Aviator’s portrait graces state capitol

Former Sen. Ford with artist Christopher Nick and sponsors, Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Rep. Ray McCarter. (Photo/courtesy)

By Traci Chapman

Oklahoma aviator Pearl Carter Scott now has a permanent place at the state Capitol.

A portrait of Scott, one of the country’s youngest pilots and a former Chickasaw legislator, was unveiled Wednesday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The portrait, painted by Oklahoma artist Christopher Nick, was a gift of the Chickasaw Nation, Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Rep. Ray McCarter.

Although Scott lived and died long ago and never lived in Canadian County, her story has still touched the area. In October 2008, cast and crew of the independent film “Pearl” traveled to the county, shooting scenes in Yukon and El Reno, at that city’s airpark. The movie’s flight scenes were filmed at the airpark with vintage planes loaned to the production. During filming in El Reno, several local extras worked on “Pearl,” including Dane Holland and Evan Goeringer.

The movie won a “Best of Show” award at the 2009 Indie Fest.

Sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation, the film depicts the life of Pearl Carter Scott, a Marlow native who was the youngest person to ever earn a commercial pilot’s license. At the age of 14, after meeting Wiley Post, the young girl turned her love of flying into a profession, appearing in air shows and working as a stunt pilot across the country.

Scott was a unique woman, far beyond her time, line producer Amy Briede said. Born in 1915, she was one of only three people allowed by Post to fly his signature plane, the Winnie Mae. The two maintained a friendship until Post’s death in 1935, Briede said.

Scott was a woman of many “firsts,” Briede said. Scott’s mother, Lucy Carter, was an original enrollee of the Chickasaw Nation. Scott returned to those roots in 1972, when she became one of the tribe’s first community health representatives. In 1983, she also embodied another first when she became the first woman elected to the Chickasaw Nation Legislature, serving three terms before her retirement.

Scott was inducted in the Oklahoma Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. She died in Oklahoma in 2005 at the age of 89 years.

“Pearl,” like its subject, also claimed a first as the inaugural film to qualify for the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program. The program offers a rebate of up to 37 percent on expenditures made by a production company during filming in the state, as long as at least $25,000 is spent in Oklahoma. Other local filmmakers, like Mustang’s Jeff Robison, have taken advantage of the tax credit to make films in the state.

“Pearl’s” producers used several sites throughout the state, including Guthrie, Macomb and the Harn Homestead in Oklahoma. Briede said El Reno’s airport was “perfect” for the production because of its grass landing strip and the surrounding rural landscape.

“The airport was perfect, and the buildings were also great for the time period. We also had a wonderful experience with the airpark and the entire community, so it made the filming a wonderful experience for all of us,” she said.

The Indie honor is not “Pearl’s” first. In March, the film was selected for screening during the American Film Institute Dallas International Film Festival.