The retirement of Jasper Sipes from the office of president of the State Historical Society, after holding that position for some fourteen years, recalls the efforts by which the Society has been enlarged from a meager collection of newspaper files to its present proportions as a permanent state institution in the capitol building.
Mr. Sipes has been actively identified with the Society since its inception in 1893, when the Oklahoma Press Association at its annual meeting adopted a resolution indorsing the establishment of an office at the Territorial University for the purpose of collecting newspaper files and such historical data as was available. This was authorized by the territorial legislature, and the first custodian was W. T. Little, of Perry, who, backed by a coterie of enthusiasts among whom was numbered Mr. Sipes, established what has grown into an invaluable asset of the state.
Public service of such high order, performed without material reward though a long period of years during the formative processes in the making of a commonwealth, may not be passed without grateful acknowledgement. It may be truthfully said of Mr. Sipes that his service was gladly, almost eagerly, given; for he holds a deep interest in history and correlated subjects. "If I have a fad," he commented recently, "It is historical work. During many years of those which have passed since I became interested in the Oklahoma Historical Society, I have devoted a portion of my annual vacations to visiting and studying the historical collections of other states and foreign countries, and it has been my constant purpose to do all that I could toward preserving the earliest records and subsequent history of Oklahoma for the future."
Election of Mr. Sipes as president emeritus and life member of the Society followed his retirement as president. He was also elected as a member of the executive committee which indicated that the Society still intends to avail itself of his experience and knowledge in furtherance of its work.
Some men are naturally inclined to public service. Of these, an occasional one appears who devotes a large amount of time, energy and money to promoting the public welfare, civic, political and religious, without emolument. Mr. Sipes is such a one. During territorial days he was secretary and later chairman of the democratic committee in Oklahoma, and for a number of years served on the executive committee of his party. He was chairman of the Carnegie Library Board for several years. He was chairman of the Oklahoma commission which collected and had charge of the state exhibit at the San Francisco exposition, a work that was successful without any state appropriation and during a time of financial stringency in the state. He has been active in the State Teachers’ Association and the State Press Association since their organization as territorial associations more than thirty years ago, and is still a member of both, having held various offices therein. For twenty years he has been treasurer of Masonic Lodge No. 36; is a trustee in the Masonic Temple Building Association, and was chairman of the finance committee and, treasurer during the financing and construction of the new temple in Oklahoma City.
In 1889 Mr. Sipes came to Oklahoma, participating in the "run" which in a day populated the territory first opened to white settlement. He "took a claim" five miles east of Oklahoma City, and he has owned it ever since. Coincidently, he opened up a business in school and church furniture, and that, too, he still owns and operates. Meanwhile, he has acquired interests in other institutions, and for several years has been a director in one of the largest banks in the city.
The Oklahoma Historical Society owes a great deal to Mr. Sipes. During all the years since its organization, and particularly since he became its president, the Society has been his especial care and has received his constant attention. A man widely traveled, he has brought to it the experience of states and nations in building up an institution for Oklahoma that shall compare with any in the preservation of its lore and its relics, the value of which will increase with the passing of the years. The Society tenders him this recognition, as his due, for a long and unselfish public service.