Newsman's dream for state coming true

Sunday, September 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Maybe it's a case of life imitating art.

Eleven years ago, nationally known newsman Jim Lehrer wrote a book titled ``Crown Oklahoma,'' a comical mystery about a fictitious Oklahoma governor who was too busy for matters of state because he was arranging to have a dome built on the State Capitol.

In July, Gov. Frank Keating announced that the state's Centennial Commission had raised $15 million to put a dome on the Capitol, a sum that would be matched by $5 million in state funds. A dedication ceremony is planned for the new dome on the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma's statehood, Nov. 16, 2002.

The prophetic nature of his book has not escaped Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of ``The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.''

``I think the bottom line here is this proves that I am a prophet in my own time, that fiction has sometimes led the way,'' Lehrer said. ``Wisdom and vision, as exemplified by a fictional governor named Buffalo Joe, has proved to be real.''

A native of Kansas, Lehrer worked as a newspaperman in Texas for several years before joining PBS. Lehrer's mother was born in Phillips in Coal County between Coalgate and Atoka.

Writing fiction was a total departure for the newsman accustomed to dealing only in facts, and he decided to base his story in Oklahoma, where he would travel without telling people who he was.

Lehrer said he brushed up on Oklahoma history and learned about the state's domeless Capitol. In his book, Lehrer wrote: ``The original building plans had (a dome) but the money ran out in 1915.''

``I think the dome is terrific. If the Oklahoma people think it's great, I think it is great,'' Lehrer said. ``I find the whole thing delightful, having written this book for all this to happen, I couldn't be more tickled.''

Keating had invited Lehrer to attend the ceremony where the dome was announced, but the news anchor was too busy covering the Democratic and Republican conventions.

However, Lehrer said he'd love to come for the dome's dedication.