OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Avery Frix (R-Muskogee) invited the family of late Muskogee Councilwoman Avalon Reece to the State Capitol this week to attend a ceremonial signing of a bill that names a highway section in Muskogee after the local lawmaker.
House Bill 2311 names a section of U.S. 64 Business in Muskogee, beginning at West 23rd Street South extending north to the intersection of West Southside Boulevard as the "Councilwoman Avalon Reece Memorial Highway." The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will place permanent markers bearing the new name along the highway.
“Avalon Reece served a long and distinguished career in public service in Muskogee both as a councilwoman and an educator,” Frix said. “It is fitting and gratifying to be able to recognize her in this way.”
Reece served as a member of the Muskogee City Council. Her obituary says she was the first black councilwoman in Oklahoma.
In 1980, she was appointed by Governor George Nigh to a nine-year term with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and later served as chair of that board.
Reece is noted for organizing and inspiring many youth and adult civic and recreational groups. She and her sister, Thelma Reece Parks, established a teacher education scholarship to support Langston University education majors aspiring to become professional educators in Oklahoma. She also received many local, state, and national honors, and was a member of numerous professional, civic, and community organizations. Reece is said to have opened doors of opportunity for all people. She was a leader and a trailblazer who established a legacy for Muskogee.
Avalon B. Reece was born Oct. 10, 1927, in Muskogee to parents Thomas and Estella (Smith) Reece. She was the youngest of nine children. She graduated at 16 from Manual Training High School in Muskogee in 1944, and from Langston University in 1948. She then pursued and received a Master's Degree in Music Education from the University of Southern California and later received an Honorary Doctorate from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
Before her service to the Muskogee City Council, Reece was a distinguished educator for 45 years in the Muskogee Public School System. She served as the Manual Training High School Band teacher and director, and was recognized for many years as the first and only female band director of any race at the high school level in Oklahoma. Under her leadership, the band was renown, and many of her students went on to achieve high musical acclaim in jazz, pop, and church music. Reece also served as a school counselor for many years.
Each year, Oklahoma lawmakers run legislation to rename state-owned assets, such as roadways or bridges, to honor of people in their legislative districts. Individual bills are then combined into an omnibus bill, which this year was House Bill 2311.