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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Conner Family

In September 1901, Walter Clinton (W. C.) Conner and his expectant wife, May Florence, relocated from Nebraska to Oklahoma Territory. They traveled more than six hundred miles and thirty-seven days in a covered wagon with their four young children, John C., Walter Lee, Forrest Earl, and Florence Pearl. They settled into a simple rock shed near the small western town of Retrop. Their son, Charles, was born in the Conners' modest dwelling.

W. C. earned a reputation as a natural born trader and entrepreneur, and he traded his mule team and wagon, a .45 colt pistol, and $200 for a plot of land. The growing family lived in a dugout for two years before building a clapboard shack where their daughter, Leslie L. (Grit), was born in 1903. The children lived in Hobart during the school year and returned to the family farm during the summer. They had the scare of their lives in 1910 when they watched Halley's Comet streak across the prairie sky.

The Conners' children attended Hobart schools. John C. served in World War I and was injured in France before returning home and launching a career in rodeo. Walter Lee attended Oklahoma A&M College (later, Oklahoma State University) and served in World War I. He returned to Oklahoma City to develop a successful career in business. Forrest Earl attended Oklahoma State University, served in both world wars, was Edmond Fire Chief from 1925 to 1929, and became a financial investor in California. Florence Pearl graduated from Oklahoma City University and traveled to California, where she earned acclaim as an artist.

After graduating from Hobart High School, Leslie received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma. In 1925 he opened a law firm with his brother, Charles, in Oklahoma City. Charles also served as a judge and lecturer. They remained in practice together until Charles's death in 1961.

On October 2, 1928, Leslie, at the age of twenty-four, was admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice and former President William Howard Taft stated from the bench that Leslie was the youngest lawyer he had ever admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Leslie began his military service with the Army Reserve Corps in 1927, served as an Air Force officer during World War II, and was named Judge Advocate of the State Reserve Officers Association. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1963.

Leslie was a member of the Oklahoma State Legislature from 1933 to 1935. He married Grace Hartnell in 1934. Leslie authored a law creating the Court of Common Pleas in Oklahoma County, was a strong supporter of the Police Officer's Retirement Fund Bill, served on the board of directors of the National Association of Defense Counsel in Criminal Cases, and was the Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Oklahoma in 1950 and 1954. Active in the Oklahoma County Bar, he wrote several legal articles for renowned law quarterlies, taught law courses at Oklahoma City University School of Law, owned Tensleep Oil and Conner Enterprises, and was featured in a 1970 article in the Saturday Evening Post.

Leslie and Grace lived in Oklahoma City throughout their married life and had two children: Patricia Ann; and Leslie Lynn Jr. Patricia received her degree in Education from University of Oklahoma in 1958 and became a teacher in Dallas. Leslie Jr. received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1963, served as president of the Oklahoma Bar Association in 1980, and maintained a general law practice in Edmond until his death in March 2009.

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