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What's in a name? - McAlester High School

James Jackson (J.J.) McAlester (1842-1920) is our town founder. He worked in politics, mining, banking, business, law enforcement, and ranching.

He grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas and served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. After the war, he moved to the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory search of coal fields. By marrying a Chickasaw citizen, Rebecca Burney, McAlester gained full citizenship and rights in both Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, entitling him to stake a claim to coal deposits.

J.J. McAlester opened the coal fields of the Choctaw nation to industrial development and lured the railroads through the territory. Colonel McAlester dug out a wagon load of coal near Bucklucksy in 1871.He took coal to the MK& T Railway  Company in Kansas to encourage the rail line to be built through the territory next to his store near the crossing of the Texas road and the California road. The MK& T railway was built directly built to the Bucklucksy store in 1872 and the town name was changed to McAlester. A coal mine was opened and operations began.

In addition to starting the local coal mining industry here, he was instrumental in the local telephone company, electrical company and other businesses. in 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed him the U.S.. Marshal for Indian Territory. He was a Democrat who was elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission at statehood, then elected Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma in 1911. He was even turned into a character in the novel and movie "True Grit."

One of Oklahoma's most respected businessmen and politicians, he dies in 1920 in the town that bears his name.

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McAlester Public Schools200 East AdamsMcAlester, OK  74502


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