Capital of Oklahoma, USA, on the North Canadian River; population (2000 est) 506,100. Situated in Oklahoma County, it is a major commercial, service, and distribution centre for a rich oil-producing and agricultural area; its cattle markets are among the largest and busiest in the world. Industries include oil-refining, food-processing (meat and cereals), and the manufacture of iron, steel, machinery, cars, tyres, aircraft, electronic equipment, and cotton. Manufacturing makes up more than 10% of employment in the region, and the health sector is also a significant employer.
On 22 April 1889, a tent city of nearly 10,000 inhabitants appeared overnight when the area was opened to settlement. It became state capital in 1910 (the town of Guthrie was the first state capital). Oil was discovered in 1928, and derricks are situated even on the State Capitol grounds. A General Motors car plant was established in 1979. Several military installations are located within the area. These include the Tinker airforce base, which employs almost 8,000 military personnel and 13,500 civilians (1999). In April 1995, a right-wing terrorist bomb attack killed 168 people.
Features include the Metro Concourse, one of the longest enclosed pedestrian systems in the USA; and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Institutions of higher education include Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Christian University, and Langston University (founded in 1907 largely for African-American students); the University of Oklahoma is situated in Norman, 30 km/19 mi to the south. After a 20-year gap, passenger rail services were revived in the city in 1999.
In May 1999, Oklahoma City was hit by a category-5 tornado with the strongest wind speeds ever recorded – over 300 mph/480 kmph. The damage trail reached for 30.6 x 1.6 km/19 x 1 mi.
The massive car bomb that exploded on 19 April 1995 had been placed outside the Alfred P Murrah federal office building. Timothy McVeigh, who had links with anti-government militia groups, was found guilty of the bombing in 1997, and was executed in May 2001.
A memorial to the victims was opened on the site of the destroyed federal office building. The memorial has tall-backed chairs in bronze, stone, and glass for each adult killed, with 19 smaller chairs for the children who lost their lives. A museum was opened adjacent to the site in February 2001.