Q&A with Maxine Horner

Advocate, arts enthusiast and stateswoman



Maxine Horner

 

Former Oklahoma Sen. Maxine Horner is living her best life at 86 years old.

Witty and energetic with a penchant for comedy, she is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother confident in who she is and what she has accomplished throughout her career.

Her roots run deep in Tulsa, where she began her education as a student in a segregated school. In adulthood, Horner was as an advocate for social justice and civil rights, progressing from a job at the north Tulsa YWCA to a position at Booker T. Washington High School. She next worked at Sunray DX Oil Co., now Sunoco, as the first African American to be hired there in a professional position.

From there, Horner was involved with the Tulsa Urban League and was employed in the office of Congressman James R. Jones — a job that uncovered her political ambitions and convinced her to run for the state senate.

Serving as one of the first African-American women in the Oklahoma Legislature from 1987-2004, Horner was passionate about education and authored the landmark SB 156 — the Oklahoma Higher Learning Assets Bill, known today as Oklahoma’s Promise. The legislation provides college scholarship money for students with at least a 2.5 grade-point average.

Horner is proud of her work then and how the program has matured today, supporting thousands of students who wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to attend college.

Other highlights of her public service career include passing legislation to create the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. A lover of gospel and jazz, Horner is one of Tulsa’s many proponents of music, art and culture. From the historic Greenwood District to Tulsa’s transformed downtown, Horner is pleased to see these areas prosper.

 



 

Where did you go to school? Why?

After high school at Booker T., I received a scholarship to Wiley College, a four-year school in Marshall, Texas. I stopped my second year when I became a candidate for an associate’s degree and returned to Tulsa. My parents were getting a divorce, and I had younger siblings at home. I always kept in mind that I would one day pursue that degree, and I did in my 50s — I graduated from Langston University in 1985 with a degree in personnel management.

What was one of your most defining moments in life?

I would have to say being able to make sure that every kid who wanted to go to school had a chance (through Oklahoma’s Promise). In the legislation, I specified that everybody might not necessarily be college bound, so there was an option for students to go to vo-tech. Vo-tech can be a stepping stone to higher education.

What age do you feel right now and why?

I’m 86, but I must say that from 50 on — those are the best times of your life. There are so many things that you learn as you gain more confidence to the point it just feels so good to be able to say “no,” and you mean it. Based upon my age and what I’ve been able to see, which I never thought I would see and witness here in the United States, this is probably the best time of my life.

How would your friends describe you?

Some of the things that stood out from some letters my grandsons gave me one year at Christmas that included comments from friends were that I’m loyal and trustworthy. If there’s ever a moment that someone needed help, I would move forward to help them.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I think that many people would not believe that I have a really fun sense of humor. I love to have fun and I love comedians, but I like them edgy — people like Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. I love Comedy Central, and I love laughter. (Other favorites include Moms Mabley, Bernie Mac and Eddie Murphy.)

What are some of your other hobbies?

I enjoy reading, and I love movies. I watch Netflix and like listening to TED Talks. I’m also currently involved with the Saint Simeon’s Trust.

I’m on the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. I know they’re doing some things for the celebration coming up in 2021. Plans are moving in a positive direction. I think it has great potential to bring about businesses and entertainment in that area.

If you could witness any event of the past, present or future, what would it be?

In the past I would have to say that moment in time in 2008 — I never thought I would live to see an African American (Barack Obama) become president of the United States. I was able to attend the inauguration. I also think back to Dr. (Martin Luther) King Jr. Then in the present, never did I think that I would see a royal wedding with a mixed-race princess (Meghan Markle).

What was a “worst time,” and how did you pull through it?

The worst time was when I lost my husband, Donald Montell Horner Sr., and when I lost my mom many years ago. When my husband died, I was in the middle of a campaign, but I had to keep moving. The people around me on the campaign and in the legislature were so supportive. I waited to have my pity parties on the weekends. There were just certain things he did, like coffee first thing in the morning, that I missed so much. It happened so fast. He had pancreatic cancer. It took a while to get to the point when my kids and I could talk about him. Now we can laugh and celebrate the fun times, but it was no fun for a long time.

What concerns you today?

I’m really nervous about the divisiveness in the state and on the national level. I feel like I’m in a nightmare with this administration. Why are kids killing kids? Why has the door opened where so much hate is going on all over the country? Fortunately, I served with a group of people who respected different opinions. They were people who believed in good government on both sides of the aisle, and I don’t see that in today’s political climate. I’m really hoping that with the mid-term elections changes will come.

How do you measure success?

By keeping your eye on the prize and being relentless and focused. I guess if I could use a statement of Barack (Obama)’s I would say, “Yes, I can.”

What is a favorite Tulsa memory?

When we were able to complete the expansion of the Greenwood Cultural Center. We held a gala for the opening that showed the stages it had gone through. We were able to get the funding to do the things we wanted to do with the help of people like Mayor Rodger Randle and Mayor Susan Savage. We had great support from the tourism department and the arts council in Oklahoma City, and we unveiled a portrait of one of our chief mentors, Opal Dargan. That was a wonderful memory to see that all come into place.

Describe a perfect weekend in Tulsa or elsewhere.

In New York City three years ago, I was with my daughter, my granddaughter and my brother, Chuck Cissel, who had performed on Broadway. That was a fantastic weekend. I had the opportunity to go see “The Color Purple,” and then after the performance I had a picture taken with Jennifer Hudson, who is one of my favorite singers. She was so sweet.

The other perfect weekend would be when I had the chance to go to Paris. That was on my bucket list. At a little place on a street corner, I sat at a table with some colleagues to have a glass of wine and hear jazz. It was great.

What place in Tulsa do you miss the most?

I grew up at the time when businesses were booming, particularly on Greenwood, so what I miss is what’s lost on Greenwood. I know there are some things that are developing around the area, but I would like to see more minorities get involved in Greenwood.

What have been the most significant changes you’ve experienced in Tulsa?

As a young Tulsan, I was not able to attend college in Oklahoma. In fact, when my husband wanted to get a degree in accounting, we had to leave Oklahoma. We couldn’t go to TU, OSU or OU because of segregation, so I would have to say we’ve seen significant changes in educational opportunities. Blending schools and breaking down barriers in public schools has been a definite change.

There have also been new opportunities to take advantage of shopping and social activities in downtown Tulsa. I feel like sometimes I’m in a different world when I go downtown, and it’s great to see more and more going on there. I remember downtown Tulsa even in the days of segregation — businesses and hotels were thriving. It’s exciting to see the area come alive again.

 

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Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

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View map »


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More information

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More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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More information

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View map »


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Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: $15

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415 Couch Drive
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View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Woodland Hills Mall is excited to host Beauty Week, which is a unique way for the people in Tulsa to experience all the beauty that Woodland Hills Mall has to offer.  Participating retailers...

Cost: Free and open to the community

Where:
Woodland Hills Mall
7021 S Memorial Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Telephone: 713-224-9115
Contact Name: Woodland Hills Mall

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Celebrate the vital role eastern Oklahoma plays in the amazing Monarch butterfly migration! Join us for great activities and presentations including educational activities and crafts, tagging and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Turkey Mountain
6850 S Elwood Ave
Tulsa, OK  74132
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Sponsor: river parks
Telephone: 918-596-2008
Contact Name: Ryan Howell
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The Home Remodeling Showcase is the premier showcase of newly remodeled homes in Tulsa and the surrounding areas.  Presented by the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater...

Cost: 10

Where:
Spread throughout Metro Tulsa
, OK


Sponsor: Pella Windows of Oklahoma
Telephone: 918-663-5820
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Experience the sites, sounds and smells of Greece!  The best lil stop in OPA!homa - just off route 66. Live music, dancing, kids zone, Greek food and drink, delectable baked goods, Greek...

Cost: Adults $5/Kids Free

Where:
13th & Guthrie Ave
1222 S. Guthrie Ave

Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: Tulsa Greek Festival
Telephone: 918-583-2082
Contact Name: Tonya Boone
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Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Central Park Community Center
1500 South Main Street
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-259-8437
Contact Name: Central Park Community Center

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Join us for our second annual Food Truck Frenzy on September 21, from 4-8 p.m., and taste a variety of delicious cuisines from food trucks located in our riverfront backyard. Families can enjoy...

Cost: Adults $17.95, Children 3yrs-12yrs $13.95 Military and Seniors(62+) $13.95

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Dr
Jenks, OK  74037
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Telephone: 918-528-1507
Contact Name: Liz Medrano
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Fundraising concert featuring popular Christian rock band Sanctus Real benefiting Circle of Care's three programs: state-wide foster care, transitional living for single mothers with children...

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Venue 68
6910 S. 101st E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74134
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Sponsor: Circle of Care
Telephone: 405-215-1400
Contact Name: Sarah Steffes
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Benefiting the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Broken Arrow Cosplay contest and silent auction. Fan made 1966 Batmobile on display. Food provided by Charlies Chicken, Panera and drinks...

Cost: $10, 12 and under FREE

Where:
1400 W. Washington St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 918-406-9341
Contact Name: Sean Henry
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Circle of Care and popular Christian Rock band Sanctus Real are teaming up on September 21, 2019, to raise funds for Circle of Care’s three nonprofit programs. Band member...

Cost: Tickets start at $20

Where:
Asbury United Methodist Church's Venue 68
6910 S. 101 E. Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74133
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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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Get moved with Tulsa Ballet! Experience incredible works from the most in-demand choreographers in the world at Creations in Studio K. Tickets start at $25. Read all about the exciting pieces...

Cost: $25 - above

Where:
Tulsa Ballet - Studio K
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Contact Name: Dan Meagher
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography! "Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Young and old alike will love the cherished story of Alice and her friends performed through original and exciting dance choreography!"Project Alice" is based on Lewis Carroll's “Alice's...

Cost: 15-20

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Portico Dance Theatre
Telephone: 918-321-0682
Contact Name: Linda Davis
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Whether you prefer Borg nanoprobes to Midichlorians, the Justice League to the Avengers, or Terminators to Daleks, don't let anyone force you into boldly going where no one has gone...

Cost: $8.00 ($4.00 for children under 12)

Where:
pH Community House
306 S Phoenix Ave
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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In our 4-week Beginning Fencing class, you'll learn about the history of Olympic fencing, the three fencing weapons – foil, saber and epee – and the general rules for each of the specific...

Cost: $75

Where:
Southminster Presbyterian Church Community Center
3500 S Peoria
Tulsa, OK  74106
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Sponsor: Tulsa Fencing Club
Telephone: 918-928-2663
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Where:
Veterans Park
1811 S Boulder Park Dr
Tulsa, OK
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Get wined and dined at the first annual Tulsa Beer & Wine Festival. Stroll through our landscape gardens and treat your taste buds to exquisite food pairings with local and national craft...

Cost: TBD

Where:
Gathering Place Great Lawn
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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