Twyla Mason Gray, RIP

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Twyla Mason Gray, an Oklahoma County District Judge and former Oklahoma state representative died Monday. She was 56.

In 1980, as a 25-year-old, Twyla Mason filed for and defeated an incumbent to win District 23 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. As a House freshman, she met and married Rep. Charles Gray from southwestern Oklahoma, the only time in state history that two sitting legislators married each other. After two terms in the House, Mason Gray left to raise a family and to attend law school.

In 2007, Twyla Mason Gray was interviewed as part of an oral history project documenting the experiences of Oklahoma's female legislators. In part of the interview, she discussed the birth of the University Center of Tulsa, exploiting a mistake made by the legislative leaders seeking to block the bill and the petty revenge that followed (emphasis added). "Triple-assigned" means that a bill would need the approval of three different committees before reaching the House floor:

One of the things that was the most important to those of us from Tulsa County was the University Center of Tulsa. Sometimes everybody plays a small role, but every role is important, and that's kind of what happened in that bill. Jim Williamson, who was a House member then from husband taught us both how to roll call a bill, and I did the democrats and Jim did the republicans--and what happened on the bill was that with Cleta Deatherage representing OU [University of Oklahoma] and the Speaker of the House, Dan Draper representing OSU [Oklahoma State University], we couldn't get the bills out of committee. They made a mistake in the appropriation process and they did not move the higher education appropriation bill out of the Appropriations Committee by deadline. The next day I was reading the journal and saw that it had not come out. Bob Hopkins, was the older statesman of the Tulsa delegation, and I went running to Bob on the floor and said, "This bill is still in the committee." Well, I had called to check to see if the bill wasn't out of committee. I had called the chief clerk's house to see if it was a mistake and, of course, they went to the chief clerk, who was Richard Huddleston, and said a mistake had been made. He told Draper, and Deatherage got up to ask for unanimous consent that the bill be moved, and Bob Hopkins objected and then the fight was on because we had taken this roll call to keep the bill in committee until we got the University Center of Tulsa.

We were able to keep that bill from coming out for four days which was a big deal when you're opposed by the Speaker of the House and the Appropriations chair. They can make a lot of promises and people begin to fall off, but eventually we got it--but it was hand-to-hand combat every day. In fact, one of the things that happened because it was close to the end of session was in the leadership meeting there was a big battle because my husband, who was on the leadership, had helped us roll call the bills and had taught us what to do and had coached us about how to talk to different people. There were folks who were really mad at him and they got into a big fight. The leadership didn't meet the rest of the year. Their weekly luncheons were cancelled. It was an exciting time....

In 1982, when I was re-elected, my husband retired and Dan Draper was still Speaker of the House and I got punished for the University Center of Tulsa and so Dan took my office, and there was a variety of things that went on. All of my bills got triple assigned. I had been able to accomplish the split in the leadership, I had Vernon Dunn and Charley Gray helping me against the Speaker, and it was a big deal and so there was a change in the Speaker of the House. Jim Barker was elected, and then everything changed and kind of went back to normal. That first session I had very little to do because I couldn't get anything done, and so I sort of did what I called guerrilla warfare. I didn't have anything to do other than to read their bills and to ask irritating questions, and so that's pretty much what I did. Then when Jim Barker was elected Speaker things leveled out and I worked on legislation and could get my bills out of committee and...

(Draper represented Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State University in the house. College towns strongly opposed Tulsa having a local state college.)

Gray was first elected judge in 1998.

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Bob said:

Negative Superlatives abound in Oklahoma, like the highest incident of Hepatitis "A" in the U.S., and the most turnpike mileage per capita, and the highest female incarceration rate in the U.S., and sky high closing costs on Real Estate transactions due to Abstracting costs.

And, until Twyla Gray fought for the cobbled together consortium called the University Center at Tulsa, Oklahoma also contained the largest city in the United States (Tulsa) without a Four-Year state-supported university.

I didn't realize the petty punishment that Twyla Gray received at the hands of Democrat Speaker of the House Dan Draper for her UCAT insurrection. You would think that a House Speaker would operate on a higher plane.

Doesn't it seem kind of ironic that that once UCAT achieved critical mass, that arch-enemy OSU is put in charge of what evolved into OSU-Tulsa?

Ironic, and sick.

Well, at least Tulsa has one further Negative Superlative still abounding. Tulsa is the largest city in the U.S. not connected to a free interstate system.

You'd think an Oklahoma House Speaker would operate on a higher plane, but you'd be wrong. I well remember the ouster of Draper's successor, Jim Barker, and a state rep from Little Dixie denouncing himself, Chinese Communist-style, on the House floor for criticizing leadership in public.

Moogle Author Profile Page said:

I was a student when UCT got started in the state office building. It should be noted that it was NSU who got behind UCT and made it work while OSU and OU did all the sandbagging they could. Langston neither help nor hindered; they were just kind of there. It's one of the great all-time rip-offs that OSU ended up getting what NSU built. (I suppose NSU got a consolation prize in Broken Arrow.)

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