By D. A. Richardson
On March 14, 1941, at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, death closed the career of Judge Samuel Walter Hayes, an able and outstanding lawyer, a great and lovable man, and one of Oklahoma's most useful and distinguished citizens.
He was born at Huntsville, Arkansas, on September 17, 1875, the son of John and Mollie (Cox) Hayes. Both parents had the strength and vigor of body and mind that characterized our best pioneers; and from them Judge Hayes inherited a vigorous and logical mind, complete mental integrity, and high moral and intellectual ideals.
When he was two years of age the family moved to Jack County, Texas, and settled on a farm, on which, when he grew older, young Hayes made a full hand. There he acquired a knowledge of and a sympathy with the needs, beliefs and aspirations of the average American citizen, which remained with him throughout his life and gave direction to his purposes and policies.
He was educated in the public schools of Jack County and in the University of Virginia. Returning from the University to Jack County, he taught school there for three years, and then moved to Ryan, Indian Territory, where he also taught for three years. There he met, and in October, 1899, married, Miss Ida Poole, by whom he had three children, namely, Kent B. Hayes, now Vice-President and Trust Officer of The First National Bank and Trust Company of Oklahoma City, Mrs. Ruby Hayes Allen of Chickasha, Oklahoma, and Mrs. Ida Lee O'Keeffe of West Newton, Massachusetts.
The vigor and bent of his mind led him to choose the law as his profession; and during the six years of his teaching he devoted his spare time to the study of law. He was admitted to the bar at Ryan, Indian Territory, in 1900, and entered the practice there. He was City Attorney of Ryan until 1902, when he moved to Chickasha. Arriving there a stranger, his integrity, diligence and ability were immediately recognized, and he at once took an eminent place at the Chickasha bar.
When, in 1906, Congress passed the act enabling Oklahoma and Indian territories to form a constitution and be admitted into the Union as a state, Judge Hayes, then only 31 years of age and only four years a resident of Chickasha, was unanimously nominated by the Democratic party as a member of the Constitutional Convention from the Chickasha district, and he was elected by more
than twice the votes received by his Republican and Union Labor opponents combined.
In the Constitutional Convention, which met at Guthrie in November, 1906, his unfailing courtesy, his deliberateness and studiousness, and his diligence and ability immediately won for him a high rank. He was a member of the committee on rules and procedure, of the steering committee, of the legal advisory committee, of the election ordinance committee, of the committee on federal relations, of the judiciary committee, and of the committee on impeachment and removal from office. He was chairman of the committee to formulate the Schedule to the Constitution, and was presented with the pen with which the President of the convention subscribed that provision. During both the sessions and the recesses of the convention he gave unremitting attention to its work, counseling with the other members, attending committee meetings, investigating proposed constitutional provisions, their sources, legal construction and effect, and suggesting modifications of form or substance where he considered them necessary.
The framing of the Constitution having been about completed, some of the territorial courts issued injunctions enjoining the calling and holding of an election for the submission of the Constitution to the people for ratification or rejection. Those injunctional orders were subsequently reversed by the territorial Supreme Court in Frantz, et al., v. Autry, 18 Okla. 561, and in other cases reported in the same volume. However, under the Enabling Act, the state was not to be admitted until the President of the United States, finding that its Constitution had been lawfully adopted, that it was republican in form, and that the provisions of the Act had been complied with in the formation thereof, should issue a proclamation to that effect; and, as it was thought that the President in determining those questions would take the advice of the Attorney General of the United States, and that the issuance of those injunctions, which had not then been reversed, might have a prejudicial effect upon the Attorney General and the President, the convention appointed a committee of three lawyer members to go to Washington and lay the facts before the President and the Attorney General, confer with them, and remove any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the provisions of the Constitution which might result from the issuance of those injunctions and the opinions that accompanied them. Judge Hayes was appointed a member of that committee. Recognizing both the delicacy and the extreme importance of their mission, the members of the committee made the most careful preparation for the presentation of the convention's side of the questions involved, and they carried through with forcefulness and tact, and achieved success, though that fact was not known until after the Constitution had been adopted.
Judge Hayes was universally recognized as one of the ablest, most constructive, and most useful members of the convention. His relations with his fellow members were friendly and cordial,
and he is remembered today by such of them as survive with both respect and affection.
At the election of state officers, held at the same time as that for the adoption of the Constitution, Judge Hayes, then only 32 years of age, was elected a Justice of the Supreme Court of the state, and he took his seat as such on November 16, 1907, upon the issuance of the President's proclamation admitting Oklahoma into the Union. He served as an Associate Justice until January 13, 1913, when he was elected by the court as its Chief Justice, and he held that position until March 8, 1914, when he resigned from the court.
He brought to the court a vigorous and logical mind richly stored with legal learning, an intuitive sense of balance, reasonableness and justice, and the same diligence, ability and conscientiousness that had characterized his work in the Constitutional Convention. His opinions are to be found in volumes 20 to 40, inclusive, of the Oklahoma Reports. They are notable for their sound legal learning and the orderliness of their arrangement.
The work of the court was heavy, and the duties of the Justices were both difficult and delicate. The state had just been brought into being. Its Constitution, different in many respects from that of any other state, was yet to be construed. Among other provisions different from those usually found in constitutions, it created a Corporation Commission for the regulation of transportation and transmission companies, and did the unusual thing of granting appeals, not only judicial but also legislative in character, from the commission to the Supreme Court. The state was composed of what theretofore had been two separate territories, each having its own different system of laws. Furthermore, a large part of the litigation from the Indian Territory portion of the state related to the Indians and their lands which were governed by a mixture of the State laws, the Indian tribal laws and treaties, the laws of Arkansas previously put in force there, and the laws specially enacted by Congress, rendering nearly every such case a complicated one. The conditions placed upon the court the heavy burden of deciding a mass of litigation as varied in character and as complicated as any appellate court ever dealt with. Nevertheless it did its work ably and well, and it held a high rank among the appellate courts in the Union.
Upon resigning from the Supreme Court, Judge Hayes became a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate against the incumbent, Oklahoma's silver-tongued orator, Senator T. P. Gore; but, after a vigorous and creditable campaign, he was defeated. That campaign was conducted without rancor on either side, and he and Senator Gore remained friends, their friendship growing closer and stronger as the years passed.
On the conclusion of that campaign he changed his residence from Chickasha to Oklahoma City and reentered the practice of
law, becoming a member of the law firm of Cottingham & Hayes. From 1915 to 1921 he was general solicitor of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company and the legal representative of many other large corporations, and was also engaged in a lucrative general practice. In 1921 he retired from the firm of Cottingham & Hayes, and became general counsel for the Marland Oil Company, now the Continental Oil Company, and continued as such until 1929.
In 1925, his first wife having died, he married Mrs. Elizabeth R. Crockett. In the latter part of that year he made a trip around the world, returning in the spring of 1926, whereupon he and D. A. Richardson, of Oklahoma City, formed a partnership for the general practice of law which soon became the firm of Hayes, Richardson, Shartel & Gilliland, of which Judge Hayes was a member at the time of his death.
While Judge Hayes was a great lawyer, a just appraisal would rate him as much more than that. Neither his outlook nor his activities were bounded by his profession. He loved good literature, good music and clean sports. In his relations and dealings with other men he was more than just, he was generous. And he was generous and tolerant in his opinion of others. He was fervently patriotic and thoroughly civic-minded, and was looked to as a leader in every movement for the advancement of the education, culture and general welfare of the people of his state and city, and he made generous contributions of his time, effort and money for that purpose. He was twice a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and was once chairman of the board. He was a Democrat in politics; and in 1930 he was chosen as chairman of the State Democratic Central Committee, and the party was never better organized or financed in any campaign than it was in the one that he conducted.
He was a Methodist, a 32d degree Mason, a Shriner and a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society. His instincts were social, and he was a member of the Oklahoma Club, the Men's Dinner Club and the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Also, he was a member of the Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma State and the American Bar Associations.
He was counsel for and a director in many business organizations, among them being The First National Bank and Trust Company of Oklahoma City, The American-First Trust Company, The First National Bank of Chickasha, and Southland Royalty Company. In January, 1938, he was made a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of the Tenth District.
The sincerity, persistence and resourcefulness which he brought to all his work, even that of a civic nature, were illustrated in 1939 by his handling of the raising of Oklahoma City's community fund for that year. For many years in succession the community fund committee had failed by substantial amounts to raise its estimated
requirements. In 1939 Judge Hayes was made chairman of that committee, and he set himself to end that failure. Putting his heart and soul into the work, he carried on such a campaign as the city had never known before, and surprised himself and everyone else by raising even more than the community fund's full quota. In 1939 he was formally chosen and designated as "Oklahoma City's Most Useful Citizen."
In January, 1940 he was elected President of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and, until he became ill in November of that year, he carried on that work with the same untiring energy and devotion and the same genius at organization that had characterized him in every other endeavor.
Reared on a farm, as Judge Hayes was, he never ceased to love farms and farming. He regarded farming as the most distinctive form of man's cooperation with nature. He joyed in the smell of freshly turned earth, the sight of waving grain, the sound of rustling corn blades. In his mind he visioned an ideal farm, and in his later years he looked forward to retiring from the law practice to such a farm. In 1934, in preparation for that event, he purchased a large farm about ten miles southwest of Oklahoma City, improved it to his taste, converted it into a dairy and stock farm, and named it Meadow Lodge Farm. He carefully studied the different breeds of dairy cattle, and, determining that the Guernsey was the best for all around purposes, he acquired the nucleus of what is now one of the finest herds of Guernsey cattle in the United States. He made a scientific study of cattle and of their food and care and what should be expected of them. He exhibited at practically all the stock shows, and always his entries ranked among the top. He was almost as pleased to win a blue ribbon as to win a case in court. His dairy was equipped with every convenience, and was a marvel of cleanliness. Judge Hayes spent many of his happiest hours on that farm, and by and through it he rendered a service to the people of Oklahoma City that is continuing yet.
Judge Hayes became ill in November, 1940, his illness probably being due in large measure to the strain of overwork. To carry on at the same time an active law practice, the work devolving upon the president of the Chamber of Commerce, and the supervision of Meadow Lodge Farm was too much for any one man. With the passing months he grew worse, and he died in Oklahoma City on March 14, 1941. He is buried in Chickasha, the city that had been kind to him as a young man and that he never ceased to love. Thus ended the career of one of the ablest, most generous and most useful citizens that Oklahoma has ever had or will ever have. His monuments are about us in the results of his work, in the structure of our state government, in our judiciary and jurisprudence, and in our educational, cultural and business institutions; and his memory is enshrined in the hearts of thousands of Oklahomans who knew him and trusted and loved him.