We sat down with Betsy Thomas Rook '76 who recently finished her biography "Senator 1876-1965 The Life and Career of Elmer Thomas."
Tell us a little about what you're up to these days! Where are you living? What are you doing? What keeps you busy?
I have been living in Glendale, California for the past 27 years. I was actually born in Enid, Oklahoma, and lived there until I was 14. I moved to St. Petersburg in 1972, and attended Lakewood High and Shorecrest, graduating in 1976. Upon graduating from college, I moved to California and pursued acting, but stopped after getting married and having my kids: Wiley, who is now 22, and Kirby, now 18.
Your new book is about Oklahoma Senator Elmer Thomas. How did a girl raised in Florida and now living in CA become interested in an Oklahoma Senator?
Senator Thomas was my great grandfather, my father's grandfather, who I knew only until I was eight. He was always sort of an enigma to me, and my family revered him, but I never felt as if I really knew him. This book was my attempt to recount his many accomplishments as he served during some of our country's toughest years - the great Depression and World War II.
Raised on a farm in Indiana, he moved to Oklahoma in 1900, where he set up a law firm, having received his law degree from Du Pauw University in 1900. He participated in the Lawton Land Run of 1901 and set up his claim near Medicine Park, Oklahoma. He was in the first Oklahoma senate, and helped to build the capitol building which now is in Oklahoma City. He was elected to the US Congress in 1924, and became Senator in 1926. He served in the US Senate until 1951. He was on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Senate Agricultural Committee, and the Senate Committee for Military Appropriations.
Do you have any plans for another book?
I have an idea for another book, but prefer to remain quiet for now. I will say that it is definitely not an historical biography. "Senator" is my second book; I published a memoir in 2004 on my grandmother titled "My Grandmother was from Wales," which was based on my recollections and interviews with my grandmother.
What is one of your favorite Shorecrest memories?
I cherish my Shorecrest memories, however short the years were that I was in St. Petersburg area, and enjoy the reunions. I think I have made every one of them; I hope this year will be no exception! Definitely one of my favorite memories at Shorecrest was participating in the musicals put on by Ms.Christian. I especially liked playing one of the witches in Macbeth! I really miss the teachers as well, and think they were all outstanding. I remember my endeavors to start a band at Shorecrest quite well and very fondly. Shorecrest helped me grow tremendously, and I will always be grateful for that.
To learn more about Betsy or to purchase her book "Senator 1876-1965 The life and Career of Elmer Thomas" visit www.etrook.com