HAROLD T. HOLDEN, or “H” as he is called by most folks, was born in Enid, Oklahoma March 28, 1940 to Patrick Miles and Betty Jane Failing Holden. Although “H” was the first professional fine artist in the family, he comes from a family of creative and talented inventors and engineers. In 1915, his great-grandfather George Failing invented the bottle capping machine that is still used on beverages today. His grandfather, oil pioneer George E. Failing, invented the first portable drilling rig, as well as numerous drill bits, still used in the industry today. “H” credits his love of horses to his father who was an avid horseman and polo player.
H attended and graduated from Enid High School in 1958 and during his high school years played football and ran track, medaling in the State 880 relay. As a High school sophomore, H attended summer school at Culver Military academy in Culver, Indiana. There, he won the Lightweight boxing championship, following prior championships won in boxing by his older Brother Tim.
After graduating from Enid High School, “H” attended Oklahoma State University but a trip to Houston to work on an oil rig in 1959 resulted in a chance meeting with an instructor at the Texas Academy of Art, from which H graduated with an art degree. He then began his art career in the commercial art field, working in Wichita, Kansas and in Houston, Texas, where he eventually took the position of art director at Horseman Magazine. While working during the day for other folks, “H” began his fine art career at night, painting and sculpting his first love, the West. He is completely self-taught as a sculptor.
He is known for his attention to detail, and particularly his sculptures of horses. Believing that an artist should know his subject matter, he has spent much of his leisure time team roping and staying close to the cowboy way of life.
In 1987 “H” was chosen to sculpt a series of commemorative bronzes to depict the 165 year history of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma and Kansas. That same year he completed his first of many monuments, “Boomer” for the City of Enid, Oklahoma. The image of Boomer went on to be used on a U. S. Postage Stamp and the symbol of the Cherokee Strip in both Kansas and Oklahoma. Since that first monument 32 years ago H has completed 21 additional monuments for placement in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas. Currently, his larger-than-life monument of “E. K. Gaylord” graces the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in OKC. Among many accolades, he was chosen as a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
In 2007 “H” was diagnosed with a fatal lung disease “Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis” for which there is no known cause or cure. After suffering failing health, in 2009, he closed his studio and got his affairs in order. In July 2010, after many prayers and support, he received a lifesaving single lung transplant. In gratitude for his second chance at life, a casting of his 6’ monument “Thank you Lord”, graces the garden at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid and a second casting stands outside the Emergency Room of the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Center in Oklahoma City.
2020 was a big year with H celebrating his 80th year of life and his 10th year with a new lung and 50+ years as a Professional Fine Artist. He has survived and thrived and recently completed a life and one-half size figure of major donor T. Boone Pickens for Oklahoma State University in Stillwater OK and is currently working on a life and one-half size sculpture of Barry Sanders and a life and one-quarter sculpture of Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton horseback, both for OSU. Upon completion, H will have created 23 different monuments throughout his 55-year career.
H and his wife Edna Mae, who is a 4th generation Oklahoman, have been married for over 31 years and live near Kremlin, Oklahoma with their quarter horses, longhorns, dogs and barn cats.