Honoring Clara Luper and supporting Oklahoma City University, Turpen takes time

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Michael C. Turpen is like a force of nature. You never really know where he’s going to go next.

Except, in truth, there are at least a few matters where he becomes predictable: Devoted to his wife Susan and their children, he cares passionately about worthy causes in the Sooner State and in its capital city.

Fresh evidence of the latter came recently, when he joined forces with Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry to raise more than $160,000 for the Clara Luper Scholars Endowed Fund at the Methodist institution of higher education.

Turpen officially released his new book to raise money for the Luper Fund, which bears the name of the civil rights icon
 whose non-violent activism peacefully transformed Oklahoma City in the early 1960s, leading to peaceful integration of city businesses, including John A. Brown stores and the Katz Drug store downtown.

Jay Hannah, a vice president at BancFirst and lifelong friend of Turpen, served as master of ceremonies, frequently transitioning into a flawless imitation of favorite Turpen lines, including “It’s all good.”

After welcoming remarks from historian Bob Blackburn, who runs the Oklahoma History Center on 23rd Street where the event was held, Judge, now President, Henry regaled the crowd with both serious reflections on Oklahoma’s early “Jim Crow” history and humorous vignettes about both Luper and Turpen.

Turpen and Henry traded quips and barbs, with the latter expressing thankfulness that Turpen chose to support Broadway musicals, rather than attempting to star in them.

While hinting Henry looks often look for inspiration to Rene Descartes (“I think, therefore I am” – Cogito, ergo sum) Turpen said he inclined more toward Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s emotions (“I feel, therefore I am”).

Joining the chorus of praise for Turpen’s humor and heft were civic leaders Polly Nichols and Judy Love, as well as Oklahoma City Thunder broadcaster Brian Davis.

Nichols hailed Turpen’s recent work as a member of the board at the National Oklahoma City Memorial, while Love teased her frequent traveling companion on fundraising trips seeking dollars for worthy causes.

Davis read a letter from Thunder Coach Scott Brooks, and presented the humorist a “Coach Turp” Thunder jersey bearing the number “1.”

The evening also featured musical entertainment from singers Russell McCook, Isaiah Bailey and Scott Guthrie. Each is an OCU graduate and each performed a separate solo song, to the accompaniment of OCU faculty member Megan Barth, an acclaimed pianist. The four then joined forces at evening’s end to lead a rousing rendition of the state song.

In attendance, and featured in a video presentation, were members of Mrs. Luper’s family.

In related news, on September 9, OCU was ranked one of the nation’s best institutions of Higher Education in the annual study of colleges and universities from U.S. News and World Report.

At the Luper fundraising event, Turpen shared assorted quips and truisms from his writings and speeches, including this gem: “History keeps repeating itself because no one was paying attention the first time.”

He praised books and newspapers, saying he believed in the importance of “ink on paper.” Turpen was alternately funny and serious, telling the crowd, “A room without books is like a person without a soul.”

A wide range of state and city leaders gathered for the book kickoff and Luper Scholarship fundraiser, including former Govs. David Walters and George Nigh, former City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, philanthropists Tom Price and Polly Nichols, and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.

As for Turpen’s new book, it’s “Turpen Time: The Wit and Wisdom of Mike Turpen,” and bears the sub-title: “50 Shades of Life.” (Tate Publishing: 288 pages, $16.99.)
Former President Bill Clinton, Turpen’s friend of many decades, said the life story “is a very good read.”

To support OCU’s Clara Luper Scholars Endowed Fund, send contributions to: Oklahoma City University, Office of University Advancement, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73106.

Turpen’s book can be pur-chased at several local locations, including Full Circle Booktore at 1900 N.W. Expressway in Oklahoma City, 405-842-9000.
NOTE: This report is expanded from a story first printed in The City Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in Oklahoma City.