Hon. Thomas W. Hunter. A native son of Oklahoma, for many years prominently identified with that section of the state comprised in the old Choctaw Nation, Thomas W. Hunter has as his chief business the vocation of real estate man, is a member of the State Bar Association, prominent as a democrat, and has sat in the Fourth and Fifth Legislatures from Choctaw County. His home is at Hugo.
Thomas W. Hunter was born in 1869 near the town of Boswell in Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. His father, Ben Hunter, was a full-blood Choctaw Indian who came to Indian Territory during the first exodus of Indians from Mississippi in 1832. His mother was a daughter of George Risner, a pioneer citizen of Tennessee. Mr. Hunter was reared in the Choctaw Nation, attended the tribal schools, and was student to the junior year in Roanoke College at Roanoke, Virginia. An affection of the eyes caused him to leave college before completing his course. His active career as a useful worker and citizen in Oklahoma covers more than twenty years. From 1894 to 1900 Mr. Hunter was superintendent of the Armstrong Academy near Bokchito, at that time one of the important seats of learning for the Choctaw people. His appointment as superintendent was made by the Choctaw tribal board of education. Later he served two terms in the Choctaw Indian Legislature, being speaker of the House of Representatives during one term. He was a member of the legislature from what was then Blue County, which since statehood has been Bryan County. Some interesting history is recalled in the fact that Mr. Hunter in 1902 was elected principal chief of the Choctaw Nation. It was a contested election, as a result of which the war department dispatched a detachment of negro soldiers to take possession of the Choctaw capital, and Mr. Hunter was not permitted to qualify as principal chief, the secretary of the Interior having advised him that he could not be recognized in that capacity. Mr. Hunter in the days before statehood was an advocate of the single statehood movement, and in 1905 was a member of the single statehood delegation that visited Washington, representing the people in demanding that Oklahoma and Indian Territory should be admitted as one commonwealth. After statehood had been realized in 1907 Mr. Hunter was twice elected district clerk of Choctaw County, and since 1912 has been a member of the Legislature, both in the fourth and fifth sessions. In the Fifth Legislature he was a candidate, on the democratic side, for speaker of the house. He withdrew before the end of the contest, and when he threw his support to A. McCrory that action assured the election of the latter. As a partial reward for this he was elected as chairman of the democratic caucus of the House.
Mr. Hunter in his legislative career while devoted to the interests of his particular section of the state, has exhibited a broad understanding of the needs of Oklahoma as a whole and has always been on the side of progressive and beneficial legislation. In the fourth Legislature he was chairman of the committee on congressional redistricting, and a member of the committees on insurance, criminal jurisprudence, fish and game. He was author of a fish and game law that passed the Legislature but met the veto of the governor. In the Fifth Legislature Mr. Hunter was again made chairman of the committee on congressional redistricting, and had membership in the committees on privileges and elections, fish and game, agriculture, and relations of the Five Civilized Tribes to the Federal Government. As part of his legislative record it should be noted that he advocated bills establishing landlords’ liens, forbidding fraudulent records in the filing of instruments of conveyance, providing for the standardization of the real estate business, relating to perjury, consolidating all probate matters into a compact statute, and providing for the payment of a poll tax.
Mr. Hunter has built up a large real estate business at Hugo and in Choctaw County, and enjoys a reputation as a safe and reliable adviser in real estate matters, particularly in his part of the state. His membership in the State Bar Association is the result of that provision of the state constitution which admitted all lawyers practicing in the old Indian Territory to membership in the state bar. He handled a number of cases in the old tribal courts and that experience has been exceedingly valuable to him both in his business and as a legislator.
For a number of years Mr. Hunter has been recognized as one of the ablest men in democratic politics in this part of the state. He takes to politics almost naturally, and has found in it not only somewhat of a diversion but also a means by which his thorough public spirit may express itself in practical work for the community. Mr. Hunter was a delegate to the democratic National Convention in Baltimore in 1912, going there instructed for Woodrow Wilson and as chairman of the Wilson Club of Choctaw County.
Mr. Hunter is a member of the Presbyterian Church at Hugo, and is affiliated with the thirty-second degree of Scottish Rite Masonry and with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In 1897 he married Junia Fulsom, daughter of Judge Julius C. Fulsom. Judge Fulsom, who died in December, 1914, at the age of eighty-three years, had filled every important office in the Choctaw Tribal Government except principal chief and justice of the Supreme Court.