Light Horsemen

Jean Richardson

The Light Horsemen mural was commissioned specially for the Oklahoma Judicial Center. Light Horse is a name traditionally given to the mounted police force, and is used by several Native American tribes. Cherokee records indicate their Light Horse companies were established as early as 1808 before the removal to Indian Territory. Their legacy continues with the Cherokee Marshals. Choctaw Lighthorse were mentioned in the treaty signed at Doak’s Stand in Mississippi in 1820. Their duties were described as three-fold including sheriff, judge and jury. Chickasaw Nation Light Horse were established after they enacted laws in 1856. The Chickasaw Nation’s Light Horse now includes six divisions: patrol, K9, SWAT, DIVE, investigations and dispatch. The Creek Nation’s General Council adopted a uniform code in 1840, these laws were enforced by the tribe’s Light Horsemen. Law enforcement for the Creek Nation continues to be known as Light Horse. The Seminole Nation formed a Light Horse division in the wake of the Civil War.

Jean Richardson is an Oklahoma modernist artist with a style that often blends the spiritual with the abstract. Horses are among her favorite subjects. Richardson’s Oklahoma roots run deep, two of her great grandfathers drove cattle through Indian Territory in the 1870s: one as a drover, the other as an owner. Though her cattlemen ancestors traveled through Oklahoma, it was Richardson’s paternal great grandmother, Gertrude Street Darby, who would first call the state home – she set up housekeeping in a half-dugout near the Red River.

Richardson’s interest in art began early. She took her first art lessons in 1947 at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, then at the age of twelve one of her paintings won first prize in the junior high division of the South Carolina State Fair. She pursued her art education, graduating with a bachelor’s of fine art from Wesleyan College in 1961. Richardson also studied at the Arts Student League in New York City.

In 1972, she returned to Oklahoma and in 1974 received a commission for two murals at the State Capitol. The Last Address depicts Governor Alfalfa Bill Murray’s final speech to the Oklahoma Legislature and The Debate shows legislators arguing over the impeachment of Governor Jack Walton. Richarson has had solo exhibitions at galleries in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Her works are included in collections ranging from the Marriott Hotels Corporation in Washington, D.C. to AT&T offices in California and Raymond James Financial in Florida. Her paintings have also been the subject of two books, Turning Toward Home: The Art of Jean Richardson and Plains Myths and Other Tales, both published by John Szoke Graphics of New York.

Source: Artist provided biography and artist statement; Troccoli, Joan Carpenter: Turning Toward Home: the Art of Jean Richardson, New York: John Szoke Graphics, 1998, The Light-Horse in the Indian Territory, Chronicles of Oklahoma.