Episode 9 of our special weekly series celebrating the firm’s 70th anniversary.
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Before there was a “McAfee & Taft,” there was just “McAfee.” And Betty Northcutt was the only employee in McAfee & Taft history to have been there for both.
In 1950, on the advice of one of her University of Oklahoma professors, Betty went to work as an accountant at the law office of solo practitioner Kenneth McAfee, a successful business and tax attorney who had left another firm the previous year to start his own practice.
Hiring Betty was one of the best decisions Mr. Mac ever made. In addition to being a top-flight employee, she was also one of Oklahoma’s very first female certified public accountants.
“I remember when I passed the CPA, they put my picture in the paper as one of the first women,” Betty said in a 2018 interview. “I wasn’t the first one. There were some before me, but it was just strange.”
The CPA exam has historically been one of the most difficult professional tests to pass. And even though Mr. Mac was impressed with Betty’s talents, he didn’t expect her to pass the rigorous exam on her first try.
“I took it, and then one of his best friends told me later, ‘Well, Mac said he’s glad for you to take it. You won’t pass, but it’s good experience for you,’” recalled Betty.
Betty passed the test on her first attempt, “which was a very, very rare thing,” Mr. McAfee wrote in an essay, noting that he had passed the exam in 1939, albeit on his second attempt. Betty went on to actively maintain her CPA certification until 2019.
After taking off a few years during the 1950s to start a family, she rejoined Mr. Mac at his new firm, McAfee & Taft, in September 1957. Her career with the firm would span seven decades, concluding with her retirement from the firm in 2018 at age 88. Over the course of that time, the firm’s beloved CPA would have a front-row seat watching McAfee & Taft grow from a fledging law firm to becoming Oklahoma’s largest.
Attorney and former managing director Richard Nix said Betty treated each member of the firm with love and respect.
“Nobody reflected those qualities or shared the love of our firm with others more than Betty. She was one of a kind and literally would do anything for anyone. Of course, she also had a pretty good ‘bark’ but never a ‘bite.’ Betty made this firm better, and she took great pride in that fact.”
Judy Webb, who joined the firm in 1959 and now holds the distinction of being the firm’s longest-serving employee, knew Betty the longest and the best.
“Betty Northcutt and Mrs. Hanna were two of the best, Lord-loving women I’ve known,” she said. “I came to work at the firm at 18, and they took me under their wing to love, mentor and give me truth. They loved McAfee & Taft and showed me how to respect and honor my employer. It’s more than a job. I’m blessed to have known them.”
Following her death in 2020, the firm created the Betty Northcutt Employee of the Year Award — affectionately called “The Betty” — to honor employees who, like Betty, have made a significant impact on the firm’s success through their talent, expertise, initiative, dedication, loyalty, and respect for others.