Jerry Goodman met fate at an early age, in the form of a sharp young lawyer running for Greer County attorney.
“He was back from the war, a naval officer, and I thought he was about it,” Goodman said.
And so the son of a Mangum meat market owner decided to become a lawyer.
More than 60 years later, and after 55 years in the profession, Goodman put away his Black’s Law Dictionary last week and retired from a career that included a stint as chief executive officer of iconic Oklahoma retailer OTASCO, two years in the tumultuous administration of Gov. David Walters and 25 years on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.
“Everybody says, ‘Why are you leaving?’ I graduated from law school in 1964. I passed the bar in 1964. So this will be 55 years as a lawyer.
“And, I turned 80 this year. I didn’t want to stick around until I was incompetent.”
Also, his far-flung family, scattered from New York to Shanghai, wanted him to visit — which suggests a complicated travel itinerary.
A partial scholarship brought Goodman to the University of Tulsa, and he’s remained in the city ever since, except for his time at Georgetown Law School.
After practicing law for nearly two decades, including several years as an assistant city attorney under the legendary Charles Norman, Goodman was put in charge of OTASCO.
The 1980s were a difficult time for the chain, which began as Oklahoma Tire and Supply in Okmulgee shortly after World War I. Goodman says he put a lot of his own money, much of it borrowed, into saving the company to no avail.
“It was the middle of the oil recession in Oklahoma and there was an agriculture downturn in the southeastern U.S., and those were our two main areas,” Goodman said. “And, there was Walmart.”
In 1992, Goodman joined Walters’ staff. The young governor was under attack for alleged campaign irregularities and ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, effectively ending his chances at a second term.
“I walked away with a very, very high opinion of David Walters,” Goodman said. “He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. Morally, he was of a thoroughly high caliber. ... I’ve always been of the opinion he wasn’t guilty of anything.”
Before leaving office, Walters appointed Goodman to the Court of Civil Appeals. Situated one level below the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Court of Civil Appeals doesn’t get much attention by the general public but Goodman said it’s “really where the action is.”
“The Court of Civil Appeals is closer to everyday legal matters than any other in the state. If it effects the average guy on the street, that’s what the court deals with.”
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