He won more golf tournaments than he ever lost but in his lifetime, he won more Friends than anyone can count. He never scored either.
Michael Turner Norman, District Judge of the 15th District of Oklahoma, died this past Monday morning, February 25, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he had gone for speech therapy after suffering a stroke in the language center of his brain October 19th. His sole purpose in leaving Muskogee was so he could receive 5 hours a day of intensive rehabilitation to retrieve lost words and nouns in his brain so he could more readily return to the bench in Eastern Oklahoma. Norman was 75 and presided over 5 counties.
A lifelong Muskogean, Mike was born there on October 30, 1943 to Chester Claude and Rene Marnell Turner Norman. Except for attending Tulsa University for both his undergraduate and law degree, he never left. He considered Muskogee "the Mecca of the World." To him, it was.
Mike attended Longfellow, Alice Robertson and Muskogee High, graduating with the Class of 1961 a tightknit group that remains so even today. As a youth, he traveled to all 50 states with his Mother and beloved 'Granny B', as well as his friend, Jim Hackler, who accompanied them.
Born into a strong political family, all staunch Democrats, Norman grew up observing firsthand "How you do business...how you treat people...and Your Part in all this." Some of the lessons were spoken - most were not. But all were absorbed and learned well. He never forgot them.
Norman was a Natural at golf and took to it "like a duck-out-of-water." He collected so many trophies and silver punch bowls and trays that his parents' home began to look like a shrine. His Mother kept count of them all...Mike just kept on playing with his beloved golf team of Bob Dickson, Jim Buchanan and Max Jackson. They won the State High School Golf Championship in 1961 under the tutelage of their revered WWII veteran Coach Jack Hopkins; Norman went on to TU on a golf scholarship. He often told people, "We weren't very good then...."
While in law school, Mike clerked for Judge Robert Simms. There the lessons continued more examples were set other Friendships cemented and lifelong contacts extended. Mike never forgot any of them. Later he returned to Muskogee where he went into private practice with his Father. Janey Cagle Boydston was their secretary and their staunchest ally! While in law school, Mike married and became the proud Father of two fine children: Stacy Leigh Mader and John Michael Norman.
As the years went by, Muskogee began to feel Norman's influence. He served as the Red Cross Blood Drive chairman for years; the Port of Muskogee attorney for 25 years, where he was instrumental in Municipal Bonds that raised millions to insure the future success of the port. He was also the attorney for the newly formed organization under Ken Meyer's guidance that saved the WWII Batfish that was languishing in the middle of the Arkansas River. He was five times elected president of the Muskogee Country Club and was instrumental in Junior Golf at Muskogee High School.
Norman was appointed Municipal Judge for the City in 1979, where he served with incredible distinction for 20 years. Then, in 1998, he ran for the District Court Judge's position and won in a clean but close race. He went on to serve with unparalleled success for 20 years. Thus, the work began and he embraced it. The lessons continued the influence widened and the hard decisions kept coming. He did not flinch. He brought to the bench a quiet dignity and a compassion that endeared him to both sides: the general public and those he sentenced. One young man was seen entering the court House a few years ago and a police officer stopped him and asked where he was going. "I got go see my Friend." Who's your friend?" "I gotta go see Mike Norman...he put me in jail four times and he's my Friend."
A renowned Fact of Mike's years at the Courthouse was that EVERY jury session for 20 years, he would bring "Dr. Ong's secret donut recipe" to 600 jurors a year. The Courthouse is in a jury docket right now and jurors are still asking for them! The Courthouse became Mike's Second Home because he loved seeing our American judicial system work as it should. And it wouldn't unless he was there and doing his job. But he also loved to go to lunch with his "Cronies", a Forever Lunchbunch group of Ben Robinson, Charlies Randolph, Bill Inhofe, Robin Adair, Jerry Rains, Bill Settle, Dick Morris, Gabe Mosteller, Mike Rafter and countless others who were tightly interwoven into the fabric of one another's lives. Such is the added Blessing and Fruit of Friendship. Food.
In 1975, as Mike was just hitting his stride, he chanced to call a certain young lady who would forever change his life. The biggest problem was that she was a central Oklahoma conservative Republican and, at that time, "there were only four Repubs in the City." And he named them. In May they would have been married 44 years. Oddly, to the man whose Friendships were both legendary and unending, she became "My Best Friend." "Don't ever tell anyone that, Mike...they would never believe you!" That is exactly why there will be no pallbearers at his funeral. How does one pick and choose out of the multitudes who loved him and thought they "were his best bestest friend"?
Trude Steele Norman brought another two fine children, Robert Ellis Conley II and Guyanne Conley Nichols, into Mike's life in 1975 and, somehow, with the combining of families which divorce is never easy! they built a life of "The Good News and The Bad News." In the long run, The Good News won out. It was just Not a Long Enough Run. It never is.....
Trude and Mike have been members of the First Baptist Church of Muskogee for years, where Mike was a treasured member of Dr. George Ladd's Sunday School Class, the Misfits. Currently they are attending Fellowship Bible Church in Fort Gibson with their friend Pastor Billy Parker.
An Honoring and Memorial Service will be held at St. Paul United Methodist Church where Mike's mother's services were held. Services are to be at 4 o'clock this coming Thursday afternoon, March 7th. The Church is located between West Okmulgee and Broadway at 23rd Street in Muskogee. The family has asked that memorials be made to the St. Paul Sanctuary Fund; Junior Golf at Muskogee High School or the Whittier Elementary School Summer 'Food for Children' Fund.