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Luther Lee Bohanon

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Luther Lee Bohanon, United States District Judge for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma died aged 100, on Friday, July 18, 2003 at his home in Oklahoma City. He is remembered as an extraordinary patriarch and a progressive Judge. He was appointed to the bench by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, upon the recommendation of Senator Robert S. Kerr. Bohanon served as an active and senior judge for more than 30 years, until reaching his early '90's. Bohanon was born in 1902 in Ft Smith, Arkansas to a humble family of which he was one of some 13 siblings. He was reared on a tenant farm in eastern Oklahoma until leaving the farm to attend high school in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Subsequently he attended the University of Oklahoma Law School and graduated in the class of 1927. He and his close friend A.P. Murrah formed the law firm of Murrah & Bohanon which was in Seminole, Oklahoma until 1931 when they moved to Oklahoma City. Bohanon continued to practice law in Oklahoma City until his appointment to the federal bench. In his law practice he represented many prominent clients, chiefly in the oil and gas business. Some of them were Howard Hughes, Armand Hammer, in connection with the formation of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and the bankruptcy trustee of Selected Investments, Inc. where his work led to exposing corruption in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, resulting in significant reforms to the Oklahoma court system. He also represented the Otoe and Missouria tribe in a precedent setting case allowing Native Americans to be compensated for the fair value of their aboriginal lands. Throughout his career as a lawyer Bohanon was an active member of the Democratic Party on the local and national levels. He was a close confidant and supporter of United States Senators Josh Lee, Elmer Thomas, Mike Monroney, and Robert S. Kerr. He was a delegate to the 1932 Democratic Convention which nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also was an active participant in the successful 1948 campaign of President Harry S. Truman. During World War II Bohanon served as a Major in the Army Judge Advocate General Corps. His career as a judge was marked by decisions dealing with human rights. Significant among these were Battle v. Oklahoma which resulted in the State being ordered to implement procedures for the humane treatment of prison inmates and Dowell v. Oklahoma City Board of Education which caused the racial desegregation of the Oklahoma City schools. In 1933 Bohanon married Marie Swatek whose father homesteaded in what is now Oklahoma County in the land rush of 1889. She predeceased him in 1998. He is survived by a son, Richard L. Bohanon and his wife Ann of Oklahoma City, three grandsons Christopher A. Bohanon and his wife Suzanne of Arlington, Virginia, Philip Lee Bohanon and his wife Kim and David Andrew Bohanon and his wife Kristen of Oklahoma City. He also had six great-grandchildren. Three children, Baby Boy, Michael Anton and Barbara Marie predeceased him. Private graveside services will be conducted at Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City and a Memorial Service will be held at the United Methodist Church of Nichols Hills on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 at 11:00 a.m. The Bohanon family expresses their heart felt appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Ronald H. White and Charlene Thomas, her family and caretakers. Instead of flowers it is suggested that memorials be made to the United Methodist Church of Nichols Hills.
Published in The Oklahoman from July 20 to July 22, 2003
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