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Liberty L. (Bennett) Preston, Mary L. (Bennett) Delozier and Mary B. (Delozier) Harris Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Liberty L. (Bennett) Preston, Mary L. (Bennett) Delozier and Mary B. (Delozier) Harris

Daughters and granddaughter of Henry Garland Bennett reminisce about his life (1886-1951) and career as a college president and as the first administrative director of the Technical Cooperation Administration, U.S. Department of State, 1951.

Stillwater, Oklahoma
by Richard D. McKinzie

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript]


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1987
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript]


Oral History Interview with
Liberty L. (Bennett) Preston, Mary L. (Bennett) Delozier and Mary B. (Delozier) Harris


Stillwater, Oklahoma
by Richard D. McKinzie

Summary Description:

Topics discussed include the personality, family life, and educational career of Henry G. Bennett; Ouachita College; Southeastern State Teachers College in Oklahoma; and Oklahoma A&M College.

Names mentioned include Henry G. Bennett, his wife Vera, his parents, his sisters, and his children; also Thomas Briggs, Dr. Bezell, Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Connell, Trula Hynds, Marguerite Bright, Randall Connell, William Holloway, Henry Johnston, and Harry S. Truman.


MCKINZIE: You told me when I was here before that your father's father was a minister. Is that correct?

DELOZIER: That's right. He was a Baptist evangelist, I would call him. He traveled and never had a church of his own. He would go to small communities, particularly in Arkansas, and most of the time I don't believe he was paid.

MCKINZIE: He was a farmer?

DELOZIER: Yes, my grandfather was a farmer, and Daddy and his mother ran the farm because the father was gone quite a bit with his evangelistic work. In those days the railroad gave evangelists passes. So that was all he needed. He could get his lodging and food wherever he preached, and he had his transportation free.

MCKINZIE: So, your father, then, grew up on a farm in Arkansas?


DELOZIER: That's right.

PRESTON: There, and then for awhile they were over in Decatur, Texas.

DELOZIER: That was one year.

MCKINZIE: Did you ever hear them say what they were doing in Decatur?

DELOZIER: This uncle, Jim Bennett, was also an evangelist Baptist preacher. I gather he had gone over there to preach and there were farms available, evidently, that they felt were better farms than where they were. They went over and stayed about a year, and then wanted to go back to Arkansas.

MCKINZIE: What part of Arkansas?

DELOZIER: Their farm and their house were on the line of Hempstead-Nevada County in Arkansas. Hope is the county seat of -- I'm not sure which county. But Hope was where they did their county business.

MCKINZIE: Your father went to a country school?

DELOZIER: He went to a one-room country school.


PRESTON: To begin with.

DELOZIER: Well, for eight years.

PRESTON: No, they moved to Arkadelphia, so he could go to school, before he was ten, because that's where he had the laundry route. He started his laundry route when he was ten. One of these letters, I think, tells about when he ran a laundry route.

DELOZIER: What is this laundry route? Where he picked up laundry?

PRESTON: Students had to have their laundry picked up and delivered to them and he did it for a laundry there in Arkadelphia. There's one letter in these from a person who roomed and boarded with Grandmother. She ran a rooming and boarding house.

MCKINZIE: You mean after they moved from Arkansas?

PRESTON: No, this is from down around Hope -- we moved to Arkadelphia because all Baptist ministers' children could go to school there.

DELOZIER: In Arkadelphia at Ouachita College, and they had


prep schools for people because the country schools just went to eighth grade. So there was this in-between gap, and the colleges, like here at OSU, had prep schools where you get high school work and prepare yourself for college entrance.

MCKINZIE: So they moved there for the purpose of sending you to school?

DELOZIER: Well, an older sister had gone there to school because, like Liberty says, all of the Baptist ministers' children were entitled to an education.

PRESTON: It was about the time 'Aunt Lois started, wasn't it, that they moved?

DELOZIER: I don't know the year but somewhere along there, they decided that with Daddy going to go to college, they better get in and get located. So Grandmother and Daddy bought the land right across from the college and built a boarding house. They brought the lumber in from their farm by wagon, and built the house and had boarders and roomers. Most of the roomers were men who were on the faculty, and a part of the agreement for allowing them a room in this building, which was


right across the street from campus, was that they would help Daddy prepare for the college.

MCKINZIE: He got tutors then who were college instructors?

DELOZIER: He also delivered rural mail.

PRESTON: He was the first rural mail carrier in Arkansas.

MCKINZIE: That was when they were living in Arkadelphia?

PRESTON: That's right.

MCKINZIE: He also then went to Arkadelphia College?

DELOZIER: Yes, but before he went to the college he delivered mail.

MCKINZIE: He must not have been too old.

PRESTON: He was 16 when he got that. They wrote him to call.

DELOZIER: Yes and they had to try to find a telephone to call.

PRESTON: Then it was so new they didn't know how to call long distance.


DELOZIER: No, there wasn't even an operator. There was just one lady that ran the thing, just a trunk PBX system, I guess. She didn't know, she had never called Little Rock, but the message that had been sent to him said to call. So, they called and he took the job over the phone, and delivered the mail and was quite proud. I think that was one thing he was always proud of. He went to the rural mail carrier's conventions and always kept up with the people that he had known.

MCKINZIE: Many years later?

DELOZIER: Oh, yes, all his life. The man that took his job when he graduated from college and decided to come to Oklahoma retired from that job when I was little and bought the hotel in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. We'd always stop by, coming from Durant to Stillwater, at the Wynnewood Hotel so he could say hello to the man. Every time we would drive off, he would say something like, "Just imagine if I'd stayed with that job I could have been retired and been in the same situation as this man -- own a hotel."

MCKINZIE: When he carried the mail, I assume that was by horse?


PRESTON: Yes, that's the way he ruined his ankle. He had to wear high-top shoes because a horse rolled with him while he was delivering the mail.

DELOZIER: He crossed the river, the White River, both coming and going.

PRESTON: There is some record about him having delivered the Sears Roebuck catalog, and there was something about his having delivered so many of them. All his were delivered. They said they had a hard time getting these catalogs delivered.

DELOZIER: Most rural carriers didn't want to deliver them by horseback, of course, because they were heavy. But Daddy divided them up, and took them to the people in turns. Then the next time he wouldn't always go alphabetically or to the first five. Of course, the word got around that someone had a catalog and everybody was waiting for the Sears catalogs to get there. So they would be real democratic about delivering those catalogs.

PRESTON: I believe he was with that for about three years, but his ankle finally gave him too much trouble.


DELOZIER: Well, he really enjoyed it and when we would go back to Arkadelphia, his pleasure would be taking us out on the mail route and telling us before we got to the mailbox whose name would be on it. Those families never changed and he never missed on whose name would be on that mailbox.

PRESTON: He used to say that he could walk down the street and call every second or third person "cousin" and not be wrong.

DELOZIER: Even when I was in college we would go over there, and even though it had been a long time since we lived there, he'd see people on the street and tell you who was kin to who and who lived where.

MCKINZIE: Did you ever hear him say anything about Arkadelphia College; did he like it?

DELOZIER: Ouachita -- loved it.

PRESTON: Ouachita, yes. He went back numerous times.

DELOZIER: Every chance he got. He loved driving through those pines, and he loved the view down to the river from the back of the school. He loved the iron grillwork


on the homes across -- do you remember the Manahan's home, one of the cousins? It had a fence that looked like New Orleans grillwork; it always had these heavy gates, and it was so pretty. That evidently was the pride of the people who lived around the college. Quite a status symbol if you have a wrought iron fence around your property. Of course, you didn't ever visit there when they lived there, Grandmother and Grandfather. That was before you were born.

PRESTON: No. They had moved to the little red house out there in Hugo where Mother and Daddy lived before they bought the two-story house. [NOTE: Henry G. Bennett's parents were Thomas J. and Mary Bright Bennett. His wife was Vera Bennett. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bennett had five children: Liberty, Henry, Phil, and twins Mary and Tom.]

MCKINZIE: I'm sure if your grandfather was a minister, your father must have inherited some of his moral teachings?

DELOZIER: Well, my father was a lay minister and he preached, I imagine, more than most ministers have ever preached in their life.

PRESTON: Well, he was considered a layman.

DELOZIER: I'm sure he could have been an ordained minister.


There were very few Sundays that he didn't preach; and he taught Sunday School. He had as many as about 500 at times, I believe, in the Sunday School class.

PRESTON: I think that's in the college department. He had one, and Mother had the other, girls and boys. They had a regular attendance, I think.

DELOZIER: Well, it was always jam-packed -- the whole basement of the church and the college. He taught that Sunday class every Sunday and then usually preached somewhere. He also preached so many funerals. I never lost interest in anything he had to say. Also, I never heard him tell the same stories twice.

MCKINZIE: What did he do after he got his education?

DELOZIER: Came out to Oklahoma as a superintendent of schools of Boswell, Oklahoma.

PRESTON: Don't we have some little pieces of paper where he tells about writing to Aunt Stella or Aunt Lois?

DELOZIER: She gave you one and me one.

PRESTON: I think so. This was when he was selling books


during the summer-times.

MCKINZIE: While he was still in college?

DELOZIER: Well, to accumulate a library. He was so eager to have some books of his own.

PRESTON: He came through Oklahoma; that was part of his territory.

DELOZIER: Kansas is where he started and they worked down through Indian territory. He liked it. He met this Mr. Boswell who the town of Boswell was named for.

PRESTON: And the Armstrongs.

DELOZIER: Mr. Armstrong was in the United States Department of Education, and he had an office, I believe, that's in Oklahoma City or McAllister. He later was state superintendent of schools.

PRESTON: He had a farm or something there around Boswell, because I know he and Mr. Boswell both were influential in Daddy getting the job of superintendent of schools in Boswell, Oklahoma.

DELOZIER: He loved selling the books. He always worked,


at first, to get himself some of the books he was selling because he was really sold on those books, and we still have the books.

MCKINZIE: What kind of books were they?

DELOZIER: Well, one set was literature -- world's great literature.

PRESTON: I've got that set.

DELOZIER: That was very valuable in our home. Everybody loved that because that practically got us through school. That was the best set of books I've ever seen.

PRESTON: It's literature of all countries and all ages. It's really fascinating.

DELOZIER: It has guides and the last volume was a synopsis. Not only that, it analyzed the literature and the author and the period it was written in. It told you about some of the art and the things that influenced it. In those days when I went to school, those things were hard to dig out at the library.

PRESTON: Well, they are still hard to dig out.


DELOZIER: It was all in this little set of books that we had.

MCKINZIE: How did he get around? Did he buy a car?

PRESTON: Walked most of the time.

DELOZIER: He walked and sold them door to door at times.

PRESTON: Frequently, he didn't even have a horse. He was w