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Don Barnes

Don Barnes Obituary
Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, B. Don Barnes, went to join his Heavenly Father on Thursday, March 3, 2011, at the age of 86. He was born in Tulsa on Christmas in 1924 to the late Smith and Ann (Jackson) Barnes. Barnes was in the first ninth grade class at Daniel Webster High School in 1939 and completed the 10th grade there before transferring to Tulsa Central High School where he graduated in 1942. Thereafter, he began college at the University of Oklahoma where he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. Eighteen months later he was activated and assigned to duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After his naval career ended in 1946, he attended OU where he was an engineering student. He was an avid Sooner fan and loved to follow OU football. He met Jean (Merrill) Barnes who was also a student at OU studying government, and they went on their first date to an OU football game. They married on July 20, 1946, at McFarlin Methodist Church in Norman, five days after his discharge from the Navy. Jean's father, Dr. Maurice H. Merrill, was a professor at the OU College of Law, and her mother, Orpha, later became a lawyer. Justice Barnes changed his major from engineering to law and followed the Merrill family tradition of lawyers. He then attended law school at OU and received his law degree in 1949. He and Jean moved to Sulphur, OK, where he went into private law practice and Jean began her teaching career. Justice Barnes began a career of public service in the legal profession as the Murray County Attorney in 1951. He then engaged in private practice in Okmulgee for two years. In 1954, he was elected Superior Judge (now know as a District Judge) and was re-elected Superior Court Judge for four terms until 1972 when he was appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by then Governor David Hall. With this appointment, Justice Barnes and Jean moved to Edmond where they have been longtime active members of the First Christian Church of Edmond, for which he served as an elder. He retired as Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1985 after 30 years on the bench. Following his retirement, Justice Barnes became of counsel with the law firm of Stack and Barnes with his nephew, Robert Barnes. He retired from private practice in 1992. He then served as an active retired judge, as director of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Settlement Conference, and as an arbitrator. Justice Barnes earned his 50-year pin as a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. Recently, Justice Barnes transitioned from the judicial arena by using his well-honed skills serving as a Marshal at Oak Tree Country Club while pursuing his love of golf. He and Jean have been OU season ticket holders for many years and were recently recognized for their many years of loyal support of the Sooner team. A long record of civic achievements saw Justice Barnes as President of the Okmulgee Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was a Mason, Rotarian, President of the United Fund for Okmulgee, and President of the Okmulgee Recreation Council. He also served on the Board of Directors of the OU Alumni Association and the Board of Directors of Spanish Cove Retirement Village, Yukon, OK. Within the Oklahoma bench and bar, Justice Barnes was President of the Judicial Conference of Oklahoma and President of the Okmulgee County Bar Association. He served as presiding judge of the East Central Administrative District and presiding judge of the Appellate Division, Court on the Judiciary. He was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity and the Phi Kappa Psi social fraternity. Justice Barnes was Vice-President of the Council of State Court Representatives for the National Center for State Courts and served on its Board of Directors from 1972 until his retirement from the Supreme Court. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts from 1972 until his retirement from the Supreme Court. Justice Barnes is preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Bill N. Barnes. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jean; his son, Brent, and his wife, Brenda, also an attorney, of Norman, OK; his son, Ron, an attorney, and his wife, Debbie, a Judge of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, of Tulsa, OK; his daughter, Beth Barnes Hall, and her husband, Steve, of Edmond, OK; his seven grandchildren: Kristy Brown and her husband, Pat, of Edmond, OK; Brooke Shankles and her husband, Lance, of Redmond, WA; Jason Barnes and his wife, Stacey, of Owasso, OK; Ramsey Barnes of Norman, OK; Grayson Barnes, law student at OU, of Norman, OK; Alexandra Hall and Bennett Hall of Edmond, OK. He is also survived by his five great-grandchildren: Duke von Schamann and Madeline Brown of Edmond, OK; Jackson Shankles of Redmond, WA; Addison Barnes and Jason Barnes, Jr., of Owasso, OK. He is also survived by his brother, Jerry Barnes and his wife, Michelle, of Michigan; as well as his sister-in-law, Mary Lou Barnes, of Yukon, OK. He also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Services will be held for retired Justice Barnes on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. at First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, 201 East 2nd Street, Edmond, OK. Contributions in his memory may be made to fund the Orpha and Maurice H. Merrill Professorship at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Gifts should be made payable to the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc. and directed to the attention of David Poarch, Assistant Dean for External Affairs, University of Oklahoma College of Law, 300 W. Timberdell Road, Norman, OK 73019. Justice Barnes was known for his gregarious, kind, and fun-loving spirit. His lifelong dedication to the people of Oklahoma was best expressed by Justice Barnes himself when he retired as a Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, saying that he had strived "to provide the Very Best State Government for the citizens of Oklahoma. They deserve the best and together we will give them the best." He closed his remarks on that occasion, stating: "I hope I have been of service to the Court. May God Bless You All." Clearly, Justice Barnes gave us all his very best and was of great service to the citizens and to the judiciary.

Published in The Oklahoman on Mar. 6, 2011
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