My Coming of Age – My Teenage Years and early Twenties

Mainly I was involved with horses. For most of my life, my time outside of school was spent with horses. The manner in which we began showing horses was really interesting. We rented out a barn to a guy who was getting paid to take care of horses, but we had to stop that because of the liability. One day a horse charged a little girl who was taking out a bucket of oats. The barn became a sort of Peyton Place with lots of things going on with the rental. The code seed company was here in town and the father of the guy we rented the barn out to liked horses but also drank a lot and would take the horses out but come staggering back sometimes without them. He had a son, a wimpy guy, who didn’t really like horses but liked to pretend that he did. He started showing pleasure horse classes. He talked me into trying one of the shows. He took my horse, Walking Preacher, in the horse trailer with his and my horse beat his in the show. He told me he couldn’t take my horse anymore because Walking Preacher broke the trailer. I knew that it was a lie, that he was really just mad that my horse beat his. Because of this we bought a trailer and started going to horses shows ourselves. We showed we classes for American Saddlebreds and Walking Horses. We got a better breed, Midnight Dark, and began going to the bigger shows in Dallas and larger cities like that. If you are getting into show horses you had to start at the lower price range and then build them up. There was a very rich man who had a daughter with an interest in horses, so he purchased for her an expensive horse, but she didn’t do very well and it made him angry believing it was solely the horses fault and not his daughters (because in his mind she was perfect). We ended up purchasing this horse, who proved to be wonderful. We had a horse called Sterling Silver. My mom and dad felt bad for him because one day it was so hot, and because the horse was getting up in years, were worried for its health. My parents took him one night to sleep someplace where he would be comfortable. When they went to get him, Sterling took off while my dad was putting the chain on him. That horse ended up dragging my dad into a stall. All we heard was crashing and banging and at first we didn’t know what had happened to my dad and whether or not he was alright, but he was just fine. My family brood mares for many years. One by one they became old and died. My mother bought the first one in 1948 in Louisburg, Tennessee. She had a Madora mare and brought it back with a colt. We had five stalls in total. It was a lonely sight when the last gray mare got old and was not moving very quickly anymore. One of the hands who worked in the barn was a guy named Janey Wright. He lived on the premises and took care of the horses. Another guy who worked with the horses was a guy named Jim. He would park his car on our land. Jim’s car had shiny hubcaps and one of our geese would spend hours admiring herself in the hubcaps. When Jim would come to the car ready to leave for the day the geese would bite him on the leg, so he would be distracted and not drive off. At one point we had a goose, chicken and ducks. The chicken hatched two ducks, a little goose and a few little chicks. In no time at all the goose got taller than the mother chick and would try to burrow under her. But when she saw her family coming she would start to run. I had geese with all different temperaments. When you raise geese, they think you are their mother. Most of the geese we had were so loving and sweet. Two days before my bar exam the geese were all around me on the patio slab outside our house. They were running their bills through my hair and books, when my mother asked, “is this your idea of studying for the bar exam? You are going to feel bad when you fail!” My response was, “I won’t fail, I’m going to rely on my natural brilliance!” She was astounded I would say such a thing, but I did manage to pass.

Rite of Passage

The bar exam was so different than it is now. At that time, it was all easy answers. You took your exam all in one day and got your results posted on a board by the Supreme Court, the same day you’d be sworn in. Everyone invited their family and friends and if your name wasn’t on the board, well, you’d go to the zoo or do something else. We took the test in the Capitol building where the Supreme Court was located at the time. You could hear the window frames flapping in the wind, and with the windows always open there were constantly flies in the room. It got so hot you thought you would easily suffer from heat exhaustion. I can’t imagine it was a very thorough grading process, as I mentioned the exam was easy and the lawyers were grading and posting the results all in the same day.

I didn’t attend my high school graduation because I was at a horse show. I ordered the robe and the little motor board, and my mother took a picture of me in my robe and then we departed for the horse show. I didn’t attend my college graduation either, again because of a horse show, but I did go to my law school graduation.

I started law school the day after I enrolled in school. I didn’t really plan on going to law school, but eventually I did. I took the exam four years after I finished my undergraduate degree. It was the only test I ever took that I thoroughly enjoyed. I had all these history courses during my undergraduate years, so the LSAT seemed like a good fit. I remember one question in particular that read, of these individuals, which three are contemporaries and which one is not? The answers were: Ludwig, Beethoven, a King and a famous artist. Because I enjoyed history so much I got all of the answers correct."

First Job

I started law school the day after I enrolled in school. I didn’t really plan on going to law school, but eventually I did. I took the exam four years after I finished my undergraduate degree. It was the only test I ever took that I thoroughly enjoyed. I had all these history courses during my undergraduate years, so the LSAT seemed like a good fit. I remember one question in particular that read, of these individuals, which three are contemporaries and which one is not? The answers were: Ludwig, Beethoven, a King and a famous artist. Because I enjoyed history so much I got all of the answers correct."

College? Marriage?... what happened after high school

I graduated from college in 1957 from Washburn University with a double major in English & Political Science. I wanted to go to school to be a teacher. I put off all of the education classes until my senior year, including practice teaching. My first class that year was the history of education. I had to write a paper on the history of a building at Washburn University. It seemed I had more history classes than education classes, so I went to speak with the Registrar and they changed my major to history and political science, which allowed me to take even more history classes. The most interesting classes to me were the ones on world history: Greek history, Rome, Russia and France. I remember laughing one time during a test because it asked to name the three types of Greek columns, and I could. At that time schools were experimenting with the LSAT, so you didn’t necessarily have to take the exam before you enrolled in law school. There was no initial entrance exam and the test was simply to see if you were relevant, or a good fit, though I did take the LSAT because it seemed interesting to me. Throughout all my years in school, horse shows continued to play a dominate role in my life. Because horse shows were only on the weekends, I took classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then took correspondence classes on the other days. The easiest class I ever took was Personal Hygiene and Community Health. When I was in college we were starting to show horses in larger shows, and in September one year we went to a national show in Kentucky. George Breeze had Midnight Secret in Iowa. George brought Midnight and a trainer by the name of Doug, who was a bigtime drunk. My dad asked if George ever thought about selling Midnight, and as he had considered it, he offered to sell Midnight to my dad for $7500. We won the big amateur class at the American Royale with that horse. We also participated in the Florida circuit, which was a lot of fun. Midnight Secret was a Tennessee walker who won many awards. He even won the World Championship in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We had another horse named Midnight Queen Bee and she was the sister of Midnight Secret. We had several brood mares. We had as many as 60 horses but the Midnights, including Midnight Sun, was in Tennessee. He was a massive and strong horse. Marigold Boy, who was much smaller, was there too. Every February we would go to Florida and show Midnight Secret, who won many shows. After winning the Montgomery, Alabama show three times we decided to retire him. Midnight was 10 years old and we had purchased him in 1957 when he was seven years old. In many ways retiring him was a big relief; the pressure of winning each year was gone. No other horse had won that many times, so Midnight had a wonderful reputation. When we began to phase out the horse business, a man from Kansas City was interested in purchasing Midnight Secret. That was a tough time for me. I was depressed and sleeping a lot. I decided what I needed was a baby calf to lift my spirits. A neighbor of ours had advertised one that was only a week old. I didn’t have much money at the time, so I cashed a $25 savings bond, purchased the calf and bought powdered milk for him. I had him over in the barn and that poor calf seemed so lonely that I decided if I was going to feed one it wouldn’t be much more trouble to feed two, so I went to the auction and bought another one. Just as I was getting ready to leave I decided to purchase one more – at this point I was up to three. By the time I left I had bought eight in total and had them all delivered to my house. At this point I had nine calves. Initially they got really sick, but the vet came to the house each day and surprisingly all of them made it. I remember I’d go into the barn stall with my bucket of food and those calves would knock me right down, so we split them up and had two to a stall. You had to take a bucket and let one eat and the other suck on your finger. I would get up in the mornings with my pajamas and coat on and feed the calves, and my mother would feed them at lunch. This was all happening around the same time I was trying to decide what to do with my life. My mother and I drove to Florida and she kept asking me what I was planning to do next. I really didn’t know, and because there wasn’t much to do in Topeka at the time I decided to go to Law School. This was 1961. My mom liked this idea and the day after we got back from Florida I went to see Lester Goodell, who was very active with Washburn University. The only female attorney in town worked in his office. I told him of my interest in attending law school and he said, “you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to end up sitting and doing all of the dull things that women lawyers do.” I remember getting upset at his comment and decided because of that conversation to go to the Office of Dean of the Law School and enroll. They told me enrollment had closed the day before, but if they got my transcripts I could begin in the second semester. The man I met with was marking little circles around the classes I should take, many of them I had never heard of before. There were 13 of us starting the second semester and I was the only female. My mother was skeptical at the time because I had no clue about what to expect. Virtually the entire class was made up of recent college graduates, and grades were all that seemed to matter. On the surface I appeared to have nothing in common with the other students, with the exception of one thing: somehow every single one of us flunked our first course, as explained to us by the Librarian. She told us I don’t think you should all flunk Legal Bibliography so I’m giving everyone in the class a C. We had to take a class on accounting in law school, a subject which I had no previous knowledge of. The day before the final I went to the news book store and bought the then modern-day equivalent of "Accounting for Dummies." After that I stopped at the store to buy cigarettes, even though I didn’t smoke, and studied all night long for that exam (while smoking my cigarettes). At some point the light bulb for accounting turned on and I was able to explain double entry, and other accounting procedures. There was an awful professor my freshman year who taught Contract Law and I remember being the oldest person in the class. One day this professor wrote a Latin phrase on the board and I didn’t get it quite right. He called on me in class and said, “you graduated suma-cum-lade, what do you think it means?” I didn’t know for sure, so I gave a rough approximation of my interpretation. My answer wasn’t exactly right and this professor berated me because of it. I asked myself at that point, if I’m paying you for the class, with my own money, and if I’m not getting out of the class what I think I deserve, is it entirely my fault? I felt unhappy with this class, and with law school at that time. I ended up with a C in that class too. He had made a remark one day about seeing him if you weren’t satisfied with your grade. I sought him out in the hall one day and he said to me, "I know you normally make all A’s but had a C in my class. You should not be happy with a C in my class." I then proceeded to ask him if he gave me a C because of the content of the work or because of the questions I raised over the course of the semester. I also told him how grades are one person’s opinion, and how I felt as if I wasted my time and money at Washburn, and that in hindsight I should have gone to England to learn the majesty of the law. He saw me the next year and inquired as to how my second year of Law School was going. I said I’m used to taking tests throughout the semester instead of having your final be your only grade. He told me in order to be happy with the job I would need to appreciate what it was I was learning, which I tried to do. I also began to recognize that the primary reason I was in law school was to study history, a subject which I loved.

In college I had no close friends and minimally associated with students. Usually I went to class and went home. My closest friends were those relationships I established during my years as a judge, though my very best friend was always my mother. My mother and I would always spend time together, often times doing ceramics or making quilts. She died in 1990 when I was 55. The last three to four years of her life she wasn’t quite herself. We hired a woman from a health care company to take care of her. One day my mother complained that she was hot and wanted her bed sheets changed, so the lady working in her house had stripped the bed down and moved my mother into another room. Very unfortunately mother laid down in that other room and quietly passed away. When the lady found her she immediately called me and I drove to the house where I found my mother laid out on top of the bed completely naked. I was so shocked that I rushed out and called 911. They told me to stay on the line and once the Fire Department had arrived I realized I had not covered up my mother’s body, which to this day continues to bother me as she was such a modest woman. When I received a call about my father passing away, my mother had said he came home around noon, went to lie down, and had not gotten back up. I recall the doctor telling me he had died the “Prince of Death.” I was the first female to graduate from Washburn Law School. One professor said he didn’t think I would ever get a job, but I was the first one hired from our graduating class. I was a clerk at Murrell, Scott and Quinlin. While I was there the law firm was breaking up and it was a very unpleasant time. I was the only person in the office who spoke to everyone. The lawyers would give me messages to distribute to one another. Tim Murrell, one of the partners, had kind of quit working in law and was more interested in AmVestors at the time. Tim offered for me to stay and work insurance with him, but I preferred to stick with legal cases. While I was clerking with Murrell, Scott and Quinlin, one side of our office building (Van Buren and 33rd Street) was a hay field. The first summer I was there a skunk came out of the field and ran around the cars in the parking lot. One of the older lawyers wouldn’t leave the building if that skunk was around, so one of my tasks was to go outside and chase the skunk out of the parking lot each day. That animal would run from car to car and I had to clap my hands to get him to run away. That next winter I was the only person in the office who had snow tires on my car, so during inclement weather the lawyers would make me run all of their errands. At this point I realized I wasn’t loving the law clerk life. It was at that moment in time when I began to realize if you are unhappy somewhere, and you recognize there is no way to regain that happiness, then it is time to move on. Chasing skunks and running other people’s personal errands was that point for me, so I began practicing law out of my home where I had a few cases and was making a decent salary. I learned from this experience if you go along life’s path and a significant event or altering moment occurs and it changes your direction, you just go with it. One of the best lessons I learned as a new lawyer is that everyone should be required to take divorce cases in their workload because it teaches you so much about humanity. One time there was a couple in their mid-50s who had worked hard every day of their lives. Every penny they had profited they used to buy cheap rental housing. They were married for years but ultimately came to a parting of ways. They both worked hard and didn’t take vacations. They each worked full time jobs, with side jobs on the evenings and weekends. They were sensible people but couldn’t agree on the division of property. They had all these rentals but differing ideas of how they should be divided. My client, the husband, came in one day and I told him we needed to reach a settlement agreement, or the judge would decide for himself how to divide their assets. This man wanted to know what I thought the judge would decide. I mentioned he would try to be as close to 50-50 as possible. That conversation occurred in the morning. In the afternoon I got a call from the wife’s lawyer who asked if I had recently spoken to my client, when I answered yes, and recounted the 50-50 discussion, the wife’s attorney told me that man had literally taken half of all their possessions, from earrings to silver to shoes, wanting 50% of all of their belongings. One time while I was practicing law, I had a client by the name of Mr. Peepers. Mr. Peepers had two paper routes and left very early each morning. His wife maintained that he was having sex with every woman on the route. Aside from having sex with all of these women (so the wife claimed), he had a reputation for walking stark naked through rooms full of women. Newton Vickers was the judge presiding over this case, and at one point during the trial he said he thought he had heard everything (at one time he was in the Marine Corps) and didn’t want to hear all of sordid details. Upon learning Judge Vickers was a marine, Mr. Peepers showed up to court one day wearing his Marine Uniform. When he was asked why he was wearing his uniform when he had been out of the Marines for the past five years, he answered, “my friends all tell me that the judge favors my wife, and I’m going to get killed in this court case, so I figured if I died then I might as well be buried in my military uniform.” One of the worst divorce cases I ever had as a judge concerned the misfortune of hearing a divorce case where two people had gotten married and set out on an African foot safari. On their trip, the husband thought it odd that most of the wife’s belongings consisted of tupen hydrate (a mixture of codeine and cough suppressant). Being that he never heard her cough, he asked why she brought so much on their honeymoon. The wife insisted she had a terrible cold and needed the medication. When they got back to the US they expected his family to pick them up from the airport. When they did not they simply grabbed a cab and headed home. A few days later his parents arrived at their house for dinner and the wife comes into the dining room with a silver tray and immediately passes out on the floor. She had been drinking the turpin hydrate in excess. In another divorce case I presided over, each respondent indicated they paid 50% of all their living expenses. During the divorce proceedings the husband’s lawyer moves over to the wife and asks, “why did you fail to pay for your half of the toothpaste costs?” When she answered she had, the lawyer picked up a book and turned to April 13th of that year and said, “no you haven’t. During the month of April my client exclusively purchased the toothpaste.” The husband was literally tracking all of their expenditures over their entire marriage and dividing the costs. In yet another sad divorce there were two couples that had been friends for years, went on vacation together, and when their respective spouses died began a romantic relationship. They eventually moved into her house and were getting along perfectly at first. One night she wanted a can of peaches but didn’t have any in her cupboard (they kept separate groceries and pantries) and asked him for some to which he responded "no;" so she threatened him with a frying pan, and he left. As he left the house he threatened her dog with bodily harm. As I was thinking about the case, I wondered how to assess the damage of threats to both the can of peaches and the dog. During the years I worked as a lawyer out of my home I used to have lunch with several policemen who said one of their biggest problems was the Juvenile Judge and his lack of performance, and asked me if I had any ideas on who might run against this guy in the next election. I thought about it and came up with a few names and then it dawned on me that the best person to run against the incumbent was me. My police friends agreed, and I filed my paperwork to run on a Saturday afternoon in 1970. My folks were astounded. They couldn’t believe I would show such initiative. My dad was worried that the election may prove problematic for me because of his prior experiences as a public official. He went to talk to Warren Shaw, who in turn told the Democrats we didn’t have a clue how to run a campaign. Because my dad could write so well he had post cards printed and my mother made piles of them for people who wanted to pass them out. There was a certain house on James Street and I took the election cards up to the house and knocked on the door. The man who answered the door said his wife was interested in this campaign and would like to meet me. He hollered for her to come downstairs. When she did she was wearing high heels with feathers all over them and a set of pearls and nothing else. She asked for a set of cards so she could disburse them around the neighborhood and I thought, "oh dear, is the best person to promote my campaign?" My opponent was Malcolm Copeland. He didn’t spend much time on his election, but he did have a 30 minute program on WIBW, which I thought was pretty boring. On Election night I began with a slight lead and managed to keep it all night long. After I won the election, George Scott made the comment down at the courthouse, “now that the flush of victory is over and you’ve won the fight has it occurred to you that you have to do something?” When I began as a Juvenile Court Judge there were a lot of people working in the courthouse who needed to be fired. I beat out the incumbent because people weren’t happy with his performance on the bench. At the time I was in this position there was a security officer at Topeka High School who wanted to become a probation officer. I told her it would be a hostile environment, but she wanted to do the job anyway. She received a social work degree from KU and after graduation I hired her for the job. There was another probation officer at the time, a draft dodger, who was causing her problems. One day she came to me and said, "you haven’t heard me complain, but the 'draft dodger' loaded my cigarettes with exploding devices." I asked him about the incident and he confessed to doing so. I told him the only requirement for the job was using good judgement and he didn’t have any, so I let him go. Very few attorneys had any interest with the juvenile court at that time. The reporting was so back-logged, and the staff was so bad that I had to gradually correct all of the problems which had resonated over the years. The police department would bring in reports and complaints and my clerk, Lillian, would put them into stacks. She was also responsible for taking down the court proceedings and assigned to help file reports. Eventually we got into a very good rhythm and began running through cases to get caught up. I attribute this as my very first speed docket. The juvenile court took all of my time. There was an enormous amount of cases and paperwork. Lilian would have three stacks of papers and would say, "this pile is ok, this pile needs to be reviewed and the third pile shouldn’t be dealt with at all." Everyone knew if Lilian said it was a no-go, then it wasn’t going anywhere. I recall one of my first cases was a young man and upon approaching the bench his attorney said he’s a first-time offender. I thought there is no way he’s a first time offender, so I asked Lilian to look for his record, and sure enough that kid had been a repeat offender. At the time the juvenile sentences included making the kids wear uniforms and picking up trash, which I firmly believe helped to reduce future crime. During the time I was a Juvenile Judge there was no appeal for not setting a trail date. Gene Olander was the county attorney at the time when a ton of cases came up. He called for a particular case and no one came forward. We managed to finish the docket and there was a black woman still sitting in the back of the courtroom. She was present for a case that had been called, but the defendant hadn’t appeared, so a bench warrant was processed. That particular case concerned a 13 year old mother and an 11 year old father. I went back to Gene and said you needn’t fill out that bench warrant. The complainant was the young mother and a law student was trying her case. The father never showed up, and it wasn’t actually clear whether or not he was in fact the father, because when the girl was asked a series of questions she just said the two fooled around and she wasn’t certain what the term "intercourse" meant.

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