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Oklahoma Legal Oral History

Interviews with Oklahoma Legal Professionals

Biography

Betty Outhier Williams is an attorney in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She received her law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1972. She was the first woman to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Oklahoma before going into private practice. She was the President of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and served on the Oklahoma Bar Association's Board of Governors. 

If a researcher wishes to use the information gathered in this interview for uses other than educational or scholarly uses, they may do so without further permission from the interview subject. 

Audio

Below is a short selection of the interview with Betty Outhier Williams. You can listen to the full interview by visiting the Chickasaw Nation Law Library at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Transcript

Below is an excerpt from Ms. Williams's interview and a link to download the full transcript.

KEK: Tell me about some of your most memorable cases while you were at the U.S. Attorney’s office. You mentioned some as you were talking. You said you were, the office was helping to clean up Lake Eufaula and those types of things. What sticks out in your mind?

BOW: Well, of course there was a big scandal towards the end of the time I was there, the County Commissioners Scandal which went statewide. I had been allowed with that to be in on the planning part of that with the FBI way before the cases started being filed in this district. Then, I got to prosecute the first 3 or 4. I’d take a bunch of the pleas over here. Of course, the problem that we all saw was that this was the old outlaw territory. What is wrong in western Oklahoma is not always so wrong in eastern Oklahoma. Do you understand what I am trying to say? And we had always worried that once this rolled this direction, somebody was going to say “Well, what’s the big deal? We’ve all known the county commissioners were taking 10% off the top. Why are we sending them to jail for what we all knew all of them were doing?” So, the fear was that once it got over here we would start losing cases because they weren’t being lost in the western district. But we didn’t ever expect them to be lost in the western district. So, it was very nice when we got over here and we were able to get those convictions over here because then we got the rest of the pleas that we needed.

KEK: So, the juries did convict?

BOW: Yes, they did.

KEK: You just mentioned there was kind of a difference between western Oklahoma and eastern Oklahoma, kind of a difference in mentality. Can you talk about that a little bit, what that difference is?

BOW: Well, of course my feeling of knowing what western Oklahoma believes is because I grew up in Woodward and that’s about as western Oklahoma as you can get. That’s a very self-reliant area. It’s where people probably would fight to not have to be on welfare and they’ve always believed that law and order, very much in law and order period. If the police arrest you, you probably did something wrong. This being the old outlaw territory, there is a tendency to think if you got arrested you know they must be trying to get some money out of you or… You know, it’s not the respect for the law, the law enforcement officers you would see in the western part of the state. It’s more of a, well what are they up to, are they trying to get a bribe, you know those types of thoughts. There’s a disbelief that law enforcement officers are out for the best of the community. More accepting than perhaps the person who is accused might be more of a fellow to them as opposed to, up here, as opposed to law enforcement officers.

KEK: Yes that explains the difference. What was the issue with the county commissioners that went statewide? It was bribery?

BOW: No, it was not bribery. The county commissioners were doing two different things. For years, apparently, had pretty much done the 10% scheme which was that vendors would give them a 10% kickback. If you went and bought a tractor for $25,000 then you got $2500 worth of cash back. And of course it didn’t go back into the county coffers, it went back into the county commissioners’ coffers. There had actually been county commissioners who would talk about that so, it was rather open. The other scheme was called a “blue sky scheme.” And it’s where they and the vendor would just write up the paperwork but never really do a sale, and they split it 50/50. So the county commissioners would end up going to prison, as would the vendors that were participating in this. Some of the allegations, I think probably the majority, were IRS allegations because that was the easiest way to charge it, was that they weren’t paying taxes on all this money that they were getting.

Catalog Record

800 N. Harvey Oklahoma City, OK 73102 405.208.5271