Oklahoma Bar Journal

Learn From the Past, Prepare for the Future

By Janet Johnson

An Oklahoma woman and her children in front of a dwelling during the Depression. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

I realized from a very early age that I was a fan of history. Not even true history all the time, but anything with a historical perspective. It began with a love of watching the History Channel with my dad and developed into reading historical works and historical fiction.

This passion caught the attention of my high school guidance counselor, who happened to really consider my college major opportunities. After much discussion, I decided to become a letters major with a minor in history and classics at OU. During this course of study, I focused on and sought out many ancient and medieval history courses, but one of my most impactful courses was on Oklahoma history. The course I took was taught by Dr. William Savage. I will never forget our first assignment: We read The Grapes of Wrath and his notebook, which was, in fact, an old photo album with handwritten lecture notes for his own point of reference. A textbook was provided, but the stories were where the learning was.

This college-level course on Oklahoma history was nothing like my high school version. It truly was a class for adults. We discussed the good, the bad and the ugly. From westward expansion and Andrew Jackson’s removal policies to a humorous telling of the history of “Boomer Sooner,” Professor Savage had me hooked and hanging on his every word to learn more about our young state. Perhaps that is what also heightened my interest in law school – so I could expand my learning more into Oklahoma’s legal history.

In exploring Oklahoma’s legal history, there is good, bad and ugly. Regardless of how anyone’s life experiences and personal opinions shape what falls into good, bad or ugly, I think Oklahoma’s legal history has taught many lessons. We have lessons to learn from, improve upon, avoid, etc., all to prepare for the future.

I hope you all have enjoyed the many articles on Oklahoma’s legal history in this Oklahoma Bar Journal. If any or all spark curiosity and interest in certain topics, I think that is a success! Stay studious, stay curious and look to the future. And again, if you want some entertaining book recommendations, I have a few to offer.



To contact Executive Director Johnson, email her at janetj@okbar.org.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 5 (May 2023)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.