George A. Coffey


George A. Coffey. There is no profession to which men devote their energies more dignified in its ethics or more reasonably helpful to their fellow-men than that of education, the always advancing standards of which demand of its devotees constant study and a keen and comprehensive knowledge of a wealth of subjects. These demands, in turn, redound to the benefit of the community, for not infrequently the capable educator is chosen for positions in the law-making department of our government, where he is able, through his superior attainments, to contribute materially to his locality’s development and progress. Of the educators of Western Oklahoma who have won prominent positions in their calling and at the same time have served the communities capably in legislative office, one of the best known and most popular is George A. Coffey, ex-state senator and at present superintendent of schools of Carter, Beckham County. His labors as an educator have covered a period of more than twenty years, and his advancement in his profession has been steady and consistent. Few men have contributed in greater degree to the cause of education, and no man has a better record for straightforward, energetic effort as a public servant.
Mr. Coffey was born in Saline County, Illinois, January 13, 1874, and is a son of Rev. J. M. and Mary R. (Glasscock) Coffey, and a descendant of Irish ancestors who came to America in Colonial days and settled in Virginia. His father was born in Saline County, Illinois, in 1846, and as a young man adopted the vocation of farmer, an occupation he has followed throughout his life, in connection with his labors as a minister of the Missionary Baptist Church. With the exception of a year spent in Kansas, he resided in Saline County, Illinois, until 1888, in that year removing with his family to Baylor County, Texas, and two years later going to Brown County, in the same state. There he made his home until April, 1893, when he took up a homestead in Washita County, Oklahoma, and after proving his claim disposed of his land andbought his present farm, also in Washita County. He is now living a retired life, being in comfortable financial circumstances. Mrs. Coffey, who survives at the age of sixty-seven years, is a native of Tennessee.
Mr. Coffey of this review comes of a race of people noted for longevity, none of his ancestors, male or female, having died under the age of seventy-five, and some of them reaching the age of 112.
George A. Coffey attended the country schools of Saline County, Illinois, until he was fourteen years of age and at that time went with his parents to Baylor County, Texas. He went to the high school at Seymour, and in 1890, when his parents went to Brown County, Texas, he entered Howard Payne College and finished the teachers’ training course in 1894. In the meantime he had already entered upon his educational career, having taught several terms in Oklahoma and Texas, and in 1894 began to devote his entire time to his chosen calling, as a teacher in Erath County. In the term of 1895-6 he was principal of schools at Huckaby, Erath County, Texas, and during the terms of 1896-7, 1897-8 and 1898-9 was teacher at Alexander, Texas, while in 1899, 1900, he was engaged in the same capacity at Walnut Springs, Texas. On December 25, 1899. Mr. Coffey came to Oklahoma and filed on a claim in Washita County, on which he began to live March 10, 1900,/ and continued to reside thereon for five years, finally proving up and selling it. During this time, in 1900-01, he had continued his professional labors as principal of schools at Gage, Oklahoma, continued as such in the term of 1901-2, and in 1902-3 was principal of the schools at Cordell, there organizing the first graded school in Washita County. In the terms of 1903-4 and 1904-5 he was superintendent of schools at Port, Oklahoma, in 1905-6 at Rocky, Oklahoma, in 1906-7 at Port again, and in 1907-8, 1908-9 and 1909-10 at Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. During the time he resided at Lone Wolf, Mr. Coffey served as a member of the Oklahoma State Senate, to which body he was elected on the democratic ticket. His service therein was a notable one, he being chairman of the committees on Penal Institutions and Enrolling and Engrossing Bills, and a member of the committees on Public Service, Fees and Salaries, Education, Insurance, Mines and Manufacturing, Public Health and Military Affairs. He introduced and secured the passage of the bill for State Aid for Consolidated Schools, the first bill of its kind and now a law. He was one of the authors of and introduced into the Senate the bill which created the present State Board of Education, and of the bill that secured the large appropriation for the buildings at the Granite Reformatory. Mr. Coffey took a leading part in the fight against the Muskogee Fair Bill, and opposed a large appropriation for the governor’s inaugural ceremony. For a number of years Mr. Coffey has been a leading figure in all the prohibition campaigns, being a stump speaker of forcible address and convincing argument against the liquor traffic.
In 1910-11 Mr. Coffey was superintendent of schools at Mountain Park and Retrot. Oklahoma, in 1911-12 at Spring Creek, in 1912-13 at Sentinel, and in 1913-14 at Spring Creek again, and in the fall of 1915 was called to the position of superintendent of schools at Carter, Oklahoma, with a corps of six teachers and a scholarship of 300 pupils. Mr. Coffey is a valued member of the Washita County Teachers Association and the Oklahoma Teachers Association. He has at various times been honored in a professional way, having served as a member of the Board of Examiners of Erath County, Texas, for four years, and of Washita County, Oklahoma, eight years. During the greater part of this time he has devoted the summer terms, when others are enjoying vacations, to faithful and energetic work in the summer normal schools. A recent review of the life and labors of Superintendent Coffey said in part as follows: “He is a man of versatile ability, being known for twenty-three years to the people of Southwestern Oklahoma in the various capacities of pioneer and progressive educator, fraternal and religious lecturer, prohibition speaker and school legislator. He has ever been in the front ranks of every fight for better government, better schools, morality and decency. His fearless stand for humanity and the right has made him a host of friends. In the school room, in the state senate, in his home, and among his neighbors and friends, he has ever been the same common, plain, unassuming man. The humblest citizen and smallest child in the county may approach him on the same plane of confidence and friendship and be assured of receiving the same consideration and courtesy that would be given to the highest educators and officials of the state with whom he has frequently associated. In his work he has enjoyed the friendship and respect of the ablest men of the state, yet he has spent his time for the uplift of the common people; and the overwhelming support that they have given to all his public aspirations gives proof that they fully appreciate his efforts in their behalf.” With his family, Mr. Coffey belongs to the Baptist Church. His fraternal connections are with Lone Wolf Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Sentinel, and the Rebekahs of the same; the Woodmen of the World, at Sentinel, and the Modern Woodmen of America at Lone Wolf.
Superintendent Coffey was married in Erath County, Texas, in 1895, to Miss Julia Gordon Lockhart, daughter of the late Elder J. C. R. Lockhart, who for more than seventy-five years was a. Baptist preacher in Alabama and Texas. Four children have been born to this union: John L., who is a teacher in the public schools of Carter, under his father; Mary L., who is a member of the sophomore class, at Carter High School; Georgia, who is in the seventh grade of the public schools at Carter; and Geordia, twin of Georgia, also in seventh grade.