Story by Laurel Henagan, OSU Library intern
The Cowboys in Every County crew headed south to Bryan County to chat with former OSU graduate student, Tommy Kramer, to discuss his extensive career in animal science and city development for Durant.
About Bryan County and Durant
Initially part of Choctaw territory pre-statehood, Bryan County was founded in 1907 and named after three-time Democratic presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan. Bryan County is bordered by the Red River/Texas border on the South. Although it’s not the only county along the Red River, it definitely has one of the most interesting histories. It was the site of a border conflict called the Red River Bridge War between Texas and Oklahoma, which might seem like a big deal, except that it happened in 1931. There were no casualties, but Oklahoma is counted with the victory. Also, during World War II German prisoners of war built Denison Dam across the Red River, and the resulting Lake Texoma.
The city of Durant serves as the seat of Bryan County, capital of the Choctaw Nation (third largest tribe in America), and the Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma. The town gets its name from the man who constructed the first building in the town, Dixon Durant, in 1873. The town has flourished for nearly 150 years, and is still growing. The Choctaw headquarters are currently located in the Oklahoma Presbyterian College building, built in 1909, but also has thirty buildings around the city for various departments. In 2015, the Choctaw Nation announced an exciting plan to construct a $219 million headquarters to bring all their operation under one roof, and in February 2017, the tribe completed its 143,000 square foot regional medical center.
About Tommy Kramer
Tommy Kramer was born and raised on the outskirts of Tulsa. Although his parents both held jobs in the city, the family ran their cattle and horse ranch as a side business and first introduced Tommy to animal science. Tommy knew early on that an agricultural education was important to him. After graduating from Tulsa East Central High in 1968, he attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before heading west to Panhandle State University. He loved the small, close-knit family atmosphere of both schools. It was this same atmosphere that lead him to choose OSU, where he continued his animal science education, earning his master’s in 1975.
His time at OSU provided a job opportunity to run Eastern State College’s food processing facilities where he worked as a general manager of the school’s plant as well as acting as an advisor for students. After working in the public sector, he was offered a position at Owens Country Sausage (which later was incorporated into Bob Evans Farms). The connections he established at Eastern State eventually lead him to Potter Sausage, where he was vice-president of operations. He had spent twenty-five years total managing the three facilities, but had a career change after Potter Sausage was bought-out. Tommy was recruited to be the economic developer for Durant Industrial Authority, where he has worked for nineteen years.
Since then Tommy has been instrumental in the development of Durant and says he is thankful for his blessed life and all the opportunities he has had. He cites OSU as being a key part of his success in both the animal science and industry development fields and is excited for the future of OSU, which is leading food safety research and product development.
Here are a few more images from our trip to Bryan County:
We’ve wrapped up interviewing for Cowboys in Every County, but we’ll continue to highlight our adventures on this blog. Check back often for more stories from the road.