Observer Founding Editor Frosty Troy, the diminutive firebrand who became an Oklahoma journalism giant, died early Thursday in Oklahoma City after an extended illness. He was 83.
Wake is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 3214 N. Lake Ave., in Oklahoma City. Funeral mass is 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, also at the cathedral. Graveside services in his hometown, McAlester, are pending.
Known across Oklahoma for his fiery essays and editorials, Troy called out injustice wherever he saw it, championed public education, and routinely exposed duplicitous and corrupt politicians.
Nationally, he was revered for his Okie eloquence – one of the state’s most sought-after public speakers since Will Rogers, booked by diverse groups ranging from educators and social workers to union laborers and Chambers of Commerce.
The seeds of Troy’s more than half-century career in journalism were sewn in his hometown of McAlester, OK, when a Benedictine sister complimented his stories that appeared in the school paper, The St. John’s Siren.
It was all the encouragement he’d need. As a soldier in the Korean War, he filed dispatches for the McAlester News Capital. He later wrote for the Lawton Constitution, the Muskogee Phoenix and the Tulsa Tribune.
But it was the humble journal of free voices, The Oklahoma Observer, for which he became most famous – a platform from which the liberal, yellow dog Democrat sought to inform and influence generations politically, socially and religiously.
With Troy as editor, the monthly began publishing Oct. 17, 1969, launched by Father John Joyce with a subsidy from the Catholic Archdiocesan Council. When church leaders pulled their support because of his vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War, Father Joyce defiantly sold the publication to Troy and his late wife Helen for $1.
Troy not only was a fixture at the state Capitol where he covered 10 governors and more than five decades of legislatures, but also on the radio – his daily commentaries were carried by stations across the state – and at high school graduations where he was a favorite commencement speaker.
He later had weekly shows on OETA and KOSU radio called Fridays with Frosty, where he reported on and analyzed state politics – often skewering the state’s political, corporate and religious elite who responded by pressuring station management to fire him.
Even though a product of Catholic education, Troy is perhaps best remembered for his indefatigable support of public education – which he regarded as America’s most important institution.
Celebrating its egalitarianism, he once wrote:
Every autumn the most beautiful thing happens in America. The school doors open and there’s a teacher in front saying, “Come on in. We don’t care who you are or what side of town you came from or who your mommy and daddy are. You do your best and we’ll do our best.”
Frosty and Helen Troy operated The Observer for nearly 40 years. In September 2006, they sold it to veteran journalist Arnold Hamilton and his wife Beverly – also for $1. Helen retired in January 2007 and died later that year, but Frosty continued to write for The Observer until May 2013 when his last column appeared.
Under his leadership, The Observer won more than four-dozen journalism awards. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1977.
Before becoming The Observer’s founding editor, Troy headed both the state Capitol and Washington bureaus of the Tulsa Tribune and served as its associate editor, supervising the daily’s editorial pages.
For his vigorous defense of public education across America, Troy received the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award, an award he shared with the late Peter Jennings of ABC News.
Among his other honors: The National Champion of Children Award, the National and Oklahoma Friend of Education awards, Scouting’s God and Country Award, the First Amendment Award, the PTA’s Distinguished Service to Children Award and the American Legion’s Patriotism Award.
Among Troy’s survivors are his daughter, Marti, of Oklahoma City; his son, Philip, and daughter-in-law, Jolline, of Wellston; his brother, Jerry, and wife, Neva, of Edmond; sister Mary Ruth Troy Menegay and her husband, Larry, of Harlingen, TX; and niece Cynthia Troy-Ury of McAlester.
For more on the life of Frosty Troy – and his impact on Oklahoma politics and journalism – see the February edition of The Oklahoma Observer.