By Don Diehl, Sapulpa News & Views
The Sapulpa Historical Society, which operates at least a full city block of museums and displays in its historic downtown, held its 50th Annual Meeting Thursday night at Freddie’s Convention Center.
Director Mike Jeffries gave a brief history of the society that began in 1968 as he welcomed nearly 100 members and guests. He also saluted Rachel Whitney, collections manager, and the small army of volunteers who carry on the work at the excellent reputed museum. (See sidebar of highlights from Jeffries’ 2018 Progress Report).
No stranger to the Society and its meetings, recently-retired Creek County District Judge Joe Sam Vassar was the speaker. His address was unique. He was introduced by former society president (and fellow judge) Rick Woolery, who dedicated a song he had composed to Vassar. After enduring the song and taking some other friendly jabs from Woolery, Judge Vassar presided over a drawing in which he distributed a box full of books he had retired from his personal bookshelf — remarking on each one before handing them to winning ticket holders.
Vassar, District 24 judge in charge of Creek, Okfuskee and Okmulgee County courts, was featured in area newspapers earlier this year after being recognized by members of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) on Jan. 23.
An inscription on the award read: “Joe Sam Vassar, with respect and appreciation for your many years of dedicated service to the courts of Oklahoma and the recognition of your civility and professionalism towards the citizenry and trial bar — 2015.”
Vassar practiced law for a time in Oklahoma City before moving to Bristow in 1974. He became district judge in 1999. As Woolery pointed out Thursday night, and cited in the January award ceremony, Vassar participates in community events and has played Santa in his community for more than 40 years. He regularly goes to day care centers and nursing homes; marches in the community’s Christmas parade each year; known to embrace and encourage young lawyers; and maintained an open door at his courthouse office.
“Judge Vassar has been known to work weekends and spend hours upon hours reading briefs in the preparation for a jury trial,” a newspaper quote read. “He is a man of passion and intellect who graduated with high honors and has demonstrated a willingness to help young professionals of the law.”
Woolery also revealed that Vassar and renowned statesman William Jennings Bryan had at one time been classmates. (Like the song, that and some of the other information, also may have been composed by Woolery.)
President Carolyn Bartlett and Vice President Carroll Jobe shared the podium to introduce other officers: Secretary Belinda Crosby and Treasurer Russell Crosby; Board Members Lloyd Skinner, Sue Skinner, Rick Woolery, Janell Diehl and David Main were approved for 2019; and sponsors of the event, Neal & Jean’s Flowers and Tulsa-Sapulpa Union Railway were recognized. The printed program noted in memorial docent members Judy Davis and Carl Henderson who passed in 2018.