Click the play button on the video player above to watch and listen to this week’s special episode, the latest installment of our year-long weekly celebration of the firm’s 70th anniversary.
Had Kenneth McAfee’s path to becoming a lawyer been easier, it likely wouldn’t have been as interesting. But as it turned out, by the time he graduated from law school at the age of nearly 31, he had already amassed a wealth of life experiences, skills, relationships, and adventures that would serve him well as an attorney.
Born in 1903 in western Arkansas with no family fortune or connections to fall back on, Mr. Mac relied on his strong work ethic, love of learning, and innate ability to get along with people to get him both through school and through life. From the time his family moved to Oklahoma in 1916 to the time he earned his law degree in 1934, Mr. Mac had a long list of jobs and hands-on experience to his credit, including working as a sharecropper, hired farmhand, boarding house employee, accountant, bookstore clerk, and installer of accounting systems.
Had he been born into wealth, it’s also unlikely his educational path would have been marked by so many stops and starts, which were largely dictated by his bank account at the time. Nor would his path have taken so many unconventional twists and turns: business college student at 16, high school valedictorian at nearly 21, college freshman at 23, and business school and law school graduate at nearly 31.
This long and winding journey also provided him a lot of great adventures and stories to tell.
Like the time he was falsely accused of concealing stolen property at the boarding house in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he worked while still a teenager. After spending a night in jail, he sued for false imprisonment and later settled for $500. Many years later, with their relationship still intact, the boarder who made the false accusations against him would hire Mr. Mac to represent him in several legal matters.
Or like the time he, his brother Conrad, and two friends purchased a wrecked Model T Ford for $50 and drove it to work harvests from Oklahoma to North Dakota, returning home via Yellowstone Park – all on unpaved roads.
Or like the summer of 1927, when he was working for Norick Brothers Printing Company in Seminole, Oklahoma. Once a small town with 1,500 residents, the discovery of oil in the area in 1926 transformed the community into a bustling town of 60,000. With no housing to be found, Mr. Mac found himself living with two other guys in a tent just large enough to fit three army cots. The living arrangements were short-lived, though, when the tent was stolen and all that remained were the cots. One of his tentmates was his employer’s son. The other was Van Heflin, then an 18-year-old kid who would later go on to achieve fame in Hollywood, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1943 for his performance in Johnny Eager.
No. Had Kenneth McAfee’s path to becoming a lawyer been easier, it definitely wouldn’t have been as interesting.
Narrator: Eric Little
Producer/Director/Editor: Brad Neese
Producer/Writer: Robin Croninger
Executive Producer: Michael Lauderdale
Production Assistance: Cody Smith
Special Contributor: Terry Barrett
Contributing Author: M. Scott Carter
Historical photos, footage and documents courtesy: Oklahoma Historical Society, The Oklahoman, Jaci (McAfee) Williams, Terry Barrett, Michael Joseph, Judy Webb, Michael Vance, Nebraska State Historical Society, Library of Congress, and McAfee & Taft archives.
Closed captioning provided by Rev.