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Historic Conviction and Valor

The seven man, five woman jury did not buy it. On March 14, 1975, it convicted Hall and Taylor of several felony counts apiece, including extortion and attempted bribery. Daugherty sentenced the former governor to three years in an Arizona federal prison. The following year, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously held up the convictions. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Hall became the first ex-governor in American history to be convicted of criminal charges in a federal court. He eventually served 18 months in prison, then moved with his wife to San Diego, California. Ironically, the charges that brought him down were unrelated to the original ones that had pursued him for years, though he and his wife later paid the I.R.S. $325,000 for unpaid income taxes and penalties during his term as governor.

The former governor later claimed that an embittered Dewey Bartlett had sparked a Nixon administration investigation of him that led to his downfall. This, in spite of the fact that federal agents and prosecutors did not get involved in the Hall investigation until long after Derryberry, Keating, and other Oklahomans, many of them Democrats, had accused and/or investigated the former governor. Hall also claimed that the Nixon officials had themselves targeted himself and many other Democratic governors for investigations, without initial evidence of wrongdoing, in order to bring them down.

These singular events of Oklahoma history offer lessons of both caution and inspiration. Not least is how important leadership is for those under its authority. How that leadership can bless and edify the people, or corrupt and damage them. Bill Burkett’s dauntless pursuit of justice, despite a barrage of attacks from his adversaries, stands high as an exemplar to all who follow in his wake.

It might be humbly suggested that higher still looms Larry Derryberry’s supreme act of selfless statesmanship. It assured that Oklahomans in the distant future of that long ago day could look up with pride, rather than down in shame, to some of their forefathers who labored through those hurtful events. Perhaps David Boren, whose much longer and more prominent public career Derryberry’s selfless act enabled, provided the best valedictory to the valorous deed, and all that it made possible:

“Larry felt that he had information of wrongdoing on the part of Hall and had an obligation to investigate the governor. At that time, I considered Larry to have the best chance of anyone to defeat Hall. At the same time, I knew Larry did not want people to question his motives if he launched an investigation of Hall. He did his duty, and passed up a great opportunity to be governor. I had great respect for what he did. It is very likely that if he had decided otherwise, there would have been a Governor Derryberry in 1975 and not a Governor Boren.”


The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.

View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.

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