Oklahoman Donald W. Reynolds Leaves National Legacy

Contributing Writer

Top: REYNOLDS AND RAZORBACKS: The Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas’ main campus is home to Razorback football. In 2001, it became the “Reynolds Razorback Stadium??? as the university received funds to expand seating to 72,000.Bottom: REYNOLDS IN D.C.: The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C. is located near the Capitol and Washington Monument and named for Oklahoma’s own Donald W. Reynolds.

A recent trip to Washington, D.C. led to the discovery of information that should be of interest and engender some feeling of pride to and in Oklahomans.

The first is the National Portrait Gallery, the latest jewel in the constellation of marvelous museums in the vicinity of the Capitol and Washington Monument. I knew that the National Portrait Gallery had undergone extensive renovation for about six years and appeared in its current form only a year ago. I was anxious to see it, since a similarly named gallery is my favorite spot in London; however, a surprise, a big surprise, waited before I got through the front door.

That was when I learned that the NPG shared quarters with the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and that both were part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. Donald W. Reynolds rang some bells as it is the arena where the University of Tulsa plays basketball and on a newly renovated fine arts building at the University of Oklahoma. Literature at the Information Booth quickly confirmed that this Reynolds was one and the same as Oklahoma’s own Donald W. Reynolds.

So who was this man who was apparently very low profile during his life but whose name is suddenly all over the country in the 14 years after his death?

Reynolds, born in 1906, grew up in Oklahoma City and found his vocation while hawking newspapers on the street corner. He majored in journalism at the University of Missouri but soon after graduation found that his talents were on the business side. Those talents must have been considerable. Reynolds began buying newspapers in small markets in Oklahoma and Arkansas and eventually owned over 100 businesses in all aspects of the media, particularly print, broadcast and advertising.

The DonRey media empire was sold shortly after its founder died in 1993 and the money used to establish the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which has funded projects all over
the United States in the subsequent years.

Judging from the two examples in Oklahoma and the NPG, that money has been well spent.

The new National Portrait Gallery is first class in all respects. It is now in what was long known as the Old Patent Office, one of the first major buildings constructed in Washington and a fine example of the architecture of the period. The collection includes most of the famous portraits of the key figures in U.S. history such as the Gilbert Stuart paintings of George Washington and the best-known likenesses of Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, etc. Virtually all of the paintings are accompanied by biographical information concerning the subject or the artist.

The second surprise was in the nearby gallery on dinosaurs. It is exceptionally good, but the dinosaur exhibit at the Sam Noble Museum on the OU campus in Norman is at least as good (better, in my opinion).

When Oklahomans talk about our heritage, we are usually referring to sports, oil, and/or Native Americans. It turns out that our heritage goes back a lot farther and that this was dinosaur country. Many of the fantastic specimens on display in Norman were found in this area.

A trip to Washington is pretty expensive for most of us and requires considerable logistical effort to find time when
all family members are available and to arrange transportation/lodging, etc. However, a trip to Norman is pretty easily done and pretty inexpensive for most of us. The Sam Noble Museum represents as astonishing big bang for the buck just for its dinosaur exhibits. As an ancillary benefit, the Sam Noble Museum also offers an introduction to the earth sciences.

For more information about the Sam Noble Museum, visit www.snomnh.ou.edu.

Updated 11-05-2007

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