Grandfather, Perry Mason contribute to career decision

Carlos J. Chappelle looked out at the audience of well-wishers after he took the formal oath of office.
At that moment, Chappelle realized his dream to be a Tulsa County judge for the 14th Judicial District.
“Oh, wow,” Chappelle said. “I am overwhelmed to think that Gov. Brad Henry selected me from among the candidates that had been recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission.”
The new judge also thanked his supporters for voicing their positive opinions in e-mails and snail mail and for “coming to see me now!”
“I am humbled and pleased that family and friends are here for the ceremony,” he said. “It was 14 years ago that the Tulsa County district judges gave me the opportunity to be a special judge. People who know me understood that I couldn’t wait to get to work each day. That won’t change now.”
Chappelle’s decision to become an attorney was made when he was six years old and heavily influenced by his grandfather.
He liked the Perry Mason television series, in which the attorney always won and had a beautiful secretary.
His grandfather, Peter Addison Chappelle, came to Oklahoma from Virginia. He started in Sapulpa then opened a practice in Bristow, Chappelle said. In 1914, he settled in the Greenwood District in Tulsa, where he was associated with B.C. Franklin.
Peter Chappelle and Franklin worked together after the Tulsa Race Riots and in the courts to defeat a city ordinance aimed at preventing African Americans from rebuilding in the city.
The Chappelle family became friends with Amos Hall, the first black justice in Tulsa County. Hall worked with Thurgood Marshall between 1946 and 1948, ending segregation at the University of Oklahoma before the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.
When Hall died in 1972, Chappelle’s father, the Rev. T. Oscar Chappelle Sr., was asked to preside over his funeral, held at First Baptist Church.
Ironically, Chappelle said, Hall worked as a custodian at the church but was not permitted to worship there as a young man.
“I came home from OU for the funeral, and we went to the Hall residence,” he said. “When we walked into the house, Thurgood Marshall was sitting there. He looked at Dad and asked, ‘Chap, how are you?’”
Surprised, Chappelle turned to his father and asked, “You know this guy?”
Chappelle knew his story, but his father actually knew him.
The elder Chappelle explained he had met Marshall, now a Supreme Court justice, through Hall.
“That was 37 years ago, and I still take my inspiration from him (Marshall),” Chappelle said. “As a judge, I want to be referred to not as a vigilante, but rather one who relied on the rule of law in making my decisions.”

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