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April 25, 2013

Law Day’s ‘Liberty Bell’ recipient to be revealed Friday

DUNCAN — It’s been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law. And the effects are still being felt.

This year’s theme for the Stephens County Law Day is “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” Falling in line with the theme, the keynote speaker is Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Noma Gurich, who was the third woman to become a Supreme Court justice in Oklahoma history. Law Day luncheon is set for 11:30 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church.

“Law Day is an opportunity for the legal community to give back to our community,” Jamie Phipps, Stephens County Bar Association president, said. “We recognize people who give back to the community.”

Law Day was initially conceived by Hicks Epton, former president of the Oklahoma Bar Association, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the day nationally in 1958. In 1961, May 1 was set aside by a joint resolution of Congress.

Since that time, May 1 is recognized as Law Day, although it is usually celebrated on the Friday before or on May 1. Each year, the Stephens County Law Day has a keynote speaker.

Gurich was an obvious keynote speaker choice for Phipps. Gurich was invited to join the 2012 Stephens County Law Day celebration, although she was unable to attend. The Supreme Court justice sent a hand-written letter with her regrets and a promise to attend the 2013 celebration.

Phipps said the letter was just an example of how Gurich has remained grounded, regardless of the number of programs and various other activities she is involved in.

“She’s done so much,” Phipps said. “I’m not sure how long it’s been since we’ve had a woman speaker.”

During the luncheon, several awards will be distributed to several people who have made considerable contributions to the Stephens County community. Among those awards is the Liberty Bell Award.

Blaine Smith was the 2012 recipient of the Liberty Bell Award, which is an award that’s been given out almost every year since 1965, when Harrison Wimberly was the first recipient. This year’s award will be presented by Stephens County District Judge Joe Enos. The recipient’s identity is top secret until it is presented. Very few people are privvy to who the winner will be.

Two Stephens County Bar Association members will be recognized during the event for their many years of service to the association. Phil Leonard has had 50 years of membership in the Bar Association, while Harold Garvin has 70 years of membership in the association.

The Law Day celebration doesn’t end with the luncheon.

Instead, people in the legal profession will collect their golf clubs to participate in the Law Day Memorial Golf Tournament. The tournament will immediately follow the luncheon and will be at The Territory.

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