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Harold Holden stands with his eaton statue

A Lasting Impression: Renowned artist honors Eaton with larger-than-life sculpture

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

Editor's Note: Harold Holden passed away just after this edition of STATE magazine was sent for publication. This story appears as originally written.

When Harold T. Holden was 5, he had the opportunity to meet Frank Eaton, the inspiration for Oklahoma State University mascot Pistol Pete. 

Holden had ridden his pony in the Cherokee Strip parade in Enid, Oklahoma, and competed in a contest where he reared his pony in front of judges. He won first place in his age division and was awarded a $5 check. But the real prize was getting to sit on Eaton’s lap and hold his legendary revolver.

Harold Holden

For 35 years, Eaton served then Oklahoma A&M College as the university’s mascot. The cowboy icon made appearances across the state and left lasting impressions on Oklahomans just like Holden.

Now 83, with the memory of that pony ride fading, Holden wants to leave an impression of Eaton for all to see, so that even those who never met the old cowboy can feel like they know him.

Growing up in a Western lifestyle, Holden was drawn to horses and the cowboy way of life. Influenced by Eaton, Holden enrolled in classes at Oklahoma State University in 1958, the same year his hero died.

Holden is a renowned artist known for his paintings and sculptures depicting Western icons. His artwork is displayed across the country. At OSU, one doesn’t have to travel far to see some of his work. Of his 24 monuments, three are on OSU’s Stillwater campus — We Will Remember inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, dedicated to the 10 men who lost their lives in the 2001 men’s basketball plane crash, along with monuments representing T. Boone Pickens and Barry Sanders outside the stadium named after former OSU benefactor Pickens where Sanders, the school’s lone Heisman Trophy winner, once played.

In 2007, Holden was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — a fatal lung disease — leading him to close his studio in 2009. However, in July 2010 he received a single lung transplant. The diagnosis and transplant gave Holden a new perspective, making him realize that he had the opportunity to finish the Eaton monument he had long envisioned on OSU’s campus. 

It had always been a dream for Holden to sculpt his childhood hero, Eaton, on horseback for OSU. So, with the help of friends and family he set out to make his dream a reality as his 25th and final monument.

The university supported the idea of installing a monument of Eaton on campus when Holden proposed it at the We Will Remember monument dedication. Once he had the opportunity to finish the design work, funding still had to be secured for the piece.

Family friend and OSU alumna Gwen Shaw began contacting OSU donors and art collectors, raising around $250,000.

“He was working on Eaton when [former OSU athletic director] Mike Holder called and said, ‘I need you to sculpt Boone Pickens,’” said Holden’s wife, Edna Mae Holden. “He was already in the middle of several projects but said, ‘OK.’”

Harold Holden pushed Eaton to the side and began working on the Pickens monument, and before he could get back to Eaton, Holder persuaded him to sculpt the life-and-a-half-sized monument of Sanders, putting his dream on hold a little longer.

“The foam structure you see here that I’ve been working on, has been in this room for around seven years,” Harold Holden said. “When I was working on Boone and Barry, it was pushed to the side but now, I’m getting to finish it.”

And again, Shaw was back on the fundraising trail, now working closely with the OSU Foundation to help honor such a hero during The Year of the Cowboy celebrations recognizing the 100th anniversary of OSU’s connection with Eaton.

“The installation of Harold Holden’s Frank Eaton statue is a fantastic way to commemorate The Year of the Cowboy,” said OSU Foundation President Blaire Atkinson. “The Cowboy family is coming together to recognize an important icon while supporting a permanent element on campus.”

The plan is to have the monument finished, cast and dedicated in April 2024 to cap off The Year of the Cowboy celebration.

Harold Holden is known for his attention to detail and sculptures of horses. This statue will be no exception as he has crafted every minute detail, down to the color of the bronze. He said it was the perfect way to tip his hat to a legend.

“It will look different in the bronze,” Harold Holden said. “I want it to be black but an opaque black and, in the voids, a bit of orange.”

Harold Holden places clay on a foam structure

The monument is designed to be approximately life-and-one-quarter size and will be placed on the plinth — the base — which is already in place on the southwest corner of Duck Street and McElroy Road, right behind the Cowgirl softball complex.

Holden also will be inducted into the OSU Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame — the highest honor bestowed upon an individual, recognizing outstanding lifetime achievement in society and professional life — in February 2024.

“I hope that this monument will call attention to the real man who is the symbol of OSU,” he said. “He was an extraordinary fellow, and I feel like it is so gratifying for that 5-year-old boy who sat in Frank’s lap to now honor him in this way. I hope he can be an inspiration for students to carry on the Cowboy Way.”

Photos by: Phil Shockley

Story by: Sydney Trainor | STATE Magazine

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