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Wayback Wednesday: The day royalty came to town

Tinker Air Force base has had its share of high-profile visitors since it opened its runways. Most of the time it's a president, or secretary of state or some other predictable government official. 

But on November 16, 1965 it was a visit from one of the most glamorous women in the world that sent the base scrambling on short notice. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowden, touched down at Tinker during a royal tour of the United States so her plane could be refueled.  It was front-page news in The Oklahoman.

Margaret, who died in 2002, was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. The 1960's were her heyday as she was considered a pioneer in the jet-set lifestyle that had become fodder for magazines and films of the time.

The visit was both exhilarating, and horrifying for the wife of Tinker's commanding general who was tasked with throwing a reception together on short notice.

Mrs. Melvin McNickle had just returned from a shopping trip when her husband phoned her to tell her of the impending visit.

“I wish I’d known in time to get ready,” she said. “But he said I only had 10 minutes.”

OU freshman Barbara Burleson also had only minutes to prepare. Her father was the pilot of the plane that carried Princess Margaret to Oklahoma.

“Isn’t she down to earth,” Barbara remarked after meeting the princess.

“The two women with her were asking me about places where they could shop in Washington,” the general’s wife said. “But when the princess heard them she told them they had so many schedules to meet they couldn’t think about shopping. But she was so friendly and easy to talk to.”

Margaret's visit was short, about a half an hour, and then she and the rest of her party were on to Washington.


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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›