Episode 8: Volunteerism – Grow By Giving

Man, what another great weekend we’ve had. This week I want you to pick up yourself, move out the door and help others. That’s right. Today we’re going to talk about something that’s important to every community. And that is volunteerism. And I have a special guest with me today. It is quite an honor to have this gentleman, he is very busy in his community, his state. He also has a lot of activities he does as hobbies. We’re gonna get to him in just a moment.

A 2016 CNN report on how volunteering can improve your life, published July 20, 2018, discussed several factors about volunteerism by community and state. First and foremost, which age groups are the most likely to volunteer and why? The study proved that people ages 35-44 and 45-54 were the highest age categories to volunteer. The lowest volunteer rates were seen among those age 20-24, and that makes perfect sense, of course, they’re in their college years and trying to get their careers started. The second thing I wanted to understand is which of the men or women were the better volunteer or volunteer more? The survey resoundingly showed that women were greater volunteers than men in terms of time and effort. And the next thing we looked at was the issue of education being a basis for volunteerism. Wouldn’t shock you to know that those people with less than a high school diploma had the lowest number possible volunteers in the survey. Those with bachelor degrees and higher were of the greater number of volunteers in their state and community. And lastly when asked why this is the case, the volunteers gave two answers, first and foremost volunteering gave them a way to bring together two things, first the satisfaction of doing good for other people, along with gaining something for themselves. You see we can only grow as citizens and as people by giving ourselves our community. Hey, I’d like to introduce now, my good friend, Steve Taylor. Steve is a retired supreme court chief justice in the state of Oklahoma, Steve has been a community leader for many years. Born in a very small community in central Oklahoma, he also earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate from University of Oklahoma Law School. While a student at OSU, Steve was actively involved in student government and honor society and was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. From 1970-1978 Steve served in the United States Marine Corps. After his training as an infantry platoon commander, he served as a prosecutor, defense council, and ultimately as a special court-martial judge. He became the youngest judge in the United States Armed Forces at the age of 28. Yep, I’ve got the right gentlemen to show today about volunteerism and service. He was later promoted to the rank of Major. In 2003 the Oklahoma Bar Association granted Steve the award of judicial excellence. And in recent years, we’re gonna talk a little more deeply about this, he was recognized as citizen of the year in McAlester, Oklahoma, our hometown. Oklahoma State University inducted Steve into the Hall of Fame in 2007, and the University of Oklahoma presented him its prestigious Regiance Alumni award in 2009. At the time, Steve became the only person ever to receive the highest alumni recognition of both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. Steve serves on the Board of Visitors of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and was named the OU College of
Law Hall of Fame in 2017. Justice Taylor is a board member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and is chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial as well as a trustee of the Oklahoma State University Foundation. Today he dedicates a tremendous amount of time to volunteer and serve as the chairman of the Puterbaugh Foundation in our city. In 2007 Oklahoma’s centennial year, Oklahoma Magazine named Justice Tylor as one of the 100 who shaped us. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like for you to recognize a great man, let’s call him my friend Steve Taylor, Welcome Steve.

ST: Thank you Jimmy.

JW: Hey, you know, you come from the big city of Henryetta, OK.

ST: That’s where I was born. I lived there until I was four, and then moved to McAlester.

JW: You know, you come from a pretty heralded city for people that are hall of famers.

ST: Ah, Yep.

JW: I recognize two of them just come to mind. I call them the cowboys of Henryetta. One, Mr. Jim Shoulders, he’s in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame as a rodeo announcer. Then of course, everyone can remember Troy Aikman. Dallas cowboys three time MVP of super bowl as well as now in the NFL Hall of Fame. You’re in pretty good company I would say.

ST: I would say so, I’ve known Jim Shoulders, I’ve known him all my life. Cause he was a friend of my father and grandfather so, he’s a great man, and put Oklahoma on the map.

JW: Let me ask you this, give me a little short background of your four years, if you remember, what happened in Henryetta to get you started on a life of volunteerism.

ST: Well, I don’t remember much about that, except that Henryetta, my mother was born there, my grandfather was the Ford dealer there for 37 years, my dad started his career with Southwestern Bell there. So, you know, even after we moved to McAlester when I was four, I was back in Henryetta often. Because of my grandparents living there. So, it’s an important part of my life.

JW: Absolutely, we all have to start somewhere, right Judge?

ST: That’s right.

JW: So let me ask you this, you grew up from Henryetta moved to McAlester and may I say folks, back then McAlester was the big city compared to Henryetta, a nice 40 mile city southward of Henryetta. How did you determine you wanted to be a lawyer and most recently a judge or justice?

ST: Well, the McAlester public schools were an important part of my growing up. And particularly by the time I got to McAlester High School, I was involved in speech and debate. And I knew then that I wanted to be a lawyer. At that time the McAlester High School was downtown, just a couple blocks from the courthouse and I would frequently after I got out of school at 3 o’clock, I would walk down to the courthouse and go in to the courtrooms and watch trials and then at 5 o’clock walk down to the telephone office, go home, ride home with my dad. So, I knew in high school I wanted to be a lawyer.

JW: Well that doesn’t surprise me, so for those of you that don’t know Steve I consider him a very dear friend, pretty much mentored me on public service and volunteerism, but that doesn’t shock me at all that you knew what you wanted to do in life. So let me ask you this, who are, or who were your mentors as you were becoming an attorney and a judge. Who would you say gave you the most benefit in your career in terms of guidance.

ST: Well, My speech and debate coach at McAlester High School, Virginia Kaplinger, I give her a lot of credit for teaching me to think on my feet. To be an advocate, so Virgina Kaplinger, and then mentors lucky growing up in McAlester to have George Nigh and Carl Albert from McAlester and for whatever reason, they both took an interest in me when I was in high school, and mentored me and I had an opportunity to spend time with them and they influenced me greatly toward public service and government and public policy, and law school. So those were people in McAlester that made a difference in my life.

JW: So you mentioned two gentlemen there that I hold in very esteem as well, one of those being ‘The Little Giant’, can you tell us a little bit about speaker Carl Albert that really influenced you?

ST: Well he was a debater, high school debater, college debater, and he just, I looked at him as a role model, because of his interest in government and public policy and had achieved from growing up here in McAlester, Pittsburg County, ended up being a speaker of the house two different times, second in line to the presidency. And at one point in the history of the United States during the Watergate days, not only second line to the presidency but somewhat as Speaker of the House, somewhat in control whether he became President of the United States, he could have sat back and slow played the confirmation of Gerald Ford. As Vice President, he could have been selfish and put himself in the position to be president. But he was not, he believed in the constitutional process and the rule of law.

JW: Absolutely, and for those that don’t know the history, Speaker Albert there are tremendous books written on him. One of which that I have in my library called, The Little Giant. And he had such a great love for education as I know you do as well as me, Speaker Albert was always so kind, he was aged in his years and retired when I was a young man coming to McAlester, but I did get to meet him on a few occasions, he signed and autographed my book that he had written, and I will tell you he most impressed me with his investment in people that he did believe that the process and due process of law was the underpinning of a civilized society. Wonderful.You talked about another gentleman, George Nigh, let me give a little bit of background for our listeners there, George Nigh is the Son of McAlester, as we call him here. Grew up down here at a little grocery store where he worked on south 6th street as I recall him telling. He had spoken at several events, and if you haven’t had a chance to meet Governor Nigh, those of you listening, a great man, a great leader in our state, what do you like about Governor Nigh that you could tell our people that might be funny.

ST: He’s just a man of the people, I became close with him when I was in high school, and followed him around and worked in his governor campaigns, and then he in 1984 he started me on my way to the career that I loved and that is he appointed me to the bench in 1984 to a vacancy on the district court here in Pittsburg County. And I credit him for giving me my start in the judiciary. But he’s just been a great friend of mine, close friend, I just talked to him last week, he’s 90 years old, I had him here a couple of months ago as the commencement speaker at McAlester High School, and he’s 90 years old an expo center in June, as hot as can be and everybody is sweating and he’s 90 and he’s getting up to the podum and then when he gets up in front of a crowd, he just turns into George Nigh, and gave a wonderful speech and everybody in the crowd was thinking how does this 90 year old guy standing there giving a speech in this hot expo center, well that’s just George Nigh.

JW: You know, Governor Nigh has left an indelible mark on our state in terms of how service to the people can benefit all people, he didn’t do the service for himself, did he Judge?

ST: No no, he’s not a wealthy man, he’s not ever traded his political office for any kind of monetary gain he’s a really as you said man of the people. He loves people and…

JW: You know one thing I love about Governor Nigh and you mentioned Speaker of the House and so forth, what they went after their careers in politics or in Governor Nigh’s place he was actually a president for one of our local universities in the state of Oklahoma. He continued his public service, I’m gonna visit with you a little bit about that. I hate the word retirement, we on our Live a Life by Design podcast Judge, we actually use the word refirement, and you truly, in my opinion, emblazoned that in your life, tell me about some of the things you’re doing now.

ST: Well when I retired from the Supreme Court, I had a plan that I was going to be involved in things that are of interest to me. So now I’m much involved at the Oklahoma City National Memorial commonly called The Bombing Memorial, my relationship to that is that I presided over the state trial of the bombing case. The Oklahoma City bombing case, I’m Chairman of the Board now, it’s a two year term, and I’m much more involved there now, almost on a daily basis with some of the issues that come up in running a museum and memorial and I’m involved at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation because they are a premiere, 11th largest private medical research foundation in the country. Something a lot of people in Oklahoma don’t realize, all the work that happens at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. I volunteer at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, couple of days a month. I don’t call it teaching, but I lecture in classes at the law school. Chairman of the Puterbaugh Foundation here in McAlester. It’s amazing how busy you can be when you work for free. There’s a great demand on my time because I am working for free, but that was my plan I’m in good health, thank God, and 70, nearly 70 years old, but my plan when I retired from the Supreme Court was to come home and live in McAlester but be much involved. I spend probably two to three days a week in Oklahoma City, kept my apartment in Oklahoma City because it’s cheaper than having a hotel room as much as I’m there. With the law school and medical research foundation and national memorial and Thunder games. My son’s the manager of team operations for the Thunder, so I’m at every Thunder game. So, life is very busy. I didn’t retire to slow down. I’m probably busier than I was when I was on the Supreme Court.

JW: I would say so, I tell you you make me tired just sitting here, telling me all those activities, but I do want to know for our subscribers and listeners here today, that I didn’t pay Justice Taylor to come here, he’s under his own free will.

ST: Everything I do these days is free and that’s why I’m staying so busy.

JW: Absolutely, but if you think about it, let’s talk about why you volunteer. You’ve told us where, but why do you volunteer? Why is it so important to you?

ST: It really it’s essential to me, to my life. I don’t mean to sound anything other than just the guy who likes to be involved in the community, I’m vitally interested in public policy, always will be. And when I say public policy, I’m talking about government and the private sector in ways that public policy can affect the lives of people. And so that’s the theme of everything I do, is in somewhere or another affecting public policy toward making life better for citizens.

JW: That’s a great reason. You’ve mentioned a lot of activities, you are very very busy person. So tell me what your daily routine to maximize the efficiency and use of your time and energy.

ST: I’m a real creature of habit. I’m obsessive compulsive in some ways probably. I’m up early in the morning. I exercise I believe in, I used to run, but I’m nearly 70 years old and I’ve kind of decided that running is, I need to slow that activity down. So now I walk, I walk at least five miles a day. Outside, I don’t like treadmills. So I’m out walking in the mornings, I go to the Puterbaugh Foundation office nearly every morning because I’m involved in the investment of the funds of the endowment, and so I watch the markets and keep track of our investments. And then, I’m on the road a lot because I’m in Oklahoma City so much with the law school and with the law schools in Norman, but Oklahoma City’s headquarters when I’m doing all that work, and the Medical Research Foundation and the Bombing Museum and Memorial. And then I’m at the Supreme Court a lot. I’m retired, but I’m still there very often with my, I call them my brothers and sisters, the Justices on the Supreme Court. You become very close because you work together, so I’m there, all the time just visiting and I’m still researching and keeping up with the law. Because from time to time a retired justice is called on to be helpful to the court and sitting on a case when they need a ninth vote if somebody is recused. So I’m just, I have to be involved and my routine is to just stay busy. I have a hard time sitting.

JW: I understand and you brought up several items that we espouse in Live a Life by Design. You talked about habits and you mentioned maybe obsessive compulsive disorder and some of those, I know you’re joking about that. But I tell you, I take my morning routines, and my evening routines, what it does for us as individuals, it makes us less taxing on the thought process, because you go through the same routine daily, of getting ready for the day. Maybe shutting down for the day.

ST: Yep yep, the end of the day is important also. Because after I’ve been busy all day, I have routine at night that I read some, but I’m also in the evenings, watching tv. And I’m a creature of, I’m a news junky. Some people are sports junkies, I’m a news junky, and a politics junky, in that I follow public policy and government and politics, I keep up with it very in much detail and so in the evenings that when I fill up on news and politics and government and keep up with current events.

JW: Well then, the last three days you may have had way more then you cared for.

ST: I’m in overload after the midterm election, I’m in total overload.

JW: One of the things that I love about our country is that the process works. Justice, it works but we have to all be diligent and go out and vote, you won’t hear me say it once, you’ll hear me say it a dozen times, go exercise your right to vote. Let’s talk just a little bit about your career in volunteerism putting aside your career, active career that you made as a justice and judge, let me ask you about your career in volunteerism, what’s been the most fulfilling event that you can recall in your many years in volunteering in your life? What would be the most fulfilling?

ST: Well, I don’t know if it’s any one thing. I think my work with the Puterbaugh Foundation, and that’s been going on for 25 years. The Puterbaugh Foundation, which is a local private foundation here in McAlester has it affects the community. I mean, its, we give away a lot of money. And in this world money makes things happen. And so I guess the most fulfilling thing is all of the, I work hard to make sure the endowment is growing, but we’re giving away in my 25 years on the Puterbaugh Foundation, we’ve probably, we’ve given away 15-20 million dollars and I see where that goes to schools and hospitals and medical research and scholarships and higher education. That’s the most fulfilling I think, is that we’ve really, the Puterbaugh Foundation has made a difference, and it’s because of the legacy of Jay Garfield Puterbaugh, who funded the original endowment. So I don’t like to talk about money, but giving away money makes a difference, it lets all these organizations and institutions thrive and for example, the McAlester Public Schools we’ve made a huge difference for the McAlester Public Schools, giving them money that they would normally not have. So that makes me feel really good.

JW: I would say that for those listening, that Justice Taylor has been a little bit modest. Without the impact of J. G. Puterbaughs family and foresight to look to see what he could do to leave a lasting impression you see he was living his life by design. Right Steve?

ST: Oh no doubt about it, that was a truly a man of habit and design.

JW: So let me ask you a hard question now. We talked about your storied career, your background in the United States Marine Corps, and that in itself is a pretty good background right there, not too many friends of mine that I know have come through the United States Marine Corps.

ST: Well, I will say the discipline and the rigour and the tradition of the Marine Corps, it is a huge impact on my life. And in my life, today I still refer to myself as a Marine. Even though it’s been a long time since I was on active duty. The Marine Corps changed my life in a lot of ways. And instilled in me determination, discipline, and really the attitude that I can do anything I want to do. But there’s tremendous tradition with the Marine Corps and I’m very proud of that.

JW: One word that I’m going to add, what Steve has said about Marine Corps, just from friends of mine that have served and family members, I’m going to put one word in there that we believe in here at Live a Life by Design really define us as individuals and that’s honor. One thing they distill in you is honor.

ST: No doubt.

JW: So here’s my difficult word for you then. If you weren’t a lawyer or a judge and you didn’t have that as a career. Putting all that aside, what would you have chosen in your life to serve your family as well as your community. What would be a career choice?

ST: Well, this will probably sound strange, but if I had not gone into the law, this will really sound strange, but it’s the truth, if I’d not gone into the law I’d probably would have gone in the car business, as I probably would have been a car salesman.

JW: Now give me a little background on that.

ST: Can you believe, my grandfather was the Ford dealer in Henryetta for 37 years, and then when I was in undergraduate school and law school, I worked for the Oldsmobile Cadillac dealer here in McAlester, Bud Little Owned Quality Deals Cadillac. And I worked six or seven summers at the car dealership. I made good money, I got to be with people and I’m a people person. And there’s nothing that can you know really test you then to be out on a hot car lot in July trying to sell a used car to somebody. And so I learned more in those summers at the car dealership about people then I probably ever would have learned anyplace else. And I loved it, and I’d grown up as a little kid, where my grandfather had a Ford dealership. And there were just something about car business and working with people and so it’s a strange answer for a Supreme Court Justice to say if he hadn’t been a Supreme Court Justice, he would have been a car salesman. But I probably, if I hadn’t gone to law school, I probably would have ended up one way or another in the car business.

JW: Well I can certainly see that. So for many of us that have seen you in your role as a District Judge here locally, as a speaker, as a Supreme Court Justice, we can see how you understand how your role as a trier fact impacts lives, so I think by understanding people from that car lot you got a real understanding about people.

ST: No doubt I learned more about people, and I carried that with me those summers that I worked the car dealership, I carried what I learned about people and working with people, I carried with me all my life and into the courtroom.

JW: Wow, so now let me make sure that you’re not saying that were going to see a Taylor Chevrolet GMC dealership anytime soon.

ST: No chance.

JW: Oh man, so you’ve managed something earlier, you have one son a great young man, I’ve got to tell you a quick story on him. Your son Wilson was at the Oklahoma City International Airport, and I was coming back from a speaking engagement that I’d had in California and I’m down in baggage claim, and I see a young man there, I said, boy I know that boy, so I walk up to him, tap him on the shoulder, he’s with some gentlemen that I’d say were at least 6’8’’ to maybe 7 feet tall Judge, and of course he stands out, he’s not quite that tall, and I tap him on the shoulder, and I say, “Wilson, how are you doing?” And he turns around and just as true to his parents as anyone can be, he said, “Mr. Williams I’m doing well, How are you?” So I’m very proud of your boy. Tell me a little about what he’s doing to serve his community through the Thunder?

ST: He started out as an intern, but he’s been with the team for 10 years, started off he got his undergraduate degree in business at Oklahoma State University, and then he got a Masters Degree in Athletic Administration at OSU and then he started off as an intern 10 years ago with the Thunder when they came to Oklahoma City and he’s worked his way up, he’s now the manager of team operations for the Thunder which is basically the logistics, equipment, travel, taking care of the players on the road. So he travels with the team and looks after the players and handles the equipment issues, and logistical issues. And all of his friends are all very tall.

JW: I noticed that immediately. I’m not sure but maybe you and I could help the team little, we maybe set right behind them at court seats. Would that be helpful, help cheer them on?

ST: I tried that. Pretty good gig.

JW: Yes it is. So let me ask you a couple of other things before we close out this interview. At the end of the day, one thing that I’ve known about Justice Steve Taylor, for our listeners, is that you’re a man that exhibits one of the qualities that I find really rare in public service now a days. I wouldn’t say that you’re old school, but I would say to you that you approach public service and your volunteerism much different. And the fact that I admire most about you is your humility. How do you stay humble in this day and age?

ST: Gosh, I don’t know, I don’t view myself, I don’t think of myself that way at all. I don’t know. I guess I’m humbly answering your question. I don’t know. I don’t view, I don’t see myself that way at all. Maybe some of it goes back to just standing on the car lot in the hot summertime in July earning, trying to make money to go to college. But as a judge, you know, the 33 years I was a judge it, I had control over a lot of things. And so I never worried much about being something other than humble because as a judge, I tried to realize and remember that everybody in my courtroom, for me it might be a routine case, but for the people in my courtroom, it’s very likely the most important day in their life. Criminal case, civil case, divorce case, whatever the case may be, and so i tried to keep in mind that all the years that I was the judge that how I was going to affect someone’s life. It didn’t cause me to not decide cases based on the rule of law, but I always had that factor in my mind about how is this going to change lives. And I let that at least be a the guardrails of decisions that had to be made.

JW: Very admirable trait, I assure you and one that I know you don’t think about, it just comes natural to you, but I will tell you those of us that are around you on a day to day basis see it quite bolder and I do want to bring up just a little story if I may Justice, I don’t want to embarrass you, there was a little sneaky do that we pulled over on you a few years ago, here in our city, and we were trying to honor then District Judge Steve Taylor for his many volunteer hours and things he had done for our community and Judge Taylor and I share the stage a lot locally and helping with the civic events and volunteer in areas where we can service or MCs or announcing and helping with any of these activities. Well, Judge Taylor for years has served as an MC for this one organization and the year came that they’d asked me to serve in that role, and to be very honest with you, I was a little nervous because you’d always done that. And I always defered to him, he’s very excellent at that, so what we had to do, Judge, was we kind of had to pull a sneakaroo on you, what we did was involved as a co-conspirator. Your lovely wife Mary. You remember this?

ST: I do. I do.

JW: Did Mary get you to the appropriate location on time?

ST: She did, I showed up and you all pulled a good one.

JW: That was the only time that I had ever seen Justice Taylor embarrassed. And the only reason he was embarrassed is that we did catch him off guard. What we gave him that year was such an honor that he well deserved and had earned many years earlier and that was the citizen of the year award here in McAlester. How did that make you feel that day?

ST: Humble. I, you just, I don’t, I just don’t see myself that way, so it was like, oh ok. This is very nice but unexpected.

JW: Again folks, you heard it right here, the humility just shines through on Justice Taylor. So I’m going to finish this interview with just a couple last questions. What does the next phase of your volunteer career look like Justice Taylor?

ST: I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, I, all of this volunteer work that I do, in really for my whole life. Everybody needs to figure out in their life what makes them happy in a sort of a calling and it reminds me when I was, when I was young I, high school or college, the minister at the methodist church where I attend here in McAlester, he was talking about we all have a calling and he said something I’ll never forget, he defined calling as an intersection when your interests intersect with the needs of the community. And at that intersection you find your calling, and I always has motivated me that you know, what am I interested in? And what does the community need? And if my interests and the needs of the community intersect that’s where I need to be. That intersection. So that’s what I’m going to keep on doing. For as long as I’m able. During my retirement is to find places where I have an interest that might help someway with the community. I don’t go out looking for things to do. Because if it’s something that I’m not interested in, or something that would be boring or tedious I will not do it. The only thing I do in the way of volunteer work is what is interesting to me. And that may sound selfish, but it’s the only way I can be motivated.

JW: (4 @ 38:05)That’s a great tagline, and you and I have not rehearsed this at all today, this is all live if you will. And I’m going back to quote a great Oklahoman that I know you know, that grew up here in Indian Territory by the way, we named an airport after him in Oklahoma City that I spoke of a few moments ago, Mr. Will Rogers, by the way great entertainer, during the 30s probably the most popular of entertainers in the world at that time. He had a statement that leads right into what you’re talking about finding the passion that you enjoy something that’s not tedious or something that you don’t enjoy you want to be in that realm we call unique ability, you want to be in the realm of doing what you love to do. Will Rogers said this, “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you’re doing, love what you’re doing, and believe in what you’re doing.” Wouldn’t that sum you up?

ST: That’s a great summary of what everybody ought to be interested in, for their own life. Professionally and otherwise.

JW: Absolutely. First and foremost, thank you wonderful wonderful time here this morning, I know you’ve got a lot to do. You’ve just given us a detail of things you’ve got to do today as well. Thank you Justice Taylor, retired Supreme Court Justice of Oklahoma, Steve Taylor, an excellent excellent program today. Thank you for joining us.

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