By J. H. Snyder, Ardmore, Oklahoma
When the hand of death reached forth and touched the brow of Colonel Sidney Suggs, one of the outstanding stalwarts of the Southwest, was called to his reward. He died peacefully at his home on February 9, 1935, without pain, without a struggle; alert and active to the last the frost of 83 winters, sat lightly upon his shoulders and he looked hopefully to the future with all the ardour of his younger years. Death came as he often expressed the wish that it would come, suddenly, silently, to end his labors here below. He died as he had lived with a smile upon his face, and could we but know, it probably would be revealed that in his heart reposed a benediction for all mankind.
Colonel Suggs loved the world and its people, and his heart, large though it was, there was in it no room for envy or hate to find lodgment, no place for greed or malice to abide. During an intimate acquaintanceship with Colonel Suggs extending over a period of more than a quarter of a century the writer never saw him perturbed or angry, never heard him utter an unkind word about a single human being. He did hear him say, however, on more than one occasion that life was too short and living too sweet to devote a single moment to criticism of anybody. "I love the world and everybody in it, I want to live and so conduct myself so everybody will love and think well of me," was a favorite expression of his.
Colonel Suggs was ambitious but his ambition was not based on selfish motives. He wished to see everybody happy and prosperous, he wanted to make the world around him a better place in which to live, and with an eye single to his purpose, gave freely of his time and means.
Sidney Suggs was born near Tupelo, Mississippi, January 15, 1853, son of Dr. Isaac T. and Jane (Fullwood). Suggs who emigrated to Mississippi from South Carolina.
When 14 years of age his parents moved to Mt. Pleasant, Texas, where he attended public schools and began to take part in commercial life. For many years he was connected with a large machinery establishment in Dallas, Texas, and when his connection with that firm was severed he came to Indian Territory and entered business with a younger brother at Berwyn where they operated a store and cotton gin.
After selling his business interests at Berwyn, Colonel Suggs came to Ardmore and purchased the Daily Ardmoreite on June 18, 1897, paying $600 for the plant and good will. He saw a future for Ardmore and saw that he must equip to keep up with the parade. He purchased the first linotype machine to operate in Indian Territory. He published the Ardmoreite until 1917 when he sold his interests to devote his time to promoting good roads, a subject to which he was firmly wedded.
While publisher of the Daily Ardmoreite Colonel Suggs began to advocate good roads. He wanted farmers to have an opportunity of coming to market centers over passable highways, and where there was no organization to promote such a purpose, he organized business men of Ardmore and they constituted the first good roads committee in the territory. Every public movement for the betterment of the people received his whole-hearted support, and his paper became the good roads organ of the two territories. Colonel Sidney Suggs was appointed first state highway commissioner of Oklahoma by the late Governor Lee Cruce, and although the appointment was more vocal than material as he was not provided with anything to work with, he began to study highways more intensely and urged the building of good highways and improvement of the ways to rural sections to every county. His voice was heard in road conventions in every southern state, and he took the question of national aid to congress and the president, and planted the seed that afterwards bore fruit in federal aid for highways. Colonel Suggs, like many other great leaders was just a few years ahead of his time, but when overtaken it usually was discovered that he had been preaching truths for years that were being put into use. One achievement of which he was particularly proud was the mapping of the Indian trails which survey was afterwards adopted by those who surveyed U. S. Highway number 70 across the southern part of Oklahoma.
Colonel Suggs always enjoyed the association of newspaper editors and publishers. He had long been a member of the Oklahoma Press Association and never missed an annual meeting. Even after he had retired from the paper business he attended these meetings of the newspaper people, and no one was more welcome nor contributed more to the entertainment of members of the press association. Who has not enjoyed hearing him play his accordian and sing those old time folk lore songs?
As an evidence of the appreciation and esteem in which he was held by the newspaper fraternity, at the annual meeting held at Shawnee May 27, 1932, the association passed a resolution to have a bronze plaque made to the honor of Colonel Sidney Suggs and that the same be placed on the wall of the Oklahoma Historical Building. The inscription is as follows:
COMMEMORATING HIS WORK AS A
PIONEER OKLAHOMA NEWSPAPER MAN
AND GOOD ROADS BUILDER
AUTHOR OF LAW CREATING
STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT
AND FIRST HIGHWAY COMMISSION
OKLAHOMA PRESS ASSOCIATION
MAY 27, 1932
This plaque has upon it an embossed profile of Sidney Suggs.
Colonel Suggs had been married three times. He was first married in 1876 to Miss Dixie Barnhart of Texas by whom he had six children, only two of whom survive; they are: Velie C. Suggs of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mrs. Kate Suggs Jeter, of Gonzales, Texas. Their mother died in 1891. The Colonel was again married in 1892 in Dunham, North Carolina to Miss Minnie Murray who only survived a few months. His third wife was the widow of Judge Olive of Texas, whom he married in 1895; she had three children, Miss Vera Olive and Mrs. Zoe Olive Evans, of Ardmore, and John Olive, of San Antonio, Texas; Mrs. Suggs died March 18, 1932. Colonel Suggs was a member of First Presbyterian church of Ardmore; fraternally he was affiliated with Masonic bodies, the Odd Fellows, Elks and Woodmen.
Colonel Sidney Suggs was one of the most colorful and one of the most lovable characters who ever lived in Oklahoma. His life was dedicated to service in behalf of others. So inherrent was this trait and so fixed was it in his life that he seldom thought of his own affairs or his personal welfare. He was a man of prolific ideas and once an idea appealed to him he prosecuted it with all the vigor he possessed. His life was endowed with constructive ideals, he had only tolerance and pity with the iconoclast, or with any one who voiced the principle that "my way is the only right way." Colonel Suggs was a dreamer, but his dreams were always of rosy hue, and albeit, many of them never came to pass, his life and the world was the better for his having dreamed.