Telling the history of Claremore…one story at a time
This article was written by Barbra Pool, niece of Houston Summers and Claremore Museum of History Historian.
Memorial Day is set aside to honor our military heroes, many which are no longer with us. There are other heroes that must not be forgotten. One Chelsea family will never forget a tragic Memorial Day in 1978. Houston Summers was born and raised in Chelsea. His parents, Frank and Nancy Summers, owned Summers Market, which was later purchased by his brother, Sparky Summers.
As a young man, Houston joined the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He was very proud to wear the uniform and badge that represented Oklahoma. After several years he was transferred to Enid.
May 26, 1978 is known as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol’s darkest day. Governor David Boren called this day “the worst single tragedy in the history of this outstanding law enforcement agency” as three Oklahoma Highway Patrolmen were killed in shootouts with two Oklahoma State Penitentiary escapees who became known as “thrill killers.”
That day, Houston “Pappy” Summers, two other troopers, along with the prison escapees would be dead. The shootouts ended a month long, three state wave of terror by the escapees in which five other people from Texas and Alabama were killed and a Texas woman was kidnapped and raped by these cold-blooded men.
It all came to an end near Kenefic and Caddo in southern Oklahoma where the escapees had family members in the area. This prompted hundreds of lawmen to man road blocks and help search for the inmates.
Trooper Summers and Trooper Billy G. Young confronted the two escapees on a country road. Both vehicles stopped, facing each other, about 80 yards apart. Gunfire shattered the patrol car’s windshield sending slivers of glass into Summers’ eyes. He was shot in the back as he tried to radio for help. Young was also shot to death.
The convicts drove into Caddo for their final showdown. Trooper Pat Grimes was killed and Trooper Hoyt Hughes was wounded. All the law enforcement officers opened fire ending the lives of the two killers. Bystanders said the convicts were “shot all over.”
For the Summers families, emotional scars have been long in healing. A Monument for each trooper has been dedicated in the small town of Caddo. The year, 2018, represents 40 years since our “Hero” from Chelsea honored the State of Oklahoma with his life. Engraved on one of the monuments are these words, “It’s only the inspiration of those who die that makes those who live realize what constitutes a useful life.” Will Rogers