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Oklahoma Legal Oral History

Interviews with Oklahoma Legal Professionals


Judge Gary E. Payne was the Chief Administrative Law Judge at the Oklahoma Department of Health. He received his JD from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1969. He was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in House District 20 in 1968 and served for four terms. He was appointed by the governor to two terms on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Board of Review and served on the Edmond Public Schools' Board of Education. He wrote Desk Manual For Oklahoma Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers. He passed away August 27, 2013.

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 estate of the interview subject. 


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


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

GEP: You know, my role in state history was probably a minor one, but I was Chairman of the Committee that impeached John Rogers while he was Secretary of State and that had some degree of notoriety. I was author of a bill that reinstated the death penalty in the state of Oklahoma after the Supreme Court had tossed it out. Some of the more fruitful things, in my opinion that I did, were some that probably went unnoticed but, I helped and encouraged a lot of young people to go on and get their education through summer jobs at state agencies or other ways. I authored several bills I was pretty proud of, I authored the first anatomical gift act bill in the state of Oklahoma. We’re talking about so many years ago it’s hard for me to remember everything because I left the legislature in 1976. But it was a very exciting time, I got to meet people I would not otherwise have met. I did a lot of things I would not otherwise have gotten to do. I had lunch in the White House and things, you know, an average citizen doesn’t get an opportunity to do.

KEK: Well, it sounds wonderful. Tell me about that impeachment, that whole process, because right now as we’re speaking, there is another Governor being impeached or about to be impeached in Illinois. And of course, you were on the committee to impeach the Secretary of State, what do you remember about that experience?

GEP: Well, it was a very interesting experience because we got together and most, but not all, of the members of the committee were attorneys, and we tried to establish some early ground rules that we wouldn’t impeach somebody unless we thought that there was a basis in law for what would be equivalent to filing criminal charges against somebody. John Rogers was Secretary of State, he was a real colorful, flamboyant prissy, little guy and the truth of the matter was that not very many people liked him. And his father had been auditor and inspector for years and they both served together which is kind of unique, having a father and son both holding major statewide offices. He was charged with allegations involving some bribery and horse racing. In fact, he closed his office one day and went fishing so somebody couldn’t file an initiative petition. And just several acts of impropriety, absolute, hard-core evidence of which was never presented. We conducted a lot of hearings, we used court reporters and put people under oath, we had subpoena power, and we had private investigators working for us. What it all boiled down to, to make a long story short, was the legislature accepted the minority report from the committee, and the House voted impeachment against John Rogers basically because they didn’t like him, which kind of emphasizes the fact that an impeachment proceeding is as much political as it is legal. And, when the Senate got ready to try John Rogers I stepped down rather than, I was asked to be the prosecutor in the case. Since I lived far away from the Capitol and had some other things going on that summer, I really couldn’t afford to spend the summer here and do that. I think probably, as the impeachment trial began, John Rogers went ahead and resigned.

KEK: So, he resigned in lieu of getting, of going through the …

GEP: The process is that once the House votes an impeachment resolution, the Senate sits as a, like a, the judges in a case. And the House acts as the prosecutor and appoints a committee of prosecutors and then the Senate actually would vote, based on the evidence, whether or not impeachment should be granted. If they’re impeached, they’re out.

Catalog Record

800 N. Harvey Oklahoma City, OK 73102 405.208.5271