Eufaula Dam's 50-Year Anniversary Brings Back Memories Of LBJ Dedication
EUFAULA, Oklahoma - On this day half a century ago, the President came to town to dedicate Eufaula Dam.
It marks the 50th birthday for Oklahoma's largest lake.
When the dam was built 50 years ago, it was by a group of men who weren't using pocket calculators and they certainly didn't have iPhones. But their finished product was lasting and was meant for the many generations to come.
“I was standing right here, almost in the identical location, except there was no blacktop. The road was dirt and gravel,” Eufaula resident Glenn Pittman said.
September 25, 1964 doesn't feel all that long ago for Glenn Pittman.
“I think my memory says I brought five bus loads of students to hear President Lyndon B. Johnson.
About 30,000 people showed up to see Johnson dedicate Eufaula Dam. And half a century later, the day is being recognized once again.
“It was one worth remembering,” former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmonson said.
Edmonson's father, Ed, was the local Congressman, one of many political leaders who made the dam and lake possible.
The dam was built for flood control, hydroelectric power and a water supply. The recreation part was just a bonus.
It was a bipartisan effort that former congressman JC Watts says could never happen in today's polarized Washington.
“We don't think future in Washington anymore,” Watts said. “We don't think about the next generation. We think about the next election.”
And even way back when, not everyone realized what the future would hold.
Like Pittman's dad. For him, flooding homes and farm land for a lake was a change not everyone was ready to make.
“All of us younger folks said, 'Look, Dad, we understand this. But there's something better than what we're all no enjoying. Let's take a chance,” he said. “Now, when he saw, began to see the benefit of it... man, he supported it 100 percent.”
And now, 50 years later, the same vision for the future can be found glistening in the sun on Lake Eufaula.
“I want you to think about (it),” Edmonson said. “What in your lives are you going to do in your community, in your state and your nation that people will show up 50 years later and look at and say, "Thank you for your vision."
Eufaula Middle School students, who are working on a project about the dam's history, wanted to hold the rededication ceremony and their idea grew into quite the celebration with about 1,200 people attending. The students also asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rename Damsite Park as Lady Bird Johnson Park, and the Corps will grant that request.