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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 2
June, 1936

Page 218

On May 9, 1936, pursuant to call of its President, J. C. Monett, Jr., there was held a meeting of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, in the court room of the United States Court in Oklahoma City, and memorial services were held as follows:

We, Members of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, moved by our high regard for the character and public services of the late Judge Smith C. Matson, who departed this life on the 9th of February, 1936, having assembled to pay tribute to his memory, by expressing our appreciation of one who as a citizen, lawyer, and judge has greatly honored our state, with the desire to place upon record an expression of the respect and esteem in which Judge Matson was held, and of regret for the loss which the state and the legal profession have sustained in his untimely death, therefore be it,

RESOLVED, That the Members of the Oklahoma County Bar Association feel with deep sensibility the loss which the State and the legal profession have sustained in the death of Judge Matson.

RESOLVED, That we cherish the highest respect for the high character and professional ability of the deceased; for the purity and uprightness of his official and professional life; and for the amiable and excellent qualities which belonged to him as a man; and we mourn his death as that of an eminent citizen of Oklahoma whose name will fill a prominent place in the history of the State.

RESOLVED, That we deeply sympathize with his relatives and friends in their bereavement, and that this memorial be presented to the Criminal Court of Appeals with the request that the same be entered on its record and be published in the reports.

Smith Corbin Matson was born at Greencastle, Ind., on September 23, 1872, and died at Oklahoma City, February 9, 1936. The Matson family was prominent for several generations in the political affairs of Indiana. His father, Courtland Cushing Matson was born in Franklin County, Ind., was graduatd from the Indiana Asbury (now Depew) university in 1862; enlisted as a volunteer, served through the Civil War and was promoted to the rank of Colonel; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice at

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Greencastle, was three times elected prosecuting attorney. Made chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee in 1878; elected as a democrat to the Forty-Seventh and the three succeeding congresses (March 4, 1881-March 3, 1889); unsuccessful Democratic Candidate for Governor of Indiana in 1888; died September 4, 1975. Judge Matson's paternal grandfather was democratic candidate for governor of Indiana in 1849.

Judge Matson graduated from Depew university, studied law and was on September 23, 1893, his 21st birthday, admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Greencastle. In 1896 he was appointed deputy prosecutor for the 13th Judicial district, served four years, and was then elected prosecuting attorney for the district; after serving four years he retired to private practice with his father. In 1906 he moved to Ardmore, Indian Territory and there engaged in the practice of the law. Following the first state election he served as assistant county attorney of Carter county. April 11, 1910 he received his first appointment as assistant attorney general, and occupied this position until he took his seat on the Appellate Bench.

On April 19, 1917, Governor Williams appointed Judge Matson as Member of the Criminal Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Rutherford Brett. He was elected to succeed himself and served the term expiring January 1925. His opinions are found in Volumes 13 to 29 inclusive of the Oklahoma Criminal reports. They are the enduring evidence of intellectual excellence. In them his innate sense of justice and his convincing logic appear at their best, they will remain as his living monument. At the expiration of his term he resumed the practice of law at Oklahoma City. On November 1, 1925, he was again appointed assistant attorney general and continued in that office until the day of his death.

Judge Matson was married to Janie Gwin, June 7, 1911, a talented lady who departed this life on the ninth day of March, 19321. No children were born to them.

Judge Matson was a member of the State and County Bar Associations, a 32nd degree Mason, a Member of the Elks Lodge, and

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a member of the Phi Delta Theta College fraternity. He is survived by one brother, Rees F. Matson, and one sister, Mrs. Nell Brown, and her daughter, Beatrice.

Such is the brief outline of a busy, well-spent life.

Thos. H. Doyle, Chairman,
J. Berry King,
Mac Q. Williamson,


After the reading of the resolutions the Chairman of the committee moved their adoption and addressed. the assembly as follows:

We are assembled today in this Hall of Justice to honor his memory; to pay tributes of friendship, respect and esteem to his character and worth as a citizen, and for those qualities that made him conspicuous as a lawyer and Judge.

Personally I had the good fortune to know him for more than a quarter of a century as a friend; professionally, as a practicing attorney and as assistant attorney general. For eight years he was one of my associates in the performance of the arduous and highly responsible duties which the constitution and laws devolve upon the Criminal Court of Appeals. In his last two years of service he was Presiding Judge. No Judge ever had more respect for his associates.

The best evidence of a lawyer's ability is the judgment of his professional brethren.

I think that I express the general sense of the profession in saying for myself, that I have never known a lawyer or Judge more learned in criminal jurisprudence.

From whatever point of view we look back upon Judge Matson's professional career in Oklahoma, it must be conceded that for the remarkable length of his official life and for the public importance of his judicial labors and the vast extent of his services in the legal department of the state, few lawyers and Judges, if any, have higher claim to eminence, and his judicial service is worthy of far more elaborate consideration than this occasion will

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admit. I am proud to say that no one has a higher estimate of one whose friendship was an honor of my life. He was a born gentleman and he was as good an American as ever lived. Always doing his duty as he saw it and seeking no particular credit he indulged no consciousness of superiority, incapable of arrogance, he exhausted himself in service to the state, a martyr in fidelity to duty.

Another time at a session of the court of which he was an honored member, we hope to do greater justice to his memory and his name.

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