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Portrait of Stanley L. Cunningham

In Memoriam

Stanley L. Cunningham

February 7, 1938 ~ November 29, 2017

Stan Cunningham, a retired partner with McAfee & Taft and a veteran oil and gas attorney for 50 years, passed away on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at the age of 79.

“Stan was foremost a scholar,” said Elizabeth Dalton Tyrrell. “He loved the sciences and mathematics, and it was his interest in geology that led him to become an oil and gas lawyer. He took college mathematics courses for pleasure and earned a master’s degree in geophysics 40 years after he began practicing law. He had a precise nature that was well suited for the practice of law.”

Stan earned his undergraduate degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma in 1960 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law three years later. He began his career as an attorney in the legal department at Phillips Petroleum Company and later joined McAfee & Taft in 1971.

Over the course of his career at McAfee & Taft, which spanned five decades and concluded with his retirement in 2013, Stan concentrated his practice on oil and gas litigation, transactions and regulatory matters. He was a frequent author on energy industry matters and was a featured speaker at forums such as the Eugene Kuntz Conference on Natural Resources Law and Policy, the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and the Southwest Legal Foundation. His achievements as an oil and gas lawyer earned him recognition in The Best Lawyers in America in the area of natural resources law.

For the many McAfee & Taft lawyers who had the pleasure of working alongside Stan, they will remember him for his intelligence, tenacity, creativity and kindness.

“Stan was my first supervising lawyer when I joined the firm as an associate, and I worked closely with him for almost 15 years,” said Myrna Latham. “Stan spent his entire career in the oil and gas industry as a geologist and attorney, and his knowledge and expertise were impressive — and a bit intimidating. But Stan was a kind and patient mentor, and I learned a great deal from him. Looking back, I can see how he influenced and contributed to my development as a lawyer. Such an intelligent man, with extraordinary attention to detail — no stone left unturned when it came to discovery and trial preparation!”

Terry Barrett, another colleague who had the good fortune of being taken in under Stan’s wing, fondly remembers how Stan responded when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against their clients in an important oil and gas case in 1979. “But Stan wasn’t finished. The case was remanded to the Tenth Circuit with instructions to rewrite its previous opinion along the lines set down by Justice Marshall. Back at the Tenth Circuit, Stan convinced the court of the Supreme Court’s erroneous thinking, and it rendered another judgment in favor our clients — in spite of the Supreme Court’s opinion. Stan had lost a fight but he had won the war! By that time the plaintiff had enough of Stan, and our clients were offered and they took a very profitable settlement.”

Stan is survived by his wife of 57 years, Suzanne, sons Stan Cunningham and Ryan Cunningham, daughter-in-law Vanessa Hill Cunningham, four granddaughters, and numerous family members, friends and colleagues.

“Stan was an excellent lawyer, a damn good oil and gas lawyer, and a really nice man,” said Jeff Todd.