Larry Derryberry

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Larry Derryberry was born on Oklahoma Day, April 22,1939. His parents, Willis Landrum Derryberry and Willene Faye Woodall Derryberry were tenant cotton farmers southeast of Altus, Oklahoma. He attended the Humphreys and Southside schools, before finishing his high school work at Altus, as salutatorian of his senior class.

Larry was a champion 4-H Club member. He won the first speech contest he entered, scoring first in County, Regional and State competition. His prize was a trip to Ithaca, New York where he spoke to several thousand members of the National Institute of Cooperatives at Cornell University. That was the start of his successful public speaking program during his junior high and high school years. He spoke to large groups in many cities, including Wichita, Kansas City, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Fort Collins. He was the 4-H State Public Speaking Champion and the State Demonstration winner. He continued his 4-H work as a member of the Board of the 4-H Foundation, which he supported throughout his career. Larry credits the 4-H program for leading the way to his career in government and the law.

Larry attended the University of Oklahoma where he received his B.A. in history in 1961 and his Juris Doctorate at the OU College of Law in 1963. He was an editor of the Law Review of the College of Law and active in law school activities. While a 2nd year law student, Larry was elected to the Oklahoma Legislature where he served his Jackson County constituents in the House of Representatives for eight years.

After graduation in 1963, Larry married his sweetheart and lifelong partner, Gale Brazil. They established their first home in Altus where Larry practiced law in the firm of Oden, Oden and Derryberry and served in the legislature. Those eight years in Altus were very happy. Larry and Gale were able to laugh and play with lifetime friends like Earl and Frances Herron, Bill and Barbara Brinkman, and Glenn and Ida Jo Southall. They loved their years in Altus.

Larry's legislative career was highlighted by his authoring the bill that created the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, chairing the Joint Committee on Congressional Redistricting, and serving in leadership positions of Assistant Majority Floor Leader and Speaker pro tempore.

In 1966, their son Darren was born. Darren and Gale traveled to Oklahoma City every week with Larry for his legislative responsibilities. In 1970, their daughter, Dara, was born. Gale, Darren and Dara were always Larry's focus. He helped coach the children's baseball and softball teams and made sure that he was at every special event in their lives.

In 1970, Larry was elected to the office of Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma. His family moved to Oklahoma City to establish a new home and a new life. Larry served his native state with distinction. He was a prominent member of the law enforcement community, leading law enforcement teams in investigations, indictments and successful prosecutions of some of the most dangerous criminals in Oklahoma history. He also established the Consumer Protection Division and the State Narcotics Commission as parts of his office. He was also responsible for the prosecution and ouster from office of a number of prominent Oklahoma politicians, often to the detriment of his political best interests. He always put duty before self-service and was a shining example of integrity throughout his career.

Larry was a poet, a songwriter and an author. His first children's book, "The Oklahoma Scranimal," was selected as an Oklahoma Centennial Children's book in 2007. He had seven published books, and wrote more than 50 songs, including ballads, children's and religious songs.

His family was always Larry's top priority. He was so proud of the many successes of Darren and Dara, and always loved and adored Gale. In 1996, Tristan Prentice, the first of his beloved grandchildren was born. Then, twins Andrew and Olivia Derryberry were born, followed a year later by Ava Gale Prentice. Larry and Gale cherished the afternoons and evenings watching ballet performances, soccer matches, baseball and basketball games, gymnastics, music recitals and horse shows.

In 1979, Larry returned to the practice of law, establishing his law firm in Oklahoma City. During his remaining years he was recognized as an exceptionally successful attorney in matters relating to government law, healthcare and insurance. Many of his clients in 1979 remained his clients until his retirement and death. Larry always felt that he was an integral part of the organizations he represented and gave the personal attention and advice that made his clients stronger and more successful. He was a wonderful example as an attorney and counselor at law.

Although he never chose to seek public office again, Larry admired and appreciated the public service of his friends. He worked for judicial excellence, selfless legislative service and honorable public officeholders. Those who knew Larry best admired this tireless energy, his integrity and his personal courage. An excellent overview of Larry's life was set out in the book "Courage Counts," written by historian Bob Burke and published by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Larry was predeceased by his loving and supporting father and mother and his beloved sister, Jimmie Jean Derryberry Ewing. He is survived by the love of his life, Gale, his son and daughter-in-law Darren and Cindy Derryberry, daughter Dara M. Derryberry, grandchildren Olivia and Andrew Derryberry and Tristan and Ava Prentice, his brother and sister-in-law Gary and Sharon Derryberry, niece Toni Ewing and a number of cousins, nephews and other relatives that were always in his heart.

He was especially close to a few special people who he credited with the success he had. The home of his Aunt and Uncle Imogene and Lawrence Carothers was his home away from home when he served as a page in the 1953 Legislative session, and on many weekends while Larry was at the University of Oklahoma. His mentors were Leonard Solomon and Frances Herron. Mr. Solomon was the 4-H agent who took Larry under his guidance and encouraged him to become a public speaker. "King Sol" was his mentor and friend. His other mentor was Frances Herron. Mrs. Herron was his junior high teacher and taught him Oklahoma history at Altus High School. More than that, she was like a second mother, spending weekend after weekend helping Larry with speeches and preparing him for critical career choices. After Larry and Gale moved to Altus, Mrs. Herron and Earl were neighbors. The two couples spent many evenings in the backyard chatting, laughing and eating watermelons. Mrs. Herron was Larry's friend and mentor for more than 60 years. Larry always gave credit to his parents, Gale and to Leonard Solomon and Frances Herron for his success. Larry often said, "I am not a self-made man. I am little bits and pieces of the many who have given little parts of their lives to me."

A memorial service open to the public will be held on Monday, November 28 at 2 p.m. In the fourth floor rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105. Flowers may be sent to the State Capitol, or in lieu of flowers, memorial donations in honor of Larry may be made to the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation, 205 4-H Development Building, Stillwater, OK 74078 or 405-744-5390.

Published in Altus Times from Nov. 28 to Nov. 29, 2016
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