By Jayne Boykin

The death of the first female ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, 80, hit the national news Friday. But, the news that the former Jeane Duane Jordan of Duncan had died hit local residents a little closer to home.

According to the Associated Press, Kirkpatrick died Thursday evening at her home in Bethesda, Md., where she was under hospice care, said her son, Stuart. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Kirkpatrick was born Nov. 19, 1926, in Duncan, and attended Emerson Elementary School. When she was 12, her father, an oil well drilling contractor, moved the family to southern Illinois.

Former schoolmates recalled her as Duane Jordan, as she was known in elementary school. Although many sources say she graduated from Duncan High School, she did not.

She was, however, inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1982, and Duncan Public Schools Foundation Hall of Fame in 1993. In September 1987, Kirkpatrick’s gala visit to Duncan to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution drew huge crowds.

On that day in 1987, Kirkpatrick told a reporter from The Banner, “When I was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, I said at that time I was almost a third-generation Oklahoman. My grandfather and grandmother eloped to Oklahoma from Texas. They settled and farmed in what was then Indian Territory.

“My father, though, was born in Texas, but only because my grandmother was in Texas at the time visiting her family. Needless to say, she returned to Oklahoma with my father soon after that. My roots are deep here and my family roots are deep here, and my family and I have always been proud of that.”

By the 1980s, however, Kirkpatrick’s relatives had either died or moved back to Texas, and she no longer had family ties in this area. She is survived by two sons. Stuart is a Buddhist minister in Ann Arbor, Mich., and John is a lawyer in Miami, Fla. A third son, Douglas, died earlier this year. Her husband of 40 years, Evron, died in 1995.

On the same 1987 visit, Kirkpatrick said she was once asked by girl from an Oklahoma high school who was visiting the United Nations, “When you were going to Emerson School, did you dream that you would become the United States representative to the United Nations, and how did you go about achieving that dream?”

Kirkpatrick said she told the girl that she was busy dreaming about other things when she was going to Emerson School.

“I wouldn’t have the foggiest notion about how to go about becoming the United States representative to the United Nations if I had ever conceived of being that. Really, I haven’t any good advice for anyone else either, except think it over,” Kirkpatrick said.

She did give Emerson credit, however, saying that Emerson taught her a lot about doing your best at any assignment given.

Kirkpatrick, James A. DeBois and the late Thomas Howard McCasland were the first three people named to Duncan Public Schools Foundation Hall of Fame on Nov. 11, 1993.

In introducing her, Doug Nix, then a local banking executive, said, “No woman in our lifetime has ever stood in our United States government stronger and more respected than Jeane Kirkpatrick.”

In her acceptance speech, Kirkpatrick again gave credit to Duncan and its schools for her good start in life.

“In the years I spent in Duncan schools, my teachers taught me how to write sentences ... make paragraphs, and a fundamental appreciation of good literature. Those teachers made me an enthusiastic reader. Those teachers set standards for me. ... They taught me the importance of perseverance and hard work.

“I believe that Duncan is a very good town. I like the fact that I’m from Oklahoma, which has a rich frontier heritage. I believe that Duncan schools are among the best anywhere.”

Dale Anderson, former Duncan chief of police, did not know Kirkpatrick personally, but as a law enforcement officer said, “We were attentive to her presence here.

“She was a very special person, and Duncan is proud to have had her in the position she was in. She came back here on occasion, never forgot where she came from. She was an extremely gifted, brilliant person. To have her serving our nation was the biggest honor. She sure had her head on straight. Our country was well served by Jeane Kirkpatrick,” he said.

In Duncan, the Jordan family lived at 1114 Spruce. In addition to attending Emerson, Jeane worshipped with her family at First Baptist Church. Many Duncan residents remember the young girl fondly.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Buddy Campbell of Duncan had another recollection of her — as his childhood neighbor in the 1920s and 1930s.

“The famous part doesn’t impress me,” Campbell said. “The person impresses me, and she was a good person.”

“She was a very intelligent young lady,” said Campbell, 80, now a retired Duncan businessman. “She was one of the leaders in the grade school.”

Kirkpatrick’s fame spread far beyond the borders of Duncan, however. Upon hearing of her death, Rep. Tom Cole, a fellow Oklahoman, said, “Today, the world lost an influential foreign policy leader, our nation lost a thoughtful advocate and our state lost a friend.

“Jeane Kirkpatrick was a key player in U.S. foreign affairs for many years. She was both thoughtful and articulate. Her life of service will surely leave a lasting impression on the people she worked with, including many dignitaries and foreign diplomats, and will most certainly have a positive influence on our country’s diplomatic efforts and relationships for a long time to come.

“Over the years, I had the honor to meet with Ambassador Kirkpatrick on numerous occasions. Indeed, she was a favorite featured guest at Oklahoma GOP fundraisers. No one spoke more forcefully or effectively for America and no one was a better or prouder ambassador for Oklahoma to the world.

“Oklahomans are proud to claim her as one of our own and we are all grateful for her contributions to our country,” Cole said.

Another Oklahoman, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Muskogee, said: “Oklahomans can be proud of the way Jeane Kirkpatrick represented our state while serving her country. President Reagan rightly referred to her as ‘a giant among the diplomats of the world.’ As an unabashed champion of liberty, she was a strong voice who did much to help America win the Cold War. Later at the United Nations, she was a tenacious advocate for human rights, freedom and American interests abroad. Jeane Kirkpatrick served her country nobly and will be greatly missed. I will keep her family in my prayers.”

“It’s exciting that someone from a small town like we have was able to make it on the international level,” Duncan Mayor Gene Brown said. “We were proud of the fact that she told everybody she was from Duncan, Oklahoma.”

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