Colleagues send Gambill into retirement

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
The Osage Nation honored retiring Associate District Judge B. David Gambill, of Pawhuska, with a ceremonial blanket and a gavel during a retirement occasion held Friday, Nov. 9, at the Osage County Courthouse. Gambill reaches to shake hands with Amanda Proctor as Ed Red Eagle (back) and Gene Dennison, right, look on.

With lively good humor and more than a little affection, the Osage County legal community wished B. David Gambill a bon voyage last week, as he prepares to retire in January after 29 years on the bench.

“We will miss appearing in front of you,” lawyer Jesse J. Worten III said earnestly, at the conclusion of remarks seasoned with levity. Worten began his comments by recalling that he’d been instructed not to be funny and not to say anything to hurt Gambill’s feelings.

“God, there’s going to be nothing to talk about,” Worten laughingly recalled thinking. He needn’t have worried. Speakers during Gambill’s retirement occasion, held at 5 p.m. Friday on the third floor of the Osage County Courthouse in Pawhuska, offered remarks ranging from the comic to the wistful to the admiring.

“Everything good about Judge, he comes by honestly,” District Judge John Kane said. Kane has had the benefit of knowing Gambill as a lawyer on the other side of cases from him, as a judge to whom he presented cases, and later as a colleague on the bench. He described Gambill as “always the smartest guy in the room.”

“He’s just a blessing to the world,” Kane said, adding a hearty invitation — “Come back. Often.”

Representatives of the Osage Nation paid another serious compliment to Gambill’s standing in the community as a judge. Gene Dennison, a Skiatook lawyer and an Osage, joined with Amanda Proctor and Ed Red Eagle to wrap Gambill in a ceremonial Osage blanket and present him with a gavel.

“We don’t blanket just anybody,” Dennison emphasized. “You have to have done something for our people. This man has done something for our people.”

Gambill is of Native American heritage, but his background is Choctaw rather than Osage.

Harvey Payne, a member of the Osage County legal community who has become perhaps better known to the general public for his photography of the outdoors than for his work in the law, complemented Kane’s reflection about Gambill’s intelligence.

“Even if he ruled against you, you knew he was right,” Payne said. He also talked about the impression that Gambill made on him by taking a keen interest in the well-being and life chances of juvenile defendants.

“I really developed a lot of respect for him because he took an interest in them,” Payne said.

Lawrence Martin — who was introduced as a “senior” member of the area legal community — made fun in passing of his own longevity, but offered his highest praise for Gambill.

“He was compassionate. He was kind to everybody in the courtroom,” Martin said. “Ladies and gentlemen, really the finest judge I’ve ever known.

“It’s too bad you quit drinking because I’d lift a glass,” Martin told Gambill.

Diane Hanmer, a drug prosecutor, talked about Gambill’s role in her development as a lawyer — to include his needling her from time to time. She noted with laughter that Gambill has teased about taking up defense work after his retirement, in particular drug-case defense, and coming back to bedevil her from the opposite side.

Speaking for himself, Gambill said he found his treasure, his gold as it were, in the people around whom he served.

“You can either make life fun or you can make it a tragedy,” he said, explaining he always felt there was enough tragedy to go around without adding to it.

In conclusion, Gambill said he isn’t given to crying, but the kindnesses shown him during his retirement occasion brought him close to tears.