June Tompkins Benson
Mayor of Norman, Oklahoma
In office
May 14, 1957 – 1961
Personal details
Born(1915-11-16)November 16, 1915
Granite, Oklahoma
Died(1981-09-15)September 15, 1981
Spouse(s)Oliver Earl Benson
ChildrenMegan Benson, John Michael Benson
Alma materUniversity of Oklahoma

Mildred June Tompkins Benson (née Tomkins), commonly known as June Benson, (1915–1981) was the first woman to serve as mayor in the American State of Oklahoma when elected mayor of Norman in 1957 by city commissioners.[1][2] Benson was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1985, thanks also to the significant contributions she made on voting rights and environmental protection.[3]

Early life and education

Benson was born on November 6, 1915 in Granite, Oklahoma, the daughter of the Oklahoma legislator Elmer O. Tompkins and his wife Bessie Stovall. She was brought up in McAlester where she attended public schools before studying history and government at the University of Oklahoma, graduating in 1947.[1] She married the political research professor Oliver Earl Benson on 1 June 1940 in Guthrie, Oklahoma. In 1954, she gained an M.A. in political science with a thesis on voting law reform.[4]

Career

In 1952, Benson was the first woman to be elected to Norman's City Commission. On May 14, 1957, she was elected mayor of Norman as "Mrs. Oliver Benson". Shortly afterwards, on May 26 she witnessed Gov. Raymond Gary's signing a bill to set up a central county voter registration system. Known as the Oklahoma Election Reform Act, it included measures for recording voters' signatures and the periodic removal of the names of those who had died or moved away. The act represented acceptance of the proposals she had made in her university thesis on Election Practices in Oklahoma.[2]

Among Benson's successes while mayor was progress on noise control, waste oil collections and water quality. She also initiated the appointment of trained city managers. After her term as mayor, she contributed actively to Common Cause, the Oklahoma Municipal League (as director), the League of Women Voters (Oklahoma president) and the Community Development Block Grant program (chair). She also served eight times as chair of Norman's Environmental Control Advisory Board. In 1979, she was appointed chair of Oklahoma's State Pollution Control Coordinating Board and in 1980 was named Oklahoma Conservationist of the Year.[2]

Family and heritage

Benson had two children, Megan Benson and John Michael Benson. She died on September 15, 1981, and is buried in the IOOF Cemetery, Norman, together with her husband who died in 1999.[5] Norman's June Benson Park is named after her.[6] The June Benson Collection held by University of Oklahoma Libraries contains correspondence, municipal reports, minutes of city government boards and related papers.[1]

Role in women's history

As the first woman mayor in Oklahoma, Benson can be listed with Alice Mary Robertson, the first woman from the state to serve in the U.S. Congress, Jessie Thatcher Bost, the first woman to graduate from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, Winnie M. Sanger, Oklahoma's first female medical doctor, Clara C. Waters, America's first female warden in a male prison when serving at the Oklahoma State Reformatory, and Alma Wilson, the first woman to serve at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.[7]

References

  1. ^ a b c "June Benson Collection" (PDF). University of Oklahoma Libraries. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Cole, Carol L. (24 July 2007). "First female mayor remembered as statesman". The Norman Transcript. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame Inductees by Year". Oklahoma State Library. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  4. ^ Benson, Ned Harold (1 September 2011). The Ancestors and Descendants of John Lewis Benson and His Sisters and Brother: A Genealogy and Social History. AuthorHouse. pp. 164–. ISBN 978-1-4670-2442-6.
  5. ^ Bennett, Robert (30 April 2009). "June Tompkins Benson". Find a Grave. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  6. ^ Cannon, Jane Glenn (5 December 2015). "Norman Notes: Mayor announces she won't seek fourth term". NewsOK. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  7. ^ Malone, Tara (2 March 2011). "A Female Pioneer". Oklahoma Magazine. Retrieved 1 August 2016.