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In Memoriam: 1991 OBA President R. Forney Sandlin

1934-2015

Funeral Services: The family will receive friends from 4:30 – 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18 at the Cornerstone Funeral Home, 1830 N. York St., Muskogee. Services will be 3 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19 at St. Paul United Methodist Church with the Rev. David Burris officiating. Members of the Oklahoma Bar Association will serve as honorary pallbearers. The family has reserved a special seating area for OBA members and their spouses. Private family committal will be in the Memorial Park Cemetery. The family requests that memorials be made to the St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2130 W. Okmulgee, Muskogee, OK 74401.

Robert Forney Sandlin was born Jan. 20, 1934, in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, the son of Elva Inez Davidson and Rev. James Lee Sandlin. His parents chose the name Forney from their mentor, the Rev. Dr. Forney Hutchison, a prominent Oklahoma Methodist minister. Shortly after he was born he moved to Muskogee with his mother and sister where he has made his home ever since. Forney peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, at the age of 81.

He received his education in the Muskogee Public Schools attending Longfellow Elementary, West Junior High and graduating with the class of 1952 from Muskogee’s Central High School. While in school he played the trumpet in the band under the late Anton “Tony” Goetz. He played at Mr. Goetz’s funeral held at the Masonic Temple in 1948. During World War II and the Korean Conflict he was called upon to play “Taps” at graveside rites for many fallen soldiers and later he served for eight years in the U.S. Army Reserves. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1956 with a B.B.A. Degree in finance. He then graduated in 1958 with an L.L.B. degree from the University Of Oklahoma College of Law. While at OU he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity as well as the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.

Upon being admitted to the Oklahoma Bar in 1958 he entered a private law practice in Muskogee. His practice began in the Barnes Building with the late Kay Wilson Jr. and the late Mrs. Velma Landrum. From 1964 until 1969 he served as part-time city prosecutor for the City of Muskogee. After the closing of the Barnes Building in 1973, he built his own office building at 330 N. 4th St. where he practiced up until two years ago. He was in partnership with James H. Payne for many years forming the firm of “Sandlin and Payne.” Later after each partner sought other interests in the legal profession, he continued in private practice at the same location. His general practice focused on corporate law, banking law, employment law (labor relations), estates, trusts and real estate law. Some of the highlights of his practice included being a part of the team who obtained the federal grant to develop the Muskogee Industrial Park as well as incorporating the Greater Muskogee Development Corporation (GMDC) for the purpose of promoting industry.

He also worked on the legal team that negotiated with Ft. Howard Paper Company (now Georgia Pacific) to locate in Muskogee. He also worked on the team with the late Mayor Coleman B. Fite to obtain a federal grant to redevelop downtown Muskogee and later served as legal counsel to the Muskogee Urban Renewal Authority in developing the downtown Arrowhead Mall. Within the area of banking law he worked to obtain bank charters for a number of banks in northeastern Oklahoma. He was an original stockholder and member of the City Bank of Muskogee Board of Directors (now BancFirst) from 1973 to 1983. He lectured at labor relations seminars throughout the state on employment law.

He served as the municipal court judge for the City of Hulbert for 28 years. He also served as general counsel for the Oklahoma State Council on Judicial Complaints for one year.

He was an active member of the Muskogee County Bar association, the Oklahoma Bar Association and the American Bar Association for 57 years.

He served as president of the Muskogee County Bar in 1977-78. He was an associate member of the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners from 1976 to 1984. He was a member of the OBA Board of Governors from 1985-1992. He then was elected and served as president of the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1991 thanks to the encouragement of his friend Anthony M. “Tony” Massad. He was a charter member of the OBA Labor Law Section of which he was chairman (1981-1982). He was a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission (1994-1999) serving as chairman in 1998-1999. He was a Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, member of the Board of Trustees of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation (1990-1992), Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the ABA House of Delegates (1990-1991).

While president of the Oklahoma Bar Association he helped mentor the late Mona S. Lambird who would become the first female president of the Oklahoma Bar and took great pride in her as a bar president. It was his goal to visit as many of the county bars in Oklahoma’s 77 counties. His picture was taken in front of the many courthouses.

As an attorney, he was honored to be asked to travel to China and later Estonia to work on a panel to help develop their legal system.

As a young man, he was active in Boy Scouting having earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He attended Camp Fred Darby, the first National Scouting Jamboree which was held at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in 1950 and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After law school, he served a Muskogee scout troop as an assistant scout master. He served as a district commissioner for the Boy Scouts of America from 1965 to 1970. He carried a newspaper route for the Muskogee Daily Phoenix while in junior high and high school and often talked of the various families he delivered to.

He was actively involved in many civic organizations having served on the following in past years: Board of Directors, Muskogee Chamber of Commerce (1966 to 1977); Board of Directors, Salvation Army (1968 to 1970); Board of Trustees, Bacone College (1973 to 1976); Board of Directors and past president of Muskogee Community Nursing Service; Board of Directors of Bone & Joint Hospital in Oklahoma City; and City Bank (now BancFirst); Board of Directors and President (2005-2006) of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum; and the Muskogee Regional Medical Center Board of Directors. After the sale of Muskogee Regional Medical Center he was instrumental in establishing the City of Muskogee Foundation.

Mr. Sandlin moved into semi-retirement when he sold his office building in 2013. He moved his office to his home where he continued his work for the City of Hulbert, City of Ft. Gibson, City of Warner, Love Bottling Company and examining abstracts.

He was a lifelong member of the St. Paul United Methodist Church where he was baptized and confirmed. He served several terms on the administrative board and taught several special Sunday school lessons. Mr. Sandlin was an avid historian and a voracious reader of local, national and international history. In recent years he had given a number of historical presentations on his research on the following historical subjects: the late Alice Robertson, the late Grant and Carolyn (Thomas) Foreman, the late Anton “Tony” Goetz, the Trail of Tears, the Five Civilized Tribes of Eastern Oklahoma, the Civil War and World War II. During his sons formative years the Sandlin family made many trips to historical points throughout the United States. Later he and his wife, Dorothy, made many trips throughout the world to learn of other lands and cultures. Many of these trips were to “search for their ancestors.”

Throughout his life, law practice and many accomplishments, he never forgot his roots. He also never forgot the many teachers and mentors he had throughout his life. He was quick to speak of them with great admiration. Although he had a very accomplished legal career he always maintained that he simply was a “country lawyer”. He was preceded in death by his parents, his step-father, W.G. VanArsdale, his beloved grandmother, Emma Davidson and his sister, Virginia Sandlin Bird.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Dorothy Ritter Sandlin whom he married Dec. 24, 1981; his sons: Robert F. (Rob) Sandlin, Jr. of Oklahoma City and William Scot Sandlin and his wife Ilene of Dallas, Texas; his grandson: Robert Peerson “Pierce” Sandlin; his step-daughter: Dru Johnson and her husband Bert of Tulsa and grandchildren: Jared and his wife Sandra, Zachary and his wife Laura and Rachel Johnson; his step-son: Doug Deardorff and his wife Christy of Little Rock, Arkansas; his sister: Connie (Sandlin) Follis and her husband Rodney of Greenville, Texas. As well as a very special cousin, Pauline Poteet White. Also extended family, Jackie and Ray Chapman and family, Judy and Jim Payne and family and Barry Love. With deep gratitude the family would like to acknowledge the physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists who provided exceptional care during his final illness. We acknowledge Susan Asquith for personally and professionally caring for Forney at nights. The family also acknowledges Rev. David Burris and the pastoral staff of St. Paul Church whose daily presence provided strength and comfort to Forney and his family.