Parker County Today October 2016 - Page 28

our stories: ATTORNEY EARL KING A Retiring Fellow? It’s easier said than done but he will … eventually BY MEL W RHODES OCTOBER 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY H e didn’t seem particularly concerned that he’d missed his September 1 deadline for retiring, even though I told him that was what I’d come to talk about — his retiring. Without speaking a word, his wry smile told me that retirement is not as cut-and-dried as they’d have you believe. As hard a work as routine is, retiring is harder still. One has to finish up things. But 85-year-old attorney Earl King assured me he’s working on it. It’s just the middle of September. Success comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s usually a lot of hard work, and sometimes there’s a “silver spoon,” as in: “That guy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth!” King’s mouth was empty. “My first memory of my life was living on the side of a creek … with my parents and older siblings in an abandoned one-room cook shack which was originally on wheels and used by farm harvesters for the preparation of their meals,” he said. The King family bathed in a creek and carried potable water from a farm well a mile distant. Born to Russell and Jeannie King on May 4, 1931, near Hydro in westcentral Oklahoma, Earl King was the middle of 11 children in what he termed a family of “squatters.” “My father never attended school and, other than signing his name, could not read nor write,” he said. “I later learned that he had developed some type of illness when he was about 2 or 3 years old, and as a result of said illness, became mentally retarded.” Though the family’s housing con- 26 dition improved somewhat, poverty clung to them, and according to King they were the “poorest family in town.” “I was often shunned and mocked by classmates for being Russell King’s kid,” he said. He failed 6th grade because he missed too much school during “cotton-picking season.” But he eventually came to view the setback as a blessing because it placed him in a younger peer group in which he, more and more, took on leadership roles as he determined to free himself of poverty’s tentacles. In a short biographical piece, King writes of both kindness and prejudice in those days: “…due to there not being adequate living space in our small homes, I left home at age 12 to provide for my own care. Fortunately, there was a good side to that lifestyle in that there were good, kind and loving people who were willing to help kids such as me. I was fortunate enough to find jobs with farm families who permitted me to live with them in return for working on their farms. I milked cows by hand, fed pigs, cleaned chicken pens, drove farm tractors, chopped weeds in gardens, and did whatever was necessary on farms during that era of time. One of those families was the John W. Kimble family and I was passed around among that family’s relatives over the next four years to live and work. During my last year at Hydro, I lived [with] and worked for the E.W. Lewis family who also was very good to me. [But] even though, after leaving my parents’ home, I lived with good people, had clean clothes to wear and was recognized as a school leader, I still was not social ly accepted. I was never invited to attend any of my classmates’ birthday or Christmas parties and never dated a girl prior to enlisting in the Navy. I was small for my age and was never selected to serve on any athletic team. Other than for my loss of self-esteem, not being selected was not an important issue since I didn’t have the time to stay after school for athletic practice.” Being of small stature didn’t help 17-year-old King at the recruiters’ office either; the Marines and Army Air Force turned him away. The Navy was a bit more accommodating. “The recruiter weighed me and suggested that I go stuff my stomach with a lot of bananas and then return,” King recalled. So weighing in at a sneaky 104 pounds, it was “Anchors Aweigh” for the 5-foot-3-inch King. Free chow, housing, medical and dental and $75 a month to boot sounded good to King who through “blessings,” correspondences and tugs on his own bootstraps managed to earn a GED and a diploma from Hydro High School back home. Counted among his blessings were Lt. Commander Edward R. Patterson and his wife and former Naval Officer, Ann. The couple were a strong Christian influence and key in his educational pursuits. Later, when King sought appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, Commander Pat-