Somewhere around 1985 the idea of a B-Western Singing Cowboy museum began to float around our small town. The Gene Autry School closed in 1989. Our citizens, wanting to preserve the buildings, made the idea a reality. At a town meeting in the Spring of 1990, retired teacher / basketball coach Elvin Sweeten became the first Executive Director of the Museum with partner Willie Johnston in charge of the building. All the displays were built by Mr. Johnston’s talented hands. The Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum opened its doors in the Summer of 1990.
The Museum was initially dedicated to Gene Autry and the Singing Cowboys of the movies, particularly those in the “B-Westerns.” From a modest one-room beginning, the Museum expanded to fill nearly the entire school building (sharing a bit of space to the United States Post Office and the Town Hall). Over the years, Mr. Sweeten nearly single-handedly acquired a formidable collection of Singing Cowboy memorabilia as well as artifacts from the town’s past. It is now purported to be the Largest Collection of Gene Autry and Singing Cowboy memorabilia in the World.
Grants from several foundations helped refurbish the building beginning in 1997. In March 1999, a grand reopening commemorated a new roof, carpet, heating , air conditioning, restrooms, and wall coverings. As this was now nearly twenty years ago, plans are in the works for new renovations including new L.E.D. lighting and restoring the original hardwood floors of the old school building.
After a forced closing in May of 2015, a handful of dedicated citizens lead by the new Mayor Kyle Lawson succeeded in reopening the Museum. September 26, 2015 in celebration of Gene Autry’s 107th Birthday, the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum again re-opened; this time with a new board of directors and an expanded mission. In October of 2015, Leslei Fisher was brought in by the Gene Autry Historical Society as the new Executive Director. Embracing social media as well as traditional methods of advertising the Museum is now moving forward.