Former Oklahoma City Mayor Patience Latting, who led the city from 1971 to 1983 and was the first woman elected mayor of a U.S. city with more than 350,000 residents, died Saturday at the age of 94.
Friends and peers remembered Latting on Sunday as the moral compass that guided the city long after she left politics.
Fran Cory worked as the executive secretary for five Oklahoma City mayors starting with Latting. She said Latting was a reformer who established a mindset toward city government that her successors have had to live up to.
“She wanted accountability in government,” Cory said. “It was the taxpayer's dollar, and she wanted to be able to account for that with the citizens. It went from the good old boys to the good old rules.”
Latting was born Aug. 27 1918 in Texhoma. She graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and earned a master's degree in economics and statistics from Columbia University in 1939.
Her political career began with her involvement in the Parent Teacher Association and the League of Women Voters. While volunteering with the League of Women Voters in the early 1960s, she noticed discrepancies in how the state's legislative district lines were drawn, with urban areas being underrepresented by districts that had not been redrawn since statehood.
In 1964, she served as a witness before a federal court reviewing the legality of the 1964 election. She was then involved in redrawing new district lines. Using her background in mathematics and statistics, she helped draw district lines that more accurately represented the state's population.
She won a seat on the city council in 1967, becoming the first female member of the council.
Her career moved on to public office through volunteer efforts. She worked hard for a city council slate nominated by a 1960s reform group, the Association for Responsible Government. On its second slate in 1967 was the name of Patience Latting.
As the Ward 2 councilman, she quickly gained a reputation as one who did her homework. No detail of a tedious zoning case or complex public contract escaped her scrutiny.
Latting said she decided to run for mayor because she was convinced entrenched officials were using public funds for political gain and were affecting hiring and firing at city hall.
Cory said Latting was a private person who ran for mayor because she thought that was the only way to have her voice heard and taken seriously.
“Women at that time didn't feel like they had the rights that they do today,” Cory said. “It was not even heard of when she was mayor that there would be a female firefighter or that there would be a female police officer on the streets.”