Decided by a toss of a coin

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 11, 2013 10:24 am

Was a Wallowa County sheriff once selected by a coin flip?


In June of 1948 Gayle Stockdale became the sheriff of Wallowa County on the basis of a coin flip. 

Stockdale, a Republican, was running against Democrat Gilbert Cox for Wallowa County sheriff when the incumbent, A.B. Miller resigned as sheriff effective July 1, 1948. 

Stockdale and Cox then approached the Wallowa County Court in June with a proposal that one of them fill Miller’s unexpired term from July until the end of the year. They agreed to flip a coin and decided the loser would be the deputy sheriff.

The court agreed and Stockdale won when Cox called heads and lost, according to a story in the Oct. 2, 1948 Observer.

 If La Grande had been selected as the site of the Air Force Academy about six decades ago where would it have been built?

The proposed site for the Air Force Academy was a 9,000-acre area just north of La Grande near the slope of Mt. Emily. 

An article in the Oct. 2, 1950 edition of The Observer stated that engineers had prepared a report on this proposed site and that it was being evaluated by federal government officials. 

 It is not known how serious a contender La Grande was for the Air Force Academy. 

We do know that 63 years ago La Grande was one of 195 towns throughout the nation still in contention for the academy. A total of 582 cities originally were considered. 

 La Grande was apparently in contention because it had an Army Air Force training center during World War II at Eastern Oregon University, then named Eastern Oregon College.

“It seems probable La Grande was mentioned as a possible site because of the wartime program,” said Eastern President Roben Maaske in the Jan. 12, 1950 edition of The Observer. 

La Grande became a candidate after the city or its chamber of commerce submitted a bid to the federal government. Oregon cities which also put in bids for the academy included Pendleton, Baker City, Bend, Burns, Klamath Falls, Lakeview, Madras, Portland, Prineville, Redmond and The Dalles. 

A group of Union County residents put together a brochure about La Grande to support its bid for the academy. 

We do not know when La Grande was eliminated from consideration. The three finalists were Alton, Ill., Lake Geneva, Wisc., and, of course, Colorado Springs, Colo. 

Colorado Springs was named the winning site on June 24, 1954. Construction of the academy was completed in the late 1950s. 


Dick Mason's "Answer Man" column appears every Monday