Joseph Huckins, Jr.

Artist: N. R. Brewer

Joseph Huckins was an early Oklahoma businessman and civic leader with several connections to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. His father opened the Huckins Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City in 1900. The original building was destroyed by a fire in 1908, but immediately rebuilt in grand style. On June 11, 1910, a majority of Oklahoma voters selected Oklahoma City as the state capital over Guthrie, which had been the territorial capital and original state capital. On the day following the election, Governor Charles Haskell wrote a proclamation on Huckins Hotel stationery declaring Oklahoma City as the state capital. State government operations, including the Supreme Court, which met in the basement, operated from the Huckins Hotel until the Capitol building was completed on June 30, 1917.

Huckins served on the Citizens Advisory Capitol Committee, overseeing construction of the State Capitol building. Almost two decades later, he also served on the Citizens Advisory Committee charged with overseeing construction of the State Historical Building, which would later become the Oklahoma Judicial Center. At the time of his death, Huckins owned what could be described as a hotel empire with properties stretching from Knoxville, Tennessee west to multiple hotels in Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. He also owned hotels in Omaha, Nebraska and San Francisco, California.

Nicholas Richard Brewer’s passion for art took him to New York City in 1879. There he studied with D.W. Tryon and Charles Noel Flagg. A talented student, by 1885 he was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design. He later painted portraits of many prominent Americans, including Theodore Roosevelt and United States Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland. Several of his works are in the National Portrait Gallery, the United States Senate collection and state capitols around the nation. The portrait of Huckins was donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1953 by Mrs. James R. Shrayer of Springfield, Missouri and is now on permanent loan to the Oklahoma Judicial Center.

A historic photo of the Court in session at the Huckins Hotel is displayed on the first floor of the Oklahoma Judicial Center. Alongside it hangs a contemporary interpretation in which the original justices have been replaced by their current counterparts and court personnel superimposed over audience members. The new media piece was executed in Photoshop by Selden Jones, staff attorney for Justice Douglas Combs. Jones donated the piece to the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection. The Huckins Hotel stood at 22 North Broadway in Oklahoma City and was demolished as part of urban renewal efforts in 1971.

Source: The Oklahoman, June 12, 1910, November 15, 1910, November 16, 1910, December 29, 1910; Griffith, Terry: Oklahoma City: statehood to 1930; Chronicles of Oklahoma, vol. 7, no. 2, p. 206, vol. 21, p. 106, vol. 31, p. 116, vol. 33, no. 1, p. 126; United States Senate Art & History website, accessed February 8, 2011; Vern Carver & Beard Art Galleries website, accessed February 8, 2011.