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March 12, 1999

Judge Thomas H. Doyle of Perry, a pioneer of the 1893 Cherokee Strip run, received some belated recognition earlier this week from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Oklahoma City. Judge Doyle was one of the first three members of that court along with Henry M. Furman of Ada and H.G. Baker of Muskogee. All three are pictured in a newly hung portrait in the court's recently restored courtroom. The court is the state's highest appellate court in criminal cases.

You don't hear much nowadays about Judge Doyle, even in this city where he developed his law practice more than a century ago. It's a shame we don't know more about him because he was a highly respected attorney throughout this state. He also provided civic leadership for Perry in the chaotic era following that historic land run. He left this city when he was appointed to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The artist, Mike Wimmer, of Norman, created the portrait, unveiled last Monday. The court's current presiding judge, Reta Strubhar, looked on as Mr. Wimmer removed the drapery from the handsomely framed painting. The court has only recently been restored and Mr. Wimmer's rendering may be the first of several to hang there, providing future generations with a partial glimpse at the judicial history of this state.

Judge Doyle served several years on the state Court of Criminal Appeals but later became chairman of the state Industrial Commission. According to Ethel Knox's master's thesis, written in 1938 and titled "The Beginning of Perry, Oklahoma," he was the author of the "Free Range Bill."

Miss Knox, a member of a pioneer Perry family, also wrote this about Judge Doyle. "(He) was a factor in statehood convention work; was a member of the fourth and fifth sessions of the territorial legislatures; promoted the Carnegie Library for this city; aided in securing the two townships annexed by Noble county from Payne county; and, in fact, was connected with every promotion of any moment for the betterment of the city and county. Doyle was doubtless the biggest and best known character of the multitude of great and near-great sent out from our city."

According to E.W Jones' "Early-Day History of Perry, Oklahoma," based on his personal memories of the founding and development of this city, Judge Doyle had been admitted to the Territory bar before the 1893 land run and thus was certified to practice law from the opening of the Cherokee Strip. Mr. Jones was a county judge himself as well as a newspaper editor. He sometimes spoke rather harshly and critically about the character of some of our pioneers, but he wrote only good things about Judge Doyle. If you're interested in more details, refer to the thesis by Ethel Knox and the treatise by E.W. Jones. Both are available at the Perry Carnegie Library. One final note about Judge Doyle. He was not related to the family of George E. Doyle Sr., who also were early-day citizens of this city.