Politics and Law Way of Life

Darven Brown didn’t know anyone in Tulsa when he came here in 1952.
He had just graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School and needed a job.
It wasn’t easy to start a solo practice and it was even more difficult to become a member of established law firms or oil companies that were prominent in Tulsa at that time.
He would turn to politics to enter the legal profession — literally to get a job — and have a hand in many significant events that occurred in Tulsa during the last half of the 20th Century.
Brown was one of many young men who served their country during World War II, returned home and got an education through the GI Bill of Rights.
Brown joined the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 and participated in campaigns in the Pacific. He was a member of the first unit that went into Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb was dropped and the surrender documents were signed.
Despite the end of the formal fighting, some resistance still was expected, he said. There wasn’t any.
The atomic bombs that ended the war saved millions of lives, probably one million Americans and 10 million Japanese, he said. It was well known the Japanese would fight to defend their homeland.
What Brown didn’t know at that time was his unit was scheduled to invade on Nov. 1, 1945.
‘‘We were a bunch of starry-eyed young men returning home to save the world,’’ he said. ‘‘We already had fought a second war to end all wars.
‘‘I was among the group coming to Tulsa thinking we could change the system.’’
The reality was the Tulsa County Bar Association at that time was controlled ‘‘by silk stocking law firms or oil companies.’’ The street stocking lawyer didn’t belong to that organization.
As a result, that young group of lawyers, including Gordon Patten, a public defender, Bob Wilde, city attorney, Bert and Franklin Seigel and Ralph Adkisson, and others formed the Junior Bar Association.
Brown joined the group shortly after it was formed.
It was the Junior Bar Association that developed the Tulsa Daily Illegal News, a newspaper that spoofed the profession. The name was a takeoff on the Tulsa Daily Legal News, then published by Dexter Moss and later Bill R. Retherford. Its successor is today’s Tulsa Daily Commerce and Legal News.
In addition, the bar gridiron became a tradition for the Junior Bar. The annual event proved to be more than an irreverent poke at judges and attorneys.
Brown describes some of the gridirons as ‘‘downright rough.’’
Junior Bar Association members opened the election process for the Tulsa County Bar and things started changing after Hess Crossland was elected president.
As younger members were elected to board positions the Junior Bar Association faded into oblivion because no one was interested in participating any more, he said.
Changes were coming in the profession and sections were being formed.
The Trial Lawyers group got started in 1957-58, he said. Early members included Tommy Frazer, Bill Richards, Bill Terry in Tulsa County, and Jack and Bill Sellers in Creek County.
Back then, there wasn’t a lot of scholarly legal education that did lawyers any good, Brown continued. Today, there is compulsory legal education and many courses are very good.
Legal jobs were hard to find in 1952 and Brown worked at Sunray DX for about three and one half years before deciding to try to get into government work to find work as an attorney.
‘‘I helped George Norvell campaign for mayor and after he won the post, I joined the city attorney’s office,’’ he said.
‘‘We did a lot of important work at city hall at that time,’’ Brown continued. Those were exciting years as Tulsa had a scandal involving the police commissioner, police chief and the vice squad. All were convicted and sent to prison.
But that scandal gave Novel the opportunity to get the charter changed regarding civil service work.
Prior to that change, the council could vote to end the civil service status. That power was removed when the charter change was passed.
Norvell only served two years, before Jim Maxwell took office in 1958. He would hold that position until 1966.
‘‘I managed Maxwell’s campaign so I had to resign from the city attorney’s office,’’ Brown said. ‘‘I did quite a bit of political stuff in 1962 and 1964.’’
There were three district judges in those days, he continued. The courthouse was as Sixth and Boulder, now the site of the Bank of America building. There was a four story building across the street that housed the court of common pleas. When the new court house was opened in 1956, everyone thought there would be plenty of room, but that space soon was outgrown.
It would be 1978 before Brown got involved in another mayoral campaign.
This time it was Rodger Randle’s unsuccessful effort to get the post.
Randle would go on the Oklahoma State Senate, eventually serving as President Pro-Tempore.
He then would win the mayor’s post in 1988.
‘‘I did a lot in politics at that time,’’ Brown said. ‘‘I was District Chairman of the Democratic Party in District One. Today, Democratic politics are weak in Tulsa County.’’
While not very active with the Tulsa County Bar Association, Brown did serve on the Oklahoma Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee for nine years.
He practiced in real estate law.
Brown also served on the Tulsa Urban Renewal Authority for 42 years, starting in the 1960s when that work began.
‘‘We acquired hundreds of properties during that time,’’ he said. When property went to condemnation proceedings, most people got more than what they originally were offered for their land.’’
It also was during this time the River Parks Authority was established.
Because that group did not have any money, the Urban Renewal group stepped in and bought the east bank of the Arkansas River for development. That same group was instrumental in building the low water dam.
Additional funds to complete the project were needed and Jack Zink donated $1 million. The result is the Zink Lake. Inhofe’s name was put on the low water dam.
Mayor Terry Young would change the name to Tulsa Development Authority in an effort to end the bulldozer image.
That name change would send the wrong message because the authority doesn’t have any money for economic development, he said.
It was during this time that he wrote the so-called Brown Ordinance requiring the city to pass resolutions identifying economic projects.
That ordinance became a blueprint for planners when the Vision 2025 program was developed.
Brown, as city attorney, also drafted charter amendments splitting the Tulsa airport — now Tulsa International Airport — from the park board.
The airport had become big business and park board members had time to do little else, he said. When the responsibilities were split, park board members could pay attention to parks and airport board members could deal with aviation.
Brown hung out his legal shingle in 1959, but did work for the city until sometime in the 1960s.
One of his proudest moments working for the city came when he was asked by Mayor Jim Inhofe to form a bipartisan effort to pass the third penny sales tax.
Brown, a Democrat, worked with Joe Williams, a Republican, to effect passage of that tax which has been renewed every five years since the early 1970s.
The last half of the 20th Century was colorful for Tulsa’s legal profession, especially in the political arena, he said.
He remembered when Raymond Graham became district judge, defeating the well-liked Louis Johnson by a very few votes.
Graham had earned his law degree, but was unable to find work as an attorney, Brown said. When the election came, Graham, who worked in the tool crib at Douglas Aircraft, put his name on the ballot.
Most attorneys in Tulsa opposed him and put their names on an ad that ran both in the Tulsa World and Tulsa Tribune in support of Johnson.
When the ballots were counted and Graham had won the seat, there was a demand for a recount.
The recount team included young lawyers and members of the League of Women Voters.
When the counting ended, it was determined that Johnson, a Republican, actually had won the post.
‘‘Governor Raymond Gary, a Democrat, said to hell with that recount and sent state election board officials in to check ballots,’’ Brown said. ‘‘The final outcome was that Graham actually had won by the number of ballots originally in the first count.
‘‘Raymond Graham went on to be a hell of a good judge.’’
The judiciary took a lot of jibes that year when the Illegal News was published, he added.
‘‘I still think it was a mistake to eliminate the Justice of the Peace,’’ Brown said. ‘‘Now it is so complicated to get action taken on an eviction.’’
People have to file papers and go to court to get action. That lets the tenant stay in the property much longer.
When there was a JP, all the person had to do was pay the $5 fee — now it would be much higher — and within five days the eviction would be completed.
Brown said the practice of law has changed a lot during the last 25 years and the philosophy has become ‘‘win at all costs.’’
This has led to abusive practices among lawyers, he said. Paperwork is another enemy in the system and large law firms can kill the small practitioner in that manner. A solo practitioner is hard-pressed to keep up with the volume of paper now seen in many cases.
With the exception of a few areas — tax, labor and administrative law — anyone understanding the 10 Commandments can have a pretty good grasp on what is expected in law, Brown added.
But, he does not urge young men to go into the practice of law — and has not for the past 20 years.
Brown does encourage young women to enter the profession because they can function with a practice and family.
‘‘The law is a jealous mistress,’’ he said. ‘‘It will take your time and your life if you let it.’’



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