Former Governor shares love of history through children's book series

Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer sits next to former Governor Frank Keating as they share the story of their latest book with an online audience (Phil Cross/KOKH)

Reading in the first person, to a small camera attached to a computer, the life of Abraham Lincoln comes alive for a room full of students halfway across the country.

The words are those of the former President presented in a new book about his life, written by the former Governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating.

“I'm not smart enough to do anything but write children's books,” Keating said, “I do all the research and all the writing myself.”

The book “Abraham” is the latest in a series of children’s books written by Keating and illustrated by Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer.

“I do it because I love children and to tell the story of America, and the story of great Americans and the fact that every single child has the opportunity to be great” Keating told FOX 25,

The idea for writing books for children began while Keating was still governor of Oklahoma.

“I was working quietly in my studio and I get a phone call 'Mike Wimmer this is Frank Keating,'” Wimmer recalled of their first collaboration, “He is so energetic I couldn't help it, I jumped out of my seat. I stood up; I need to be standing talking to the governor.”

Wimmer’s work in both portraits and historical paintings is well known and his works are on display throughout the capitol building. He said he was eager to work on the first project with then Governor Keating. It was a book about Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers.

The Will Rogers book was such a success it led to other children’s books on historical figures.

“I love finding that thing, whatever that thing is that makes that person a hero or makes that person worthy of note,” Wimmer said, “Getting to capture that in paint is probably the hardest part but it is still for me one of the most rewarding aspects of being an artist.”

Wimmer's illustrations appear in all of Keating’s books and they each begin as actual paintings. Keating may be best known as governor of Oklahoma, but his books are a lasting legacy that helps share the past with the future generations.

The duo’s next book will feature the life of Alexander Hamilton. They also have another project planned for Thomas Jefferson.

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