An attention to detail.
That’s one of the main things Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor, a former McAlester mayor, remembers about Gladys Murphy.
Murphy, a former McAlester councilperson and vice mayor, died Sept. 28 in Las Vegas. She served on the city council for Ward One between 1978 and 1996.
Taylor was elected as Ward Two councilman in 1980 and was elected as mayor in 1982. “I was the young councilman for Second Ward,” he said. “I learned from Gladys to be sensitive to what people think.
“She had an absolute determination to represent the people of First Ward. She thrived on phone calls and personal contacts.”
He noted even when Murphy wasn’t running for reelection, she would walk her neighborhoods, knock on doors and sample what people thought.
“As a councilman and mayor, I tried to follow that example,” Taylor said. “You might not like what they were thinking but she taught me to find out what’s on people’s minds and learn from them.”
Back in 1984, there was talk about building a new municipal building. Murphy was quoted in the McAlester News-Capital as saying she was behind the plans. But, after talking with people in her ward, she said only about 20 percent of them were for it. “Even though I believe in the building project, I must bow to the wishes of the people who elected me to represent them,” she said at the time.
Back when Murphy was a member of the city council, Taylor said it was routine for every meeting to be two to three hours long. “We went through all the claims at the end of the council and discussed each one individually.
“She had a very sharp No. 2 pencil,” he said. “Maybe it was a $150 bill for parts, we would question it, detail by detail.
“There wasn’t a box of staples that we didn’t know was being bought.”
That was one reason Taylor appointed her to chair the audit and finance committee. “There wasn’t a dollar spent that we didn’t know about because of Gladys. She cared about every dime spent at city hall.”
When Taylor was elected mayor, one of his first actions was to nominate Murphy as vice mayor.
“She was the first woman vice mayor in McAlester,” he said. In 1984, Taylor was appointed by Gov. George Nigh as associate District 18 judge. “It was near the end of my term so she was the acting mayor — the first woman to serve in that position in McAlester.”
Murphy was well known for letting her opinion, and that of her ward, be known. In 1989, when the council was asked to support a municipal golf course, Murphy was among the first to speak up. She stressed she didn’t want to subsidize a golf course. She went on to emphasize she didn’t want to put the city in a position where it had to bail out the course with municipal funds. A News-Capital story noted she appeared skeptical when told the golf course, which would be called Thundercreek, was a sure money maker.
Murphy was also known to carry a Robert’s Rules of Order book and pull it out to check on certain parliamentary rules.
All because she wanted to make sure everything was done right.
“She and I both loved city government,” Taylor said, “And she was my friend.”
Funeral services are set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Bishop Chapel of Memories.
An attention to detail.