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Cora Case Porter
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Photo of Cora Case Porter from the April 1955 Oklahoma LibrarianCora Case was born in Texas in 1870.  She married Henry Edward Porter in 1891.  His death four years later, followed by the death of her father shortly thereafter, left Porter with the responsibility of raising two children of her own as well as supporting her four younger siblings. She turned to library work to support herself and her family.  She earned certification as a library assistant in 1908 from the New York Chautauqua Library School.  In 1924 she received her B.S. degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois.

Mrs. Porter served as Librarian of the Enid Public Library from 1913 to 1924. During that time, she established a branch library, 76 school depositories, and 7 community center libraries. She served as President of the Oklahoma Library Association in 1913-14 and 1914-15. She was also heavily involved in the American Library Association and the Southwestern Library Association, serving as President of the latter in 1934-36.

She continued in the library profession after she left Enid, serving as Head Librarian in Muskogee for 20 years, from 1925 until 1945.

In 1926 she wrote a 5-page poem to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Library Association, "with apologies to Oliver Wendell Holmes and his 'One Hoss Shay.'"

Have you heard of the wonderful A. L. A.
That was made in such a logical way;
It ran fifty years to a day
By its own momentum,–and then, but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Throwing librarians into fits,
And wearing Headquarters out of their wits,–
Have you heard of that, I say?1

In 1946 she wrote Irving Trail and other Poems and dedicated it “to the Librarians who have touched hands with the writer.” Grant Foreman called her “the Southwest’s distinguished librarian” in the book’s foreword.  A poem entitled "Founders" celebrated library philanthropists Charles Page and Robert McFarlin:

The magic of wealth from "black gold" minted
Wrought miracles of grace in hearts unstinted.
Two sunny slopes of precious ground
With costly walls were girdled round
And tiered with shelves and pleasant nooks
To garner the wisdom embalmed in books–
Books upon whose numbered leaves
History records as destiny weaves.2


In 1955 Cora Case Porter received the OLA Distinguished Service Award.  In presenting the award at the Annual Conference on April 1, Awards Chair Frances Kennedy noted:

[Mrs. Porter] entered the library profession when she was 38 years old, and served as librarian in Oklahoma cities for 35 years, retiring because of illness, not age, in 1945.  Today she is 85 years young, and her abiding interest in her profession has never faltered.  As she herself has so aptly said, "I have grown tired in library work–never of it."3

Mrs. Porter was indeed an energetic and ambitious Oklahoma library pioneer. She died in Ada, Oklahoma on July 3, 1968 at the age of 97.  In an obituary published in the October 1968 issue of the Oklahoma Librarian, Frances Kennedy wrote:

Mrs. Porter was an inspiration to young people, and recruited them to the profession long before that activity became organized or popular.  Her philosophy of service was far ahead of her times.  She achieved a high standard of excellence when budgets were low, physical facilities less than adequate, and grants unknown.  In her communities, library service was extended to all races, the affluent and the underprivileged.  She placed a high value on professional library education, and took pride in librarianship as a profession. Members of her staff never worked for Mrs. Porter; they worked with her.

Mrs. Porter's "girls" were very special to her.  Many of these "girls" are now librarians in Oklahoma and across the states.  Hopefully, they are passing on to today's young people the inspiration and challenge they received from this great lady.  Mrs. Porter will always live in the hearts of those who were privileged to work with her.4

A more detailed biography of Cora Case Porter written by Lee Spencer is available in the April 1955 issue of the Oklahoma Librarian, vol. 5, no. 2, pages 32 & 47.

Handwritten inscription by Cora Case Porter


Inscription on the fly-leaf of the copy of "Irving Trail"
in the collection of McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa

 

1Cora Case Porter, Irving Trail and Other Poems (Muskogee, Oklahoma: The Hoffman-Speed Printing Co., 1946), 57.
2Ibid., 33.
3Frances Kennedy, “Distinguished Service Award: Cora Case Porter,” Oklahoma Librarian 5, no. 2 (April 1955): 33.
4Frances Kennedy, “Cora Case Porter: 1870-1968,” Oklahoma Librarian 18, no. 4 (October 1968): 132.

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