Robert Dell Lemon was born January 3, 1929, in Shattuck, Oklahoma, to R.M. Lemon and Fay Taliaferro and died October 22, 2016, in Oklahoma City at age 87. He grew up in Booker, Texas, in the Dust Bowl. Bob’s grandfather, Gustavous Erasmus Lemon, staked a claim and settled in the Cherokee Strip, Grant County, Oklahoma Land Run, 1893.
Bob graduated from Booker High School as valedictorian in 1947. He attended Oklahoma State University (OSU), then called Oklahoma A&M College, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1951. He was a member and Eminent Commander of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Phi Eta Sigma, Blue Key Honor Fraternity, Hellhounds Pep Club, and a charter member and the first President of the Oklahoma A&M College Flying Aggies aviation club in 1948. In 1950, Bob married Mary Lou Smith of Booker, Texas, and subsequently moved to Austin, Texas, in 1951, after Bob was accepted to the University of Texas School of Law. At UT Law, he was a member of the Order of the Coif, Chancellors, Phi Alpha Delta, associate note editor of the Texas Law Review, and on the winning team of the first State Bar of Texas Moot Court Competition in 1954. He was named Outstanding Member of the University of Texas Senior Law Class, and earned his Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree with honors in 1954.
Rejecting offers from several big law firms in New York, Houston and Dallas, Bob moved with Mary Lou and their sons Jim and Del to Perryton, Texas, where Bob accepted a position with Max Boyer’s Law Firm, which began his long and distinguished career as Senior Partner of the Lemon Shearer Phillips and Good firm – now the Lemon Law Firm – where he practiced oil and gas litigation, contract litigation, civil appeals and water law. Bob served as City Attorney of Perryton, Texas and was Chief Counsel of the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District for 50 years. He was licensed to practice law in two states, maintaining memberships in the Northeastern Texas Panhandle, State of Texas, State of Oklahoma, American, and Federal Bar Associations. He was named Perryton Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1973. Bob’s close relationships and close ties to the northeastern counties of the Panhandle of Texas continued for the rest of his life. In fact, during his last six years, he sponsored high school bands from a four-state area to march in the annual Wheatheart of the Nation Celebration in Perryton. Bob loved music and considered a parade of trombones and trumpets in August in the Texas Panhandle to be a truly grand event.
Bob served on the Board of Trustees of the National City Christian Church Foundation in Washington, D.C., and was a member of the Board of Trustees of Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, and Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, from which he received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
After he and Mary Lou moved to Oklahoma City in 2001, they supported Mayflower Congregational Church and Church of the Open Arms. They enjoyed nothing more than attending OSU Cowboy sporting events, where they were season ticket holders in football and basketball and were avid wrestling and baseball fans as well. In November 2002, Bob was the District 85 Democratic candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, losing in a close contest with a four-term Republican incumbent. Bob and his beloved wife had dreamed of spending their golden years as activists together in Oklahoma, but she died less than two months later on December 22, 2002. They were married for 52 years and two days.
Community engagement and political involvement were always very important to both Bob and Mary Lou, and no one was a second-class citizen in their world. They believed all people are entitled to equal rights and protection under the law, universal respect, and human dignity. Together they devoted their time, energy, enthusiasm and resources to understanding and openly and fearlessly confronting bigotry and prejudice in all its forms, particularly regarding sexual orientation. They were appointed Democratic observers for Al Gore during the 2000 Presidential Election recount in Florida, but after Bob – who never knew a stranger – gave an interview to CNN, which was prohibited, they were quickly demoted to the position of ballot guard and assigned the graveyard shift (which they loved).
After Mary Lou’s death in 2002, and with the unending love, guidance, and continual caregiving of his daughter, Robyn Lemon Sellers, Bob was able to further their dedication to the issues they had valiantly taken on as a couple. In spite of health challenges that might have deterred anyone else, Bob remained a constant presence, participant, advocate, activist and avid supporter of many causes. He marched in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oklahoma Pride Parades; he walked with his sons Chrys and Jim in the Peace March on the Pentagon; he held signs for the OKC Peace House Saturday morning peace rallies; and he traveled to the Western White House in Crawford, Texas with Nathaniel Batchelder for a peaceful protest of the Iraq War.
Bob was a member of and supported numerous organizations, including: Southern Poverty Law Center, United Nations Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Stonewall Democrats, Cimarron Alliance Foundation, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Trust Women, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and GLAAD (Gay Lesbian and Affirming Disciples). Bob’s numerous honors include: Hero of Hope from Cathedral of Hope; Oklahoma Democratic Party’s Carl Albert Award; Man of the Year from the Oklahoma ACLU; Bill Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cimarron Alliance; Angie Debo Civil Libertarian of the Year; Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Humanitarian Award; and together with Robyn, the Margaret Sanger Legacy Award from Planned Parenthood.
Bob served as Executive Producer of Drew Emery’s award winning film, Inlaws & Outlaws, a moving documentary about love between couples, both gay and straight. Bob also produced a dramatic play by Steven Dietz, The Lonely Planet. And Bob was the proud Publisher Emeritus of The Gayly, an LGBTQ newspaper published in Oklahoma City. He invested himself and his resources in causes on the cutting edge of so many political and social issues, including poverty, LGBTQ matters and climate change. Bob’s motto, “straight, but not narrow,” was reflected in his belief that we are all members of one family, living together with our one home, the Earth. Bob lived his beliefs.
Preceded in death by his brother, Glen, in 1986, Bob is survived by his loving family: daughter, Robyn Lemon Sellers and former son-in-law John Sellers, and sons, Chrys Lemon, Jim Lemon and wife Anna, Eli “Moque” Grayson, and Del Lemon and wife Leslie; grandchildren, Michael Lemon, Jackie Lemon, Garry Rogers, Jeny Center and husband Steve, Julia Rogers and husband Jair Isaac, Diana Rogers Jaeger and husband Kevin, Kevin Rogers, Ochirkhuu Dorjsuren and wife Doris, and Catherine Wolfe; and great grandchildren, Jeffrey Rogers, Kai Johnson, J’menii, Jeah and Jozlyn Isaac, Aiden and Axl Jaeger, and Sophie and Madison Dorjsuren. Bob also is survived by his sister-in-law, Helaine Lemon, brother-in-law, Jimmy Smith and nephews, Marcus and Martin Lemon and Richard and Jeff Smith – and, of course, “Barney,” Bob’s constant companion, a small black bag that contained diabetic testing and emergency supplies, which literally saved Bob’s life many times, his having been a severe diabetic since the age of 19.
Two events will honor Bob: A musical tribute will be held Sunday, November 13, at 2:00 p.m., Church of the Open Arms, 3131 North Pennsylvania, Oklahoma City. A celebration of his life will occur during OKC Pride Week, summer 2017. In lieu of flowers, contributions are welcome and appreciated to one of the following organizations, or to a charity or other cause of your choice: Planned Parenthood Great Plains, 619 NW 23rd St., Oklahoma City, OK 73103, (405) 528-2157; or Trust Women, 1240 SW 44th Street, Oklahoma City, 73109, (316) 425-3215 (itrustwomen.org). Trust Women is a leading pro-choice and reproductive justice foundation.