Mayor boosts Gene Autry museum near Ardmore - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Mayor boosts Gene Autry museum near Ardmore

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GENE AUTRY, Okla. -- Local residents say the Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum is the pride and joy of this tiny and historic Carter County town about 10 miles northeast of Ardmore.

But Kyle Lawson, the mayor of Gene Autry, says the 80-year-old building dedicated to preserving the legacy of The Singing Cowboy is in need of a lot of upkeep. So on his birthday, he's trying to help.

"It's the primary reason a lot of people do come and visit our little hidden-away community," he said. 

The town's old school house building was made into a museum after a group of local kids who knew Autry pulled together their private collections in the 1980s.

Exhibit at the Gene Autry Museum
The Gene Autry Museum is filled with memorabilia from the career of The Singing Cowboy. (KTEN)

"We have heard over and over that we have a world-class exhibit here," said museum director Leslei Fisher.

But now, the old school building is in serous need of repairs.

After being closed down due to the misappropriation of funds in 2015, Lawson stepped in as mayor with one goal in mind.

Mayor Kyle Lawson

"The first thing I wanted to do was to clean up the mess from the previous administration... the finances," he said.

Now, according to Lawson, his town is finally out of debt for the first time in years. But he says the work isn't over.

"So now it is kind of our new goal and our new vision to work on the town... to invest in some infrastructure, to invest in our museum," he said.

As the town of Gene Autry celebrates its 134th birthday next week, Lawson turns 31 on Thursday. He says he wants to donate all of his birthday money to the town.

"I am doing it for the whole month of July, and the goal is to raise $5,000," he said, adding that any funds raised will go toward improvements to the museum and the local historical society.

Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum
The Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum was established in an old schoolhouse now 80 years old. (KTEN)

"In 1941, we changed our name to Gene Autry, Oklahoma, partly because Gene bought a 1,200-acre ranch here," Fisher said. "But to hear the full story, you'll have to come to the museum."

Gene Autry starred in 93 movies, was a radio and TV personality, and also owned the California Angels baseball team. He wrote the perennial Christmas classic, "Here Comes Santa Claus" and hundreds of other songs.

Autry also has roots on the other side of the Red River; he was born in the Grayson County town of Tioga, Texas, in 1907.

Gene Autry died in 1998.

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