact, the Southern Growth Policies Board, the Industrial Development Commission, and the Tourism and Recreation Commission. He was also a member of the Southern States Energy Board Executive Committee. Nigh has been recognized nationally by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce as one of America’s Fifty Outstanding Young Men. He is also a recipient of the National Martin Luther King Award, presented by Coretta Scott King.
After he left the office of governor, Nigh served as a consultant to the McGraw-Hill School Division, was director of the J.C. Penney Company, joined the faculty of Edmond’s University of Central Oklahoma, and eventually became its president (1992-1997). Nigh has served on the board of directors for IBC Bank and SONIC, America’s Drive-In.
In 1982 George Nigh became the first Oklahoma governor to be elected to consecutive terms and win a majority of votes in all 77 Oklahoma counties. He is also the only lieutenant governor ever elected governor, and the youngest man ever elected lieutenant governor (1958), and the youngest person ever elected to the state legislature (1950).
Nigh was born and raised in McAlester, Oklahoma.