Law Day History
Law Day was conceived by the late Hicks Epton, a Wewoka attorney who served as Oklahoma Bar Association president in 1953. Before he became president, Mr. Epton served as head of the public relations committee, and in 1951, he launched one of the most important public relations programs ever undertaken by the OBA: Know Your Liberties – Know Your Courts Week. This was one of the last weeks of April dedicated to educating the public about the legal system and celebrating the liberties we have as Americans.
The Know Your Liberties – Know Your Courts Week spread across the nation and earned for the association two Freedom Foundation awards.
In preparation for the second annual Know Your Liberties – Know Your Courts Week, OBA President John Halley encouraged all lawyers to participate.
“Every American should know more about his liberties under the law and more about the American court system,” Halley said. “The more they know about them, the more they will appreciate the American way of life. It is the responsibility of the lawyer to see that the citizens of this country are given the opportunity to be informed. The goal is worth the effort and if the system fails or the liberties are lost, the responsibility will rest heavily on the legal profession.”
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day nationally by presidential proclamation. On this occasion, he said, "It is fitting that the American people should remember with pride and vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice and quality under law. It is our moral and civil obligation as free men and as Americans to preserve and strengthen that great heritage."
The OBA continued its celebration of Know Your Liberties – Know Your Courts Week, but after much hesitation, the decision was made to give up the name in 1960. The change was made only to take advantage of the extensive national publicity given to Law Day through the efforts of the American Bar Association.
The first of May was set aside in 1961 by a Joint Resolution of Congress as a "special day of celebration by the American people in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States of America" and as an occasion for "rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under laws."
Since the first observance, the American Bar Association, the national voluntary organization of the legal profession, has acted as the national sponsor of Law Day. State, county and local bar associations organize individual projects throughout the country. Many national organizations also recognize Law Day, including the National Education Association, National Governors' Association, United States Conference of Mayors, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America and civic and services clubs such as Rotary International and Kiwanis International.
Hicks Epton was born in Arkansas and earned his law degree at OU in 1932. He moved to Wewoka where he practiced law for 40 years. He served four years as chairman of the board of Admissions of the Oklahoma Bar, was president of the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1953 and of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation from 1953 through 1958. You can read more about Mr. Epton on the Oklahoma Hall of Fame website.