Biography of Walter J. Pack
Walter J. Pack, a prominent figure in business circles in Muskogee, has also been a valuable contributing factor in the educational development of Oklahoma and has left the impress of his ability upon the lives of those who have come under his instruction. He represents a family whose members have largely consecrated their lives. to the spread of the gospel and who have proven most able workers in this great field of usefulness. It was in the capacity of preacher and teacher that Walter J. Pack became a resident of Tahlequah, being appointed head of the Baptist Mission Academy and pastor of the Baptist Church. Since that time his labors have constituted an effective force in promoting material, intellectual and moral progress in the state. The Pack family of which he is a representative was established in America while this country was still numbered among the colonial possessions of Great Britain. His great-grandfather, Samuel Pack, was a planter and slaveholder in Virginia, in which state he died. He had aided in protecting the settlers against the Indians and has contributed to the pioneer development and early progress of the state. He had two children, one of whom, Loami, also devoted his life to the occupation of farming and served his country as a soldier in the Mexican war. He married Polly Lively and they became the parents of ten children, the number including John L. Pack, who was born in Virginia in 1832. Liberal educational advantages were accorded him and he afterward became a successful farmer, rearing his family to industry and right principles of living. Being of the wealthy and slaveholding class in the days before the war he was bound by ties of sympathy and interest to the southern cause and in 1861 joined the Confederate army as a member of Lowery’s battery in Lee’s army, with which he served for four years. With the restoration of peace he resumed his work on the home farm and successfully engaged in the cultivation of his lands and in the raising of stock to the time of his death. He possessed rare social qualities, was a man of deep convictions and strict adherence to principles and had a most extensive circle of friends throughout Monroe county, West Virginia. He was a stalwart Democrat in political belief, a faithful member of the Baptist Church, in which he served as deacon, while in the work of the Sunday school he took a most helpful part. He married Jane Ellison and died in 1895, survived by his widow and three sons, of whom Walter J. is the eldest. The second son, Charles Henry, was pastor of the Baptist Church in Parsons, West Virginia, and died in the year 1909. The other brother, Luther, is now pastor of the Baptist Church of Wadestown, West Virginia.
The birth of Walter J. Pack occurred in Monroe county, West Virginia, October 23, 1868, and after attending the public schools he pursued summer courses in normal and private schools and was graduated from the State Normal at Concord, West Virginia. Later he attended Richmond College and spent one year in Lebanon University. In 1901 he completed a course in the Louisville Theological Seminary and while pursuing his education he supplemented his financial resources by teaching in graded schools and for a time conducted a private normal school at Lindside, West Virginia. He also taught in the English department in the Concord State Normal during his senior college year and in every position demonstrated his ability as an educator. After finishing his theological work at Louisville he came to the Cherokee country to assume the post of President of the Cherokee Academy at Tahlequah and to become pastor of the Baptist Church. The task of caring for both school and Church became so arduous that after two years health conditions necessitated his resigning the pastor; ate, although during his Church work he had doubled the, member-ship, multiplied the contributions by four and left a congregation united in brotherly feeling and sympathy, thus furnishing an unusually good foundation on which his successor might build.
Upon assuming charge of the academy, Mr. Pack found the building a small frame affair, with three teachers doing ungraded work and the school in competition with a Presbyterian institution. He first made the acquaintance of the supporters of the school and then made his ideas and needs known. The latter were largely financial but his cause so commended itself that responses to his call for aid grew in liberality until a new brick building was erected and paid for, new equipment was secured and new departments were added to give the pupils full academic work. The enrollment increased to three hundred and twenty and the school was soon in a most flourishing condition. The additions to the curriculum included music, art and commercial courses. More ground was added to the campus, which was fenced and improved, constituting a most attractive surrounding for the institution. While Mr. Pack was carrying on his educational work and contributing as a citizen to the welfare of the town, he was also becoming well known on the lecture platform, frequently addressing students and educational bodies and those interested in educational,. social and Church problems. As the Baptists controlled two institutions in a limited territory, one at Bacone and the other at Tahlequah, they decided to combine the two schools and consolidate the interests at Bacone. The people of Tahlequah had assisted to such an extent in making the academy a success that it was decided to sell the academy building to the city at a reduced price and the school went out of existence, leaving a notable record in the educational world and among the Cherokees for a high standard and splendid service to the community. With the close of the academy Mr. Pack became Principal of the high school at Tahlequah, continuing his work in the same building. He began his labors in the fall term of 1908 and in May, 1909, graduated six students, the first class to complete the course in the city schools after the admission of Oklahoma to the Union. When the North-eastern State Normal School was located at Tahlequah, the state having purchased the building and grounds of the National Cherokee Female Seminary for normal purposes, Professor Pack was elected by the board of regents to the chair of history and civics. In 1911 he became English teacher in Bacone College and in 1912 was made financial secretary of the Murrow Indian Orphans’ Home. One hundred acres of land has been purchased and two handsome buildings erected on the grounds and Mr. Pack is still serving as Secretary of the board. Retiring in a measure from the educational field, although his interest in intellectual progress will never cease, Mr. Pack became identified with the Southern Surety Company in 1913 and so continued until 1915, since which time he has been district supervisor for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. He has made this district one of notable increase in the company’s business, ranking in the first club each year. He has not only proven himself a forceful and capable factor in insurance circles but has also operated successfully in connection with the oil interests of the state and he is likewise identified with the Peoples Building & Loan Association of Tulsa.
At Willow Bend, West Virginia, Mr. Pack was united in marriage to Miss Lida Ralston, daughter of Frank Ralston, a prominent farmer and stock raiser of that state. Mrs. Pack was educated in the Woman’s College at Richmond, Virginia, and was a successful teacher prior to her marriage. She has become the mother of three daughters: Marian, Elizabeth and Frances, and it is the purpose of their parents to give them a college education.
Aside from his Church connection Mr. Pack is identified with the Masons, having become a member of the blue lodge and Scottish Rite bodies. He is also identified with the Knights of Pythias and with the Woodmen of the World and both he and his wife are members of the Order of the Eastern Star. His activities, too, have been of a very wide scope along other lines. While residing in Tahlequah he was a member of the Law and Order League and served as a member of the city council. He contributed to the material development of the city by purchasing in connection with Professor Redd a portion of the old academy campus and platting it as the Academy Addition to Tahlequah, transforming it into one of the choice residence districts of the city. He has ever stood for civic betterment and improvement and his cooperation has at all times been counted upon to further plans and measures for the general good in every community in which he has lived. He has been an untiring worker for temperance and when the territory of Oklahoma and the Indian Territory were preparing to combine Professor Pack urged the importance and expediency of bringing about prohibition by constitutional enactment and was a member of several committees appointed for the purpose of promoting the action. He delivered many public addresses in support of the cause and his influence contributed in substantial measure to the success that was achieved for the prohibition movement. Since removing to Muskogee he has become a member of the First Baptist Church, in which he is serving as a deacon and he is now chairman of the Sunday School Association of Muskogee county and also a member of the executive board of the Baptist Association, which covers three counties. He is one of the Boy Scout Commissioners and manifests a most helpful interest in all work that tends to promote the welfare of the youth of the land. He has membership in the Chamber of Commerce, also in the Lions Club and in the Civic Center Association. His vision is broad, his activities varied and resultant. While holding to high ideals he has followed most practical plans in their accomplishment and his labors have indeed been a potent force in bringing about civic improvement, social, intellectual and moral progress.