Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 15, No. 2
June, 1937

Page 238

WHEREAS, the 23rd of October, 1936 marked the passing of Honorable James H. Gordon, whose life and labors were so closely concerned in the growth and development of Eastern Oklahoma; and were so intimately connected with the United States Courts of that portion of the State, that it seems fitting that we place upon the records of this Court an appreciation of his citizenship and achievements.

Judge Gordon was born in Madison County, Virginia, on the 3rd of October, 1868. He was the son of Andrew J. and Lucy H. (Willis) Gordon. His father was a native of Vermont; his mother spent her entire life as a resident of Virginia. His father, while in Virginia, became the founder and owner of what was known as Locust Dale Academy, an educational institute of splendid repute; in this environment of learning and endeavor Judge Gordon's early years were spent.

After leaving the Academy he attended the Suffolk Military Academy, in Virginia; and later, for a while, taught in the academy his father founded. Later, he completed the law course of the University of Virginia, as a member of the class of 1890.

Immediately following his graduation he started for what was then the Indian Territory and arrived in McAlester on the 20th day of July, of that year.

His decision was probably influenced by a former acquaintance, Mr. J. G. Harley, who was located there; for, after his arrival, they formed a partnership, under the firm name of Harley & Gordon, which lasted until Mr. Harley became United States Commissioner.

Page 239

When Judge C. B. Stuart was appointed to the Federal Bench in this district, in 1893, he named Mr. Gordon Master in Chancery of his court, which position he held until 1895, when Judge Stuart resigned; after which the firm of Stuart & Gordon was formed, and they entered into the general practice in McAlester.

A roster of the names of those with whom he was associated in the practice is of itself enough to determine his unusual intellectual and legal worth. Other than Judge Stuart, associated with him were such men as Judge Yancey Lewis, a former Federal judge, afterward Professor of Law in the University of Texas; E. E. McInnis, now head of the legal department of the Santa Fe Railroad system; W. H. Moore, formerly of the Rock Island legal department; the Honorable Fielding Lewis, who died a member of the firm of Stuart, Gordon & Lewis, after coming to them from the Attorney General's organization of the State of Oklahoma.

Himself of unusual mental stature, his associates were each of kindred character.

It was a fitting recognition of his ability when he was appointed by Governor Trapp, in April, 1924, to fill a vacancy upon the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma. In the Reports of this High Court are crystalized and preserved worthy monuments of his ability in the opinions he sponsored that were by it adopted.

It would add undue length to recite in detail the varied facts of his legal life.

We will content ourselves by adding that in 1911 he was the President of the State Bar of Oklahoma, then a voluntary organization; afterward, he was a member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Oklahoma, when it had become an incorporated body. For many years he was the President of the Pittsburg County Bar Association.

The part he played in the civic and industrial history of his community was but little less outstanding than his career as a lawyer.

Page 240

He gave readily of his time and his talents whenever and wherever an occasion for service offered.

In the formative days he served his city as a member of its Council; he was identified with the Democratic Party, serving among other places as a member of the State Central Committee; and his office, even when he occupied no official position, was the source from which constantly came advice that assisted or directed the course of events for the City, or County, through many of their most troublesome periods. His interest in local civic affairs continued unabated to the hour of his passing.

He was one of the organizers of, and for more than forty years, a director in the First National Banking institution organized in McAlester, and often had served as its President.

His capacity as an organizer and an executive was widely recognized; because of it he became State Chairman of the Third Liberty Loan Campaign, during the troublous days of the World War.

He was active and prominent in the ranks of Masonry; and for many years was a communicant and officer of the Methodist Church.

He proved his love for his State and Community by yet a deeper symbol.

In the City of McAlester he established his fireside, after the 4th of April, 1900, when he was married to Miss Bertha L. Frederick, of Litchfield, Illinois. The union brought together minds of rare congeniality and the atmosphere engendered by the mutual respect, endeavor and sincerest personal regard, no doubt, was a potent factor in the formula of his successes. Of this union was born his son, A. James Gordon, with whom he was associated in the practice of law at the time of his death; and his daughter, Mrs. Ted Ingraham (Nee Margaret Gordon) now a resident of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The wife and son are yet residents of McAlester, Oklahoma.

Page 241

The legal success of Judge Gordon was due, in a large measure, to tireless industry and painstaking attention to details. He rarely essayed the role of the orator; none the less, he was singularly effective in the courts. With clarity of statement and remorseless logic he convinced the reason and controlled the intellect; and whether in nisi prius or in appellate tribunals his opponents found in him "that stern joy that warriors feel, in foemen worthy of their steel."

Of one thing all men could be assured: During his life as a citizen, lawyer, jurist, and as a man, he adhered to the simple, basic, and eternal truths, and directed his life by the ancient landmarks—steadfast, he was but little troubled by the tumultuous clamor or the passing passions of the hour.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That as a token of appreciation of his worth; the esteem with which he was regarded by bench and bar; and as an expression of the wide spread regret that marked his passing; and with the further desire in some measure to perpetuate his memory; it seems fitting that the Minutes of this Court whom he so long served, should bear evidence of the esteem in which he was held by its presiding officers and his professional brethren; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That an attested copy of these Minutes be furnished to each of his family as a token of this appreciation, and of the sympathy tendered them because of their bereavement.


Guy L. Andrews
Allen Wright
W. P. Freeman
Tom. C. Haile
Melvin Cornish

McAlester, Oklahoma

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