McAlester is a city in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 17,783 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Pittsburg County. It is currently the largest city in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, followed by Durant. The town gets its name from J.J. McAlester, who later became Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma and was immortalized as a character in the novel True Grit, which was then made into feature films in 1969 and 2010. McAlester is the home of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, site of an "inside the walls" prison rodeo from which ESPN's SportsCenter once broadcast. Sometimes Oklahomans refer to the state prison simply as "Big Mac" or "McAlester," and the town is referenced in that manner in the opening pages of The Grapes of Wrath when Tom Joad is released from there. The prison was also the site of a 1973 riot that lasted for days and is generally regarded as one of the worst in American history.