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Stewart Mark: If you had questions, he had answers

The year was 1958, and a whip-smart 43-year-old lawyer named Stewart Mark had a big decision to make. Eight years after joining Gulf Oil Corporation as an attorney in its Tulsa office, he was offered the opportunity to become the petroleum giant’s general counsel. The promotion, however, would require him to relocate to the company’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His other option was to move back to his and his wife’s hometown of Oklahoma City and join his good friends Dick Taft and Ken McAfee in private practice at the law firm of McAfee, Taft, Cates & Kuntz.

Mark, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Oklahoma in 1937 and who finished first in his class from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1939, chose to return home. He would remain with the firm from 1959 until his retirement in 1990.

By all accounts, Stewart Mark was a brilliant lawyer — incredibly intelligent, extremely organized, and detail-oriented — who had an uncanny ability to simplify matters so as to make them easy to understand, communicate, and negotiate. A gifted writer, he was highly regarded for being able to convey in a few sentences what would take others multiple paragraphs to communicate. His words were clear, concise, and convincing.

It was this combination of attributes and skills that made Mark a go-to lawyer for other lawyers at the firm. “It was not uncommon for other lawyers in the firm to find their way to his office with what they considered to be unique or difficult problems, only to be pointed to a simple answer,” wrote attorneys Terry Barrett and Mark Malone in a tribute to him.

Attorney Mike Joseph agreed, adding that Mark always seemed to have the answer to the question or problem at hand.

Most times, he knew the answer off the top of the head. Other times, the answer could be found on an index card, which was filed away along with hundreds of others in a wooden box on his desk. According to Barrett, each card contained Mark’s own notes on a particular case that involved oil and gas. When someone came to his office needing help on a particular matter, he’d go through the cards, pull one out, and suggest that his colleague review that specific case. To no one’s surprise, the card (and case) in question would be right on point.

When Mark retired in 1990, he gave the valuable box of cards to Barrett. Many years later, after Stewart Mark’s grandson, Mark Malone, graduated from law school and joined the firm, Barrett gave the box to him.

Stewart Mark’s grandson, Mark Malone, looks through the invaluable box of index cards Stewart had compiled throughout his career, documenting his notes about particular cases and matters involving oil and gas.