Terry Hyman, a Democrat serving his second term in the state House of Representatives, has died after a tractor accident on his southern Oklahoma farm.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported Saturday that Hyman, 56, was apparently standing beside his tractor when it lunged forward and knocked him to the ground. A brush hog then rolled over Hyman, who was discovered dead late Friday night at his farm near Leon, the highway patrol said.
"This just came as a shock to everybody," state Democratic Party chairman Ivan Holmes said by telephone from Las Vegas. "He was one of our more popular House representatives."
A former club rodeo coach at Oklahoma State University and Love County commissioner, Hyman was elected to the state House in 2004 with 60 percent of the vote and won re-election two years later with an even higher margin of 63 percent.
He was unopposed in the Democratic primary this year and was to face Republican Sean Oliver of Madill in the November election. His district includes parts of Carter, Love and Marshall counties.
Rep. Jerry Shoemake, Hyman's seatmate in the House chamber, recalled Hyman frequently exchanging e-mails with his daughter, Ann Marie, about new calves born or other updates from the family farm. The two representatives also shared an interest in quarter horses, and Shoemake remembers Hyman having a fondness for raccoon hunting.
He also recalls how quiet the House chamber would get when Hyman took a rare opportunity to speak -- mixing in some humor and even quoting the Bible while making his points.
"They knew what Terry was going to say was important," said Shoemake, D-Morris. "He was just a great debater."
Shoemake called Hyman a great friend, seatmate and statesman without a true political agenda and "no axes to grind."
"I know that he was a very popular representative and that we didn't even have a Democrat run against him this time," Holmes said. "We felt like he was so well-liked down in that area that we hadn't put a lot of attention on his race as far as his re-election."
Hyman was born in Texas on Dec. 7, 1951, and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture and a master's degree in political science at Oklahoma State.
"Today Oklahomans mourn the loss of a dedicated and beloved public servant," said Gov. Brad Henry, a fellow Democrat. "Terry Hyman was a true native son of Oklahoma. He loved farming and rodeo, and he was fiercely devoted to making a better life for his constituents.
"In the wake of his tragic and untimely death, I know I speak for all Oklahomans when I say Rep. Hyman's wife and family are in our thoughts and prayers."
State law allows for the Democratic Party to choose a new candidate to replace Hyman on the ballot. After a candidate's death, the party must submit a new name in writing within five days.
State Election Board Secretary Michael Clingman said there would have been no change if Hyman had a primary opponent.