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Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

Arrell Morgan Gibson

The award is named after Arrell Gibson who was born December 1, 1921, in Pleasanton, Kansas. He earned a B.A. from Missouri Southern State College, an M.A. (1948) and Ph.D. (1954) from the University of Oklahoma. He was professor of history and government at Phillips University in Enid and at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

His works include: Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (University of Oklahoma Press 1965, 1981), The Oklahoma Story (University of Oklahoma Press 1978), and other histories of the state. Gibson served as the Oklahoma Center for the Book’s first president, and the Center named its highest award in honor of the Norman historian. Seven of the 21 authors on the official Literary Map of Oklahoma are recipients of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. It is given annually to an Oklahoman for a body of literary work. Gibson died in Norman on November 30, 1987.

His works include: Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (University of Oklahoma Press 1965, 1981), The Oklahoma Story (University of Oklahoma Press 1978), and other histories of the state. Gibson served as the Oklahoma Center for the Book’s first president, and the Center named its highest award in honor of the Norman historian. Seven of the 21 authors on the official Literary Map of Oklahoma are recipients of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. It is given annually to an Oklahoman for a body of literary work. Gibson died in Norman on November 30, 1987.

Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients


Sheldon Russell is the author of fifteen books, including his award-winning historical fiction novels and his popular Hook Runyon mystery series. Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush won the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction in 2007; and was selected by the Oklahoma Commemoration Commission as an Official Centennial Project, and the Langum Project for Historical Literature. A number of finalist nominations have also been awarded over the course of his writing career. In 2022 Russell’s novel, A Forgotten Evil, won the Spur Award for Best Historical Western from the Western Writers of America.

Russell’s books have earned starred reviews from both Book List and Publisher’s Weekly. The Insane Train was selected as one of the six best mysteries of 2010 by Publisher’s Weekly. The Bridge Troll Murders won the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction in 2018 and was chosen for the Librarian-Nominated Longlist for the Dublin Literary Award in 2019. His psychological suspense novel A Particular Madness has been nominated for the 2023 award. Two new novels, Justice Rode the Train and Listen, are scheduled for release in 2023.

Russell is a graduate of Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma State University. He taught graduate school at the University of Louisville and the University of Central Oklahoma, where he retired as Professor Emeritus in 2000.

Nancy, his wife of fifty-nine years, is a talented sculptor in her own right. They have one daughter Shonda who works at the Alva Public Library. The Russell’s currently live on the family ranch in the beautiful Gloss Mountains of northwestern Oklahoma.


Jim Stovall is the embodiment of achievement. Although he lost his sight in his twenties, he has been a national Olympic weightlifting champion, a successful investment broker, the president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought-after author and platform speaker. Stovall is the bestselling author of more than fifty books including The Ultimate Gift, which was the basis of a 2006 motion picture starring James Garner and Abigail Breslin. 

His other books include The Millionaire MapOne Season of HopeThe Ultimate JourneyThe Ultimate Financial PlanThe LampThe Sound of HonorThe Financial Crossroads100 Worst BossesKeeper of the FlameUltimate ProductivityToday’s The Day; The Ultimate LifeWisdom of the AgesSuccess Secrets of Super AchieversYou Don’t Have to Be Blind to See; and The Way I See The World. In addition to The Ultimate Gift, five of his other novels have also been made into movies with two more in production, including Will to Win, a novel featuring the life, wit, and wisdom of Will Rogers. For his work in making television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visually-impaired people, The President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Stovall as the 1997 Entrepreneur of the Year. He has been featured in The Wall Street JournalForbes magazine, USA Today, and has been seen on Good Morning AmericaCNN, and CBS Evening News. Moreover, Stovall was also chosen as the 2000 International Humanitarian of the Year, joining Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa as recipients of this honor. In November 2021, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

2020 / 2021

Hannibal B. Johnson has written extensively about Tulsa’s Greenwood District­­—known as America’s Black Wall Street in the early 20th Century—its virtual destruction in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and its resilience and renaissance in subsequent years. His current work, Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples with its Historical Racial Trauma, is a window into the Tulsa that was and the Tulsa that is now, providing updates since the 1998 publication of his Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District.

Other books by Johnson include The Sawners of Chandler: A Pioneering Power Couple in Pre-Civil Rights Oklahoma, Apartheid in Indian Country? Seeing Red Over Black Disenfranchisement, Acres of Asperation: The All-Black Towns of Oklahoma, Mama Used to Say: Wit and Wisdom from the Heart and Soul, IncogNegro: Poetic Reflections on Race and Diversity in America, and Up from the Ashes, which tells the story of Greenwood from a child’s perspective.

Johnson serves on the federal 400 Years of African-American History Commission, a body charged with planning, developing, and implementing activities appropriate to the 400th anniversary of the arrival, in 1619, of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia. He chairs the Education Committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.


Award-winning author William Bernhardt is one of Oklahoma’s most notable and prolific writers, having sold more than 10 million copies of his books. He is the author of 46 works, including the bestselling Ben Kincaid mystery/thriller series, the historical novels Challengers of the Dust and Nemesis, two books of poetry (The White Bird and The Ocean’s Edge), and a series of books on fiction writing.

Bernhardt has received the Southern Writers Guild’s Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (University of Pennsylvania) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (Oklahoma State University), which is given “in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large.”

He has been nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award eighteen times in three different categories, and has won the award in fiction twice for Perfect Justice (1995) and Dark Justice (2000). Library Journal called him “the master of the courtroom drama.” The Vancouver Sun called him “the American equivalent of P.G. Wodehouse and John Mortimer.”

In addition, Bernhardt founded the Red Sneaker Writing Center, hosting an annual writers conference and small-group seminars to mentor aspiring writers. He is now considered one of the most in-demand writing instructors in the nation. More than three dozen of Bernhardt’s students have published with major houses. He is also the owner of the Balkan Press, which publishes poetry and fiction as well as the literary journal Conclave. He has published many new authors as well as prominent authors like Pulitzer-Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and Grammy-Award-winner Janis Ian.

In addition to his novels and poetry, he has written plays, a musical (book and score), humor, children‘s stories, biography, and puzzles. He has edited two anthologies (Legal Briefs: Stories by Today’s Best Thriller Writers and Natural Suspect: A Collaborative Novel of Suspense) as fundraisers for The Nature Conservancy and the Children’s Legal Defense Fund.

OSU named him “Oklahoma’s Renaissance Man.” In 2017, when Bernhardt delivered the keynote address at the San Francisco Writers Conference, chairman Michael Larsen noted that in addition to penning novels, attorney/author Bernhardt can “write a sonnet, play a sonata, plant a garden, try a lawsuit, teach a class, cook a gourmet meal, beat you at Scrabble, and work the New York Times crossword in under five minutes.”


Thousands of people across the state and nation have had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by award-winning American Indian author, storyteller, and performer Tim Tingle, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Tingle, whose great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, also had a paternal grandmother who attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900s. In 1993, Tingle retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders.

He was a featured author and speaker at the 2014 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., based on critical acclaim for How I Became a Ghost, which won the 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Award. His first children’s book, Crossing Bok Chitto, garnered over twenty state and national awards including the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award, and was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review.

Tingle, who lives in Canyon Lake, Texas, received his master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Oklahoma in 2003, with a focus on American Indian studies.

While teaching writing courses and completing his thesis, “Choctaw Oral Literature,” Tingle wrote his first book, Walking the Choctaw Road. It was the selected book for the Centennial Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma program in 2005 and was also selected for Alaska’s One Book–One State program.

As a visiting author and performer, Tingle reaches audiences numbering more than 200,000 annually. He has completed eight speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany.

In February 2016, his novel, House of Purple Cedar won the American Indian Youth Literature Award, was a finalist for the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction, and was nominated by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries for the International Dublin Literary Award.

Tingle’s other books include Salty Pie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light, named a finalist in the 2011 Oklahoma Book Awards for children/young adult; Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner, named a 2014 American Indian Youth Literature Awards Honor Book; Danny Blackgoat, Rugged Road To Freedom; No Name, winner of the 2015 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers Award; and No More No Name, released in June 2017.

Last Modified on Feb 28, 2024
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