A portrait of Oklahoma-native Lt. Col. Ernest Childers, the only Native American Guardsman to earn the nation’s highest award for valor, was dedicated Wednesday by the Senate. The piece, by artist Mike Wimmer, is sponsored by Sen. Bill and Linda Brown along with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Childers, a full-blood Creek Indian, was born in February 1918 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and attended Chilocco Indian School. He joined the Oklahoma Guard in 1937, rising to the rank of first sergeant by the time the 180th landed in Sicily in July 1943. He earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant during this campaign.
LTC Childers remained with his Army company when it landed at Anzio, Italy, on September 13th. While leading his men near Oliveto, Italy, on September 22, 1943, he earned the Medal of Honor for single-handedly capturing two machine gun nests, killing at least five enemy soldiers and then captured a German mortar observer, all with a fractured ankle.
After World War II, Childers remained in the Army, obtaining the rank of lieutenant colonel before his retirement in 1965. He passed away in 2003.
The portrait is a project of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund.