Following a law career spanning five decades, local trial attorney Bill Scarth, has decided he will retire at the end of this month.
Scarth has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including Oklahoma Magazine’s Top Attorneys in Oklahoma from 2006-2012. Focused mostly on family law and appellate, he has received an AV rating by the LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for ethical standards and legal ability every year since 1980.
Born in Higgins, Texas, Scarth dropped out of high school when he was 17-years-old to join the U.S. Navy. He spent four years aboard the U.S.S. Yellowstone, circling the Mediterranean Sea during the Cold War conflict, he said.
After returning home, Scarth received his GED and enrolled in college at the University of Tulsa and graduated in 1958 with a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Administration. Upon graduation, Scarth went to work as an accountant at Marathon Oil Company and a year later enrolled in law school at the University of Tulsa.
He began practicing in 1963 at Bassmann, Gordon, Mayberry and Lavender Law Firm in Claremore.
Scarth said a year after he went to work for BGML, Oklahoma’s first Republican governor Henry Bellmon ended up appointing attorney Bob Lavender as Supreme Court Justice. Lavender served on the court for more than 40 years.
“(Lavender) was really a good Justice,” he said.
Scarth was admitted as a partner around 1966 and the name was changed from Bassmann, Gordon, Mayberry and Lavender to Bassmann, Gordon, Mayberry and Scarth.
“I remember the first case I ever had. I was scared to death,” said Scarth. “I guess I gained somewhat of a reputation as a trial lawyer.”
During that time, Scarth practiced imminent domain and condemnation, where he represented land owners. After about 10-12 years the cases seemed to die off because most of that type of work was gone, he said. Scarth then began to represent the Rogers County Bank on the board for 13 years as he continued to find success in general law.
“There came a time when (the firm) decided to split off from the Gordons,” said Scarth. “Jack Gordon Sr. and Jack Gordon Jr. started their own practice together and we built an adjoining building, which became Bassman, Mayberry and Scarth. Mr. Bassman then retired and we kept his name on for awhile, he was very respected.”
Attorney Jack Mayberry went on the bench as Associate District Judge and then also retired. The firm then became Scarth and Rahmeier.
Originally from Kansas, Larry Rahmeier was an associate of Scarths before becoming a partner. The two have been in practice together ever since.
One milestone for Scarth occurred in 1986 when he represented Don Dod and Ed Livermore Sr., who sold the Claremore Daily Progress to Donrey Media Group.
“The sale was closed in my office and the check passed across my desk. I represented the Progress a time or two before that regarding libel suits,” he said.
Scarth later began practicing family law.
“After I quit representing RCB, I developed a heavy family law practice. It seemed like they were coming in through the windows, I had a ton of cases. The last 15 or 20 years that’s all I’ve done. I sell them; however I don’t do them myself,” he said smiling.
Scarth said he has seen many changes in law throughout his career.
“When I started practicing law, our office files would be a legal folder that would seldom get larger than a 1/2 inch. Now some of them become several bankers boxes full of documents,” he said. “Paper intensity has increased and there has been a world of development in the office, which has allowed me to produce more work. I am thankful to my assistants and great staff who have also allowed me to produce work.”
Scarth said he feels it is the right time to retire.
“Being an attorney is a mixture of tragedy, comedy, stimulation of the mind and I’ve been blessed with good health and a supporting family. The determination to retire is just the recognition that you can’t do it forever,” he said. “I’ve noticed that people are giving me more respect than I received when I was younger, which tells me something.”
Scarth has been happily married to his wife Carol for 57 years. Their family consists of daughter Kristen, who Scarth said is the “light of his life.”
He plans to spend more time with her and do some traveling during his retirement.
A retirement reception will be held next week on the fourth floor of the Rogers County Courthouse. State Legislatures will be in attendence to express congratulations and appreciation for Scarth’s many years in private practice.