Things are changing on the Claremore legal scene. For the first time in 78 years, there’s not a Gordon in the courthouse.
Jack E. Gordon, Jr. is a Claremore native. After attending college and law school and serving two and a half years in the Army as an intelligence officer, he returned to his roots and joined his father at a local law firm.
In 1976, he and his dad went out on their own and opened Gordon & Gordon. The office was originally located on the site of the new courthouse. Today, it is across from City Hall at 111 S. Muskogee. Jack began his career as a general practitioner. But in 1984, something happened that changed the landscape of his career forever.
Jack was named a court-appointed lawyer for a man named Gary Alan Walker, a paranoid schizophrenic who was accused of killing five people in the area at random. In his first trial, Walker received the death penalty, but it was reversed on appeal. During the second trial, Jack scored him a sentence of life without parole.
The Walker trial was a game changer for Jack, and he turned his sights on criminal defense instead. He also handled probate and personal injury, but his main focus was the bad guys. His father retired from the law in the early 90s, and since then, Jack has been the man in charge at the firm. Since that defining case in 1984, he has handled nine death penalty cases, as well as a host of other serious cases involving murders, blue-collar crime, and more.
Jack said, “We prided ourselves on representing those who needed representing. We gave a voice to those who needed it.”
He went on to say, “I’m 74 years old. I’d hate to be in the middle of a two-week long lawsuit and make a mistake because I’m tired. I wouldn’t want someone to go to the joint because I dropped a stitch.”
But Jack isn’t one to sit around. He’s starting a new position with the Tulsa County public defender’s office. He’ll be a mentor to all of the young lawyers who aren’t armed with a ton of experience. Jack has plenty, and a lot of advice to offer. With the new position starting October 1, Jack is wrapping up his current cases, but won’t be taking on new ones.
That being said, Gordon & Gordon isn’t closing. Jack has handpicked two lawyers to carry the torch. Both worked with him on his most recent death penalty case. They bring a world of experience to the table, and Jack said they’re the only men he’d trust with the Gordon name in this situation.
Stephen W. Lee and Mark J. Cagle have tried more murder cases than Jack. They’ve got a fire in their bellies and they’re ready to take Claremore by storm. Jack will continue to act as a consultant as needed, as well as working the public defender job. You can find out more about the new faces of Gordon & Gordon at thetulsacriminalattorney.com.
“It’s a great honor to be able to end my career as a public defender. I like to work with the marginalized and downtrodden in our society, being a friend to them when they have no one else,” said Jack. “This decision to leave wasn’t easy, I assure you. It’s a hard choice, but it’s the right one. I’m leaving on top. More importantly, working with the young public defenders allows me to give back to a profession that has treated me so well.”
Jack is named in Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America in both white collar and blue-collar crime. He is also a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. That is a vetted organization limited to the top 1% of trial lawyers in the United States and Canada. There are only four criminal defense lawyers in Oklahoma that are Fellows of the College.
I asked Jack why he didn’t consider retiring for good. He could play with his dog, Sam, a friendly goldendoodle. He could spend more time at the Claremore Rec Center, where he’s a regular fixture. He informed me that his wife of 19 years, Elise, would likely chase him out of the house with a shotgun after the first week.
He’s excited for the next chapter in his adventure. And he’s happy with his decision to keep Gordon & Gordon open in Claremore, just as it’s been for the past 42 years.