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William Wirt Hastings. Speaking without disparagement of any other members of the Oklahoma delegation to Congress, it is doubtful if any one of the present congressmen is better fitted by long residence, active participation in affairs, and general ability and talent, to represent his particular district in the National Legislature than William Wirt Hastings, of Tahlequah. A lawyer by profession, Mr. Hastings for fully twenty years has been prominent as a representative of his people in their varied relations with the Department of Indian Affairs and Congress, and while he is thus so close to the life and spirit of the people whom he represents, Mr. Hastings is by no means a stranger in Washington, having gone there repeatedly on official business.
He was born December 31, 1866, in what is now Delaware County, Oklahoma, a son of Yell and Louisa J. (Stover) Hastings. His father was born in 1842 in Benton County, Arkansas, a son of William Hastings, who came of an old Tennessee family of English origin. The mother was born in what is now Delaware County, Oklahoma, and has spent all her life in practically that one locality. Her father, John Stover, was a native of Georgia, and married Charlotte Ward, who was a member of the Cherokee Trite, and from her William W. Hastings gained his Indian blood and citizenship. Mr. Hastings’ parents were married in 1864, and have ever since lived in what is now Delaware County. His father was a Confederate soldier, serving throughout the war, but aside from that his steady vocation has been that of farming.
Congressman Hastings grew up on a farm and had the wholesome environment of the country as an important early influence on his mind and character. He attended the Cherokee Tribal Schools and in 1884 graduated from the Cherokee Male Seminary at Tahlequah. He then entered Vanderbilt University at Nashville, Tennessee, first in the literary department and later as a student of law, and in 1889 was graduated LL. B. As a means of paying the expenses of his higher education he had already taught school, and afterwards continued the same work while getting established as a lawyer. After one year spent as principal teacher in the Cherokee Orphan Asylum, Mr. Hastings began the practice of law at Tahlequah in 1890, so that his professional career covers a period of a quarter of a century.
Since then official honors and responsibilities have come thick and fast, and have often left him no time to look after his private practice. In November, 1890, he was elected superintendent of schools for the Cherokee Nation and held that position one year. In November, 1891, he was appointed attorney general for the Cherokee Tribe, an office he held four years. His first experience in Washington came with his appointment in 1892 as one of the delegates to represent his nation at the national capital, and while there he assisted in ratifying Hie treaty on March 3, 1893, providing for the sale of what is known as the Cherokee Strip, which in the fall of the same year was opened to settlement and is now divided among a number of some of the finest and richest counties of Northwestern Oklahoma. Mr. Hastings was again a delegate from the Cherokee Nation to Washington in 1896, in 1899, and finally in 1905.
By Act of Congress March 3, 1893," the Dawes Commission was created and by Act of June 10, 1896, was given jurisdiction to hear applications for admission to citizenship in the five civilized tribes. Mr. Hastings was employed as one of the attorneys to represent before that commission the tribal interests of the Cherokees. As is well known, the powers of the Dawes Commission were enlarged and extended from year to year, until it became the chief instrument for the settlement of the many vexed problems and questions arising during the process of allotting the Indian lands and converting the civilized tribes to the relations of American citizens. For more than ten years Mr. Hastings was one of the chief representatives of the Cherokees in their negotiations with this body, and continued his duties in that capacity up to 1907, when the tribal rolls were completed. In January, 1906, Mr. Hastings was employed as national attorney for the Cherokees, the appointment being approved by the President of the United States. In this position he was in exclusive control of tribal interests before all Federal Courts and before Congress, and remained as national attorney until June 30, 1914. He had the handling of many important law suits in which the Cherokee Nation was involved, and the remarkable part of that record is that he never lost a single suit contested by him.
In practical politics Mr. Hastings has long been a leader in the democratic party in his section of the territory and state. In 1892 he presided over the first democratic convention of the Indian Territory, and has otherwise been active in party affairs, including service rendered as a delegate to the National Democratic convention in Baltimore in 1912, in which body he was one of the original Wilson delegates. In August, 1914, at the democratic primaries, he won the nomination for Congress from the Second Congressional District, and was regularly elected in November, 1914, and took his seat in the sixty-fourth Congress.
Fraternally Mr. Hastings is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, also belongs to the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, is a Knight of Pythias and a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. His Greek Letter college fraternity is the Delta Tau Delta. His wife is a member of the Presbyterian Church and he gives his support to that denomination. On December 9, 189)5, Mr. Hastings married Miss Lulu Starr, daughter of Charles and Ruth (Adair) Starr. They are the parents of three children: Lucile Ahnawake, Mayme Starr and Lillian Adair Hastings.