Governance & Membership

April 2019 President's Message

The Law Day Tradition

By Charles W. Chesnut

Wewoka in the early 20th century | Oklahoma Historical Society
(20579.TO.W072.67.1.1, Oklahoma Genealogical Society Collection, OHS).

Last year as OBA president-elect, I was invited to Wewoka for Law Day. Frankly, I’d never been to Wewoka and didn’t know what to expect. Wewoka is a town with a population of 3,430, located south of I-40 between Shawnee and McAlester and the county seat of Seminole County.

One of the benefits of being president of the OBA is that you have the opportunity to travel the highways and byways of our great state and see its geography. That’s always a pleasant experience. When I’m in a town or city that is a county seat, I also stop and see the county courthouse. I do that throughout our state. It’s an indulgence, but I always like to do it. I enjoyed my trip to Wewoka for Law Day for both of those reasons.

What’s special about Law Day in Wewoka, Oklahoma? Why do more than a hundred of the townspeople from all walks of life – Supreme Court justices, Court of Criminal Appeals judges, Court of Civil Appeals judges, district judges, county officers and many attorneys within a 50-mile radius – show up?

They do it for two reasons. First, interestingly enough, is that the whole concept of Law Day, now celebrated nationally, was conceived by the late Hicks Epton, a Wewoka attorney and 1953 OBA president. Law Day actually started in Wewoka.

I find this whole matter fascinating. A lawyer in a small town in Oklahoma had an idea that has become a day of national celebration in the United States. Think of it. We often hear about the power of ideas. That’s a pretty amazing demonstration of it.

The bar association in Seminole County carries on the tradition of Law Day by celebrating it annually. The whole county bar association gets behind it and supports it. The Law Day luncheon became an annual, must-attend event when the late Vic Kennemer, an attorney from Wewoka and former member of our Board of Governors, made sure that everyone came. He called several months in advance and pleasantly requested (read “insisted”) that you put it on your calendar and attend. He did that year after year.

That's the second reason people attend and makes this event compelling to me. It explains why Law Day in Wewoka continues to be special and why so many people show up for it every year.

It demonstrates what can be accomplished somewhere, anywhere, when a person invests oneself, one’s time, energy and focus in an idea, a project or a mission that’s worthwhile. One person can be the driver that accomplishes outstanding things in life. If we take time to stop and look, we see examples of that in our own lives all around us.

It could be you, and it could be me. All it takes is an idea combined with energy, focus and commitment. We can achieve something worthwhile in a big way in our corner of the world.

Our theme for Law Day in 2019 is “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.” Take a few minutes and reflect on what your life would be like not to have those rights and privileges in our lives. Then take a few more minutes and be grateful because we do have them.

Finally, google “50 Awesome Quotes on the Power of Ideas.” It’s full of great thoughts from great minds about “ideas.” All true. Some funny. Very thought provoking. I promise your time will be well spent.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 90 pg. 4 (April 2019)