These seven Oklahoman natives are set to receive the state's highest honor

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The 2024 class of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame ranges from a biophysicist who has developed missions for NASA and an acclaimed artist who does much of his painting with his mouth to a supermodel/actress who has become a trailblazer for sustainable fashion and a record executive who has helped Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, Restless Heart and more become country music stars.

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame has revealed the seven honorees who will receive this year the state's highest honor bestowed on an individual:

Amber Valletta is seen in 2023.
Amber Valletta is seen in 2023.

"The honorees included in this year’s class are shining examples of Oklahoma’s excellence and commitment to serving others," said Shannon L. Rich, president & CEO of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, in a statement.

"Their remarkable achievements and unwavering dedication to their fields serve as a testament to the unlimited potential that Oklahomans provide, inspiring generations to come."

When will the 2024 class be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame?

The class of 2024 will be recognized during the 97th Annual Oklahoma Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Nov. 14 at the Oklahoma City Convention Center. Tickets will be available to the public starting at the end of August.

For more information, go to www.oklahomahof.com.

Here's what you need to know about this year's Oklahoma Hall of Fame inductees:

Anita Arnold poses for a photo at Black Liberated Arts Center Monday, April 15, 2024, in Oklahoma City.
Anita Arnold poses for a photo at Black Liberated Arts Center Monday, April 15, 2024, in Oklahoma City.

Anita Arnold blazes trails and teaches history

Born on a farm in Tecumseh and raised in a still-segregated Oklahoma City in the 1950s, Arnold is a teacher and a trailblazer.

While still in her 20s, she became one of just a few Black employees hired by Western Electric. With the U.S. Postal Service, where she created and maintained national database systems, she became the second-highest ranking woman in the country.

As an employee of what is known today as AT&T, she took up the fight to ensure the jobs of Black employees were protected during the dissolution of the former Bell System, even founding a national organization within AT&T that not only retained but also attracted Black employees to the company. Today, that organization boasts more than 10,000 members.

For more than three decades, Arnold has served as the executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center, an OKC nonprofit known as BLAC, Inc., where she has channeled her energies into elevating the arts in Oklahoma’s Black communities. She also has authored six books and many magazine and newspaper articles chronicling Oklahoma's African American history.

"We're owning our history. It is nothing to be ashamed of. The history of African Americans is rich. Look no further than George Washington Carver. He was just one of many who contributed not only to Oklahoma, but the entire United States," Arnold recently told The Oklahoman.

Greg Burns keeps adapting his artistry throughout his life

For Burns, creating art means continually adapting, something he’s become a master at since birth, even when he doesn’t have a pen tucked into his curved right hand or a paintbrush clamped in his mouth. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a muscle and joint disorder that limits or prevents movement of the extremities.

His father sold trucks for International Harvester, and Burns told The Oklahoman in 2018 that the company helped move the family to OKC when he was just a toddler so that he could receive treatment at what now is The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.

Growing up, Burns was often given pencils and paper and spent hours drawing, and in 1964, he won first place in a national art show in Chicago. A Bishop McGuinness High School alumnus, he studied art at the University of Oklahoma, became a fixture of the fledgling downtown OKC Festival of the Arts for 35 years and has earned international acclaim for his intricate ink-and-watercolor paintings.

“Since I first started drawing, my subject matter has been old buildings and old things," Burns told The Oklahoman. "I find them sort of autobiographical. ... They have kind of a life of their own."

Benton C. Clark III keeps exploring space

Born and raised in OKC, Clark developed an early interest in science. After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees, the biophysicist served three years in the U.S. Air Force, designing instruments for space exploration while interacting with astronauts.

During his five decades working with Lockheed Martin, Clark rose to chief scientist and director for concepts for deep space exploration. Collaborating with prominent scientists and his team of engineers to develop designs for innovative new missions for NASA resulted in spacecraft flown to the Moon, Mars and Jupiter. His group also developed missions that achieved the first robotic returns of samples from a comet, the solar wind and the asteroid Bennu.

As an octogenarian scientist, he continues to participate in NASA’s Mars rover missions through the Space Science Institute and co-authors books on astrobiology.

"Space exploration is a place where you can be one of the first people to help discover something. These days, we announce our discoveries so fast, it's short-lived, but it's fun to be there at the time," Clark told The Oklahoman in 2004.

Tim DuBois helps create country music stars and smashes

A Grove native and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, DuBois was writing lyrics and music while still in high school but earned his degree in accounting from OSU. He initially went into banking, but eventually headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to seek his fortune in country music.

After accepting a professorship at Vanderbilt University, DuBois relocated to Music City, teaching during the day and shopping his songs at night. He landed a writer’s deal that resulted in three No. 1 songs in a 12-month period, including Alabama's “Love in the First Degree."

One of the most successful executives in the recording industry, he discovered and signed top stars like Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, BlackHawk, Pam Tillis and Diamond Rio. He formed the band Restless Heart and introduced Kix Brooks to former Tulsan Ronnie Dunn.

"I am naturally drawn to writer/artists," DuBois told The Oklahoman in 2002. "Being a songwriter myself, I zero in on that. I'm excited about what an artist has to say."

Five songs DuBois has co-written have hit No. 1 on the charts, including fellow Oklahoman Vince Gill's smash "When I Call Your Name," and as a producer, his accolades have included more than 20 No. 1 hits and top five singles.

Drew Edmondson stays devoted to law and service

A Vietnam War veteran, Edmondson worked as a teacher before being elected to the Oklahoma Legislature and then becoming Muskogee County District Attorney. In 1994, he was elected Oklahoma Attorney General, an office he held for 16 years.

In 1998, he joined seven other attorneys general to negotiate a $206 billion national settlement that would forever change the way tobacco companies market their products. In Oklahoma, the settlement led to the creation of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET, a constitutionally protected fund to guarantee the tobacco settlement proceeds would be spent on public health in perpetuity.

Now in private law practice, Edmondson also championed sustainable clean water, successfully filing suit against a dozen poultry companies for polluting the Illinois River. The lawsuit led to remediation of the watershed, even as the state awaits a final, court-approved remediation plan.

Anne Morris Greenwood stays loyal and true to OSU

After a 30-year corporate accounting career with major Fortune 500 companies, Greenwood retired and turned her lifelong passion for philanthropy into her vocation. She started out in the 1970s supporting major national charities, eventually honing her focus on improving access to higher education and the performing arts.

She first established an endowed scholarship at OSU for students from her alma mater, Carnegie High School, and over the next two decades, she established and supported multiple scholarships.

She also has funded several major facility updates on OSU's Stillwater campus, including the Edmon Low Library Greenwood Reading Room, Wesley Center Student Activity Hall, Greenwood Center for Online Excellence and, to improve performing arts access, the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts and the Greenwood School of Music.

This spring, she and her husband achieved a longtime dream when OSU was picked to host the NCAA men’s and women’s tennis championships at the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center.

“This is a moment we’ve been looking forward to since the moment we pledged our money, so this year is unbelievably special to us. It’s happening and I can’t believe it," she told The Oklahoman.

Amber Valletta and Jessica Biel attend the Fendi fashion show during Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 21 in Milan, Italy.
Amber Valletta and Jessica Biel attend the Fendi fashion show during Milan Fashion Week on Feb. 21 in Milan, Italy.

Amber Valletta wants to move fashion forward

A Tulsa native, Valletta emerged as a supermodel in the 1990s, representing numerous luxury brands and gracing the covers of more than 100 international editions of Vogue. She transitioned into acting with notable roles in the movies "What Lies Beneath" and "Hitch" as well as television series like "Revenge" and "Blood and Oil."

A pioneer in sustainable fashion, Valletta founded Master & Muse, an online platform promoting ethically made fashion. She co-founded A Squared Films LLC, producing films with progressive social and environmental themes. In partnership with Karl Lagerfeld, she has created sustainable capsule collections and served as the brand's Sustainability Ambassador since 2021. She is also the first Contributing Sustainability Editor at British Vogue.

Closer to home, she is a proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation and sits on the advisory board of the Cherokee Film Institute.

"As counterintuitive – and difficult – as it may seem, we’ve got to shift our mindset about the environment from one of fear to joy and love, of sacrifice to enjoyment. It’s a relief to consume less, to no longer be burdened by possessions you never needed in the first place," she wrote in a 2023 essay for British Vogue. "Every sustainable choice you make, however small, isn’t just good for the planet, but an act of self-care, repaid in whatever your equivalent of Oklahoma skies are."

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: 2024 class of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame announces 7 honorees