William D. Matthews


William D. Matthews. The most important business of the state is that of administration, and many would regard the office ranking second in importance to that of the governor as the state commissioner of charities and corrections. Under the jurisdiction of this office are all the penal and eleemosynary institutions of the state, including private benevolent institutions such as orphans’ homes, hospitals, and also the care of the dependent orphans of the state. To this office was brought by the vote of the people of Oklahoma .in November, 1914, a man whose qualifications for such position are the result of a life of service.
William D. Matthews was a boy soldier of the Confederacy, and the great work to which he devoted himself for forty years was the Methodist ministry, with which he was identified in Oklahoma for over a dozen years. William D. Matthews was born in Marshall County, Mississippi, January 11, 1846, a son of Dr. B. D. and Margaret F. (Alderson) Matthews. His father was born in Campbell County, Virginia, in 1800; in 1818, when still a boy, located in Tuskaloosa, Alabama, studied medicine, and about 1835 moved to Mississippi, where he practiced medicine among the Chickasaw Indians until they were removed to Indian Territory. In the practice of his profession he continued in Northern Mississippi until his death on July 12, 1880. Doctor Matthews was of Welsh descent, while his wife, who died January 29, 1879, was Irish.
Rev. Mr. Matthews was educated in Mississippi. He was a student in the St. Thomas Hall, a military academy, at the outbreak of the war between the states. Though only in his fourteenth year, he entered the Confederate army on November 3, 1861, in the Third Mississippi State Infantry under the noted soldier-churchman, General Polk. He was in that command until February, 1803, and then became identified with the noted cavalry organization under Gen. John H. Morgan. He served as quartermaster’s sergeant, and continued fighting for the cause of the South until the close of hostilities. He was paroled May 25, 1865, then returned home and for three months attended school, following which for about three years he was clerk in a mercantile business at Memphis, Tennessee. During the winter of 1867-08 he taught school in Lafayette County, Mississippi, and at the same time pursued the study of medicine. After some preparation he discovered that the bent of his abilities was in another direction, and he gave up medicine and for several years was employed in teaching and also in farming. On May 31, 1871, Mr Matthews was licensed as a preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He joined the North Mississippi Conference on January 3, 1872, and for forty consecutive years was a pastor and otherwise actively identified with the Methodist Church. He saw service in Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and was a presiding elder in both the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. As he had been a good soldier in the battles of men so he was likewise efficient in promoting the cause of militant Christianity, and throughout nearly all his life has been devoted to other interests than those of self. Mr. Matthews first came to Oklahoma November 2, 1899, locating at Guthrie, where he was pastor until 1900, following which he held pastorates at Norman. Pauls Valley, Tecumseh, Atoka, was presiding elder of the Clinton District of Western Oklahoma four years, during 1911 was pastor at Purcell, and at Davis in 1912. At his own request Mr. Matthews retired from the ministry in the fall of 1912. During the sessions of the Fourth Legislature he was chaplain of the Senate and for two years was chaplain of the Boys’ Training School at Pauls Valley.
His selection to the office of state commissioner of charities and corrections is an example of the principle of the office seeking the man rather than the man the office. It was only at the earnest desire of many friends that in 1914 he permitted himself to become a candidate at the democratic primaries and in that primary contest he found himself one among a field of nine candidates, seven of whom were women. There was that in his record of service and his personal character which made a strong appeal to the members of his party, and he was selected by a large plurality. At the election in November he was elected by a plurality of nearly 30,000 votes. Mr. Matthews began his official term of four years in January, 1915. His offices are in the State House at Oklahoma City.
On August 4, 1868, Mr. Matthews married Miss Nannie D. Conway, daughter of Denson and Nancy Conway of Lafayette County, Mississippi. Denson Conway was a Mississippi planter and had a large estate before the war. To their union had been born nine children, six of whom are living: Ballard D. Matthews of Pauls Valley; Joseph A. Matthews of Los Angeles, California-, Allie E., wife of W. C. Van Hoozer of Pauls Valley; Margaret F., wife of Carl A. Shumate of Pauls Valley; Nannie Maud Matthews living at home; Mattie F., wife of J. H. Cooper, of Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Besides these children there are ten grandchildren, five boys and five girls. Mr. Matthews and wife reside at 1103 North Shantel Street, Oklahoma City.