The Norman Transcript

September 22, 2013

Changing season means new books on the nightstand


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — When Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala was freed from a German prisoner of war camp in spring 1945, his skills and opportunities were limited. Fortunately, he spoke several languages, including English, and interpreters were in high demand, keeping order among former prisoners.

Enter Capt. Clyde Gene Warr, a member of Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Division serving in George Patton’s Third Army. Opala became Capt. Warr’s interpreter. Later, Opala, with a nickel in his pocket, made it to the United States as a guest of the Warr family, of Warr Acres fame.

His fascinating transformation from a young Warsaw law student to freedom fighter for the Polish resistance to being appointed as the first-born Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice is the subject of a new book by Bob Burke and Ryan Leonard.

Justice Opala was a fascinating man whose principled life was dedicated to justice, no matter whose toes were stepped upon.

It’s on my fall bookshelf. The foreword is by OU President David L. Boren, who — as governor — first appointed Opala to a state court and then the Supreme Court. My wife, Karen, served as a clerk for Justice Opala in law school and our friendship continued through the years.

A week before his death in 2010, we shared a wonderful meal and hours of conversation at our home. It is one of those memories for the ages.

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Next to the Opala biography is “John Q, The Life and Times of Jim Lange,” political cartoonist for The Daily Oklahoman for 58 years. His son, Robert Lange, also a professional cartoonist, reprinted some of his father’s favorite works with comments and a perspective only a son could provide.

“Growing up with a dad as a cartoonist is like being at Disneyworld every day,” wrote Robert Lange, the youngest of Jim and Helen’s four children. The book is available at Amazon.com or at bigheadtinybody.com.

A book signing will be 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at Full Circle Book Store in Oklahoma City. He’ll sign at Hastings later this year.

Jim Lange, as expected, had a dry sense of humor and loved his job more than anyone I had seen in the newspaper business. In his time at The Oklahoman, he drew more than 21,000 cartoons. We worked together for a few years, although he had the publisher’s ear and a pay grade far above my junior reporter’s line.

Jim went to art school at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art on the G.I. Bill after World War II. He studied under the master cartoonists of the old Chicago Tribune. Edward K. Gaylord hired him for $50 a week.

It was our common membership in the Oklahoma City Gridiron Club where our friendship developed. He always had a twinkle in his eye and looked like he was preparing to say something funny, which he usually did.

He had a laugh that could wake the dead. Even when he was skewering politicians, he was never mean. A Jim Lange original hanging in an office was the badge of honor for many elected officials.

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Another quick read is the new book of photographs published for the Cleveland County Historical Society. It traces Norman’s development from 1889 to 1949 — Land run to Navy bases, so to speak.

The authors, Sue Schrems and Vernon Maddux, both CCHS board members, pulled photos from a variety of sources for the book. Sales benefit the CCHS and its activities, including operating the Moore-Lindsay House at 508 N. Peters Ave.

“When I look at those guys in early Norman and what they went through, my hat goes off to them,” Schrems told a business group this past week.

The authors use vintage photos of Land Run-era Norman, its people, early buildings and businesses, the university, the state mental hospital and the Naval bases to tell the city’s rich history.

Books are available for sale by the CCHS. The publisher, Arcadia Publishing Co., is looking for outlets to sell the book around the community.

Andy Rieger

editor@normantranscript.com

366-3543