Polishing rough diamonds in Oklahoma

An interview with Oklahoman Eddie Faye Gates, education consultant, author, public speaker

Eddie Faye Gates was one of eight children born during the great Depression to Ferman and Vivian Petit, who were sharecroppers with a sixth-grade education living and working in the village of Preston in eastern Oklahoma, about thirty miles south of Tulsa. Preston was a former oil-boom town inhabited by people like the Petits, trying to coax a living out of "recalcitrant, overworked soil"; by construction workers; and by women in domestic service as maids or cooks.

Through the encouragement of her parents, her schoolteachers, and her fellow churchgoers, Mrs. Gates graduated magna cum laude from the University of North Dakota with a degree in social science, and received an M.A. degree in history from the University of Tulsa. She also studied the Holocaust in Poland and Israel. She went on to enjoy a distinguished career as a high-school history teacher and public school administrator in Tulsa. She is now a writer, public speaker, and Holocaust education consultant, who is grateful to have a little more time to spend with her husband Norman, a retired United States Air Force major, their five children, and their seven grandchildren.

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