By Sara Jane Richter
I experienced a true pleasure late in May 2023; I spent the afternoon with Judge Robert “Bob” C. Lovell, a Hennessey legend. A gentleman in every way, Judge Lovell welcomed me into his home, offered me a comfy seat, and commenced an engaging conversation. I have known the Judge for many years, so there was no “break-in” time required to get our conversation rolling. His booming, room-filling voice and easy laugh made him a wonderful interview subject.
He has accomplished much during his life, traveled extensively, served his country, participated in his church life, mentored his family, contributed to Kingfisher County, and made Hennessey a better place. Born in Waukomis nearly 100 years ago, he remains active with friends, shooting sports, church, concerts, dining, and visiting. A born storyteller, he wishes to be known as a man who can spin a good tale. An affable, gregarious, generous, kind man, Mr. Lovell has never met a stranger.
By 1937, he and his family lived in Hennessey where he secured his first job: burying dead stray dogs and cats in town, a position that did not thrill his mother. At age 18, he joined the US Army right after the Normandy Invasion and trained to be a communication specialist and machine gunner with the 9th Armored Division. During his time in the military, he saw combat as he did at the battle of the Fall of the Bridge at Remagen. His wartime experiences formed the foundation of his autobiography published in 2010: Unlikely Warrior: A Small Town Boy’s View of World War II. That military experience has allowed him two recent honors: helping to open the 2023 Junior College World Series in Enid and being inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Honor in May 2023.
Upon his discharge at the end of the war, he returned home and decided to attend college. His father encouraged him to go into law as working with one’s mind is easier than working with one’s hands. Lovell enrolled at the University of Tulsa and graduated with his degree in 1951, promptly enrolled in the TU School of Law, and received his law degree in 1953. Claiming that he had no money or connections upon graduation, Lovell felt the urgency to secure a position to support his wife Delores and first son Rusty. He learned that a Kingfisher bank, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, needed a full-time legal consultant; his career last 20 years there. Initially, his first position turned out to be perfect as the bank was near his parents’ home and the location of his bank account. The Judge was on his way in the legal field.
When he moved to Hennessey to practice law, he became very active in the community. Through the years, he served as the town attorney, a member of the Planning Commission, vice-president of the Zoning Commission, head of the auxiliary police force, and Civil Defense Director. In addition, he held most every position in the Hennessey United Methodist Church except president of the United Methodist Women and pastor.
Serving Hennessey in these capacities set the stage for him to serve Kingfisher County. After being an attorney for five years, he decided to run for public office and was elected to four terms—sixteen years—as Kingfisher County Judge. Unsure and unclear about the real duties of a county judge initially, he learned quickly, and each case taught him something that he would never forget.
Lovell possesses an innate ability to read people well and see them for what they really are. He has a remarkable ability to recall details, people, dates, and places with ease. He stressed being fair to each person who walked in front of his bench, and his reputation for honesty and common sense made people respect him all the more.
Before the notion became a nation-wide initiative, Judge Lovell had the vision to establish a community service program for those convicted of crimes in his courtroom. Now, that sort of program is commonplace and allows certain guilty lawbreakers the good fortune to “work off” some of their sentences by performing community service.
He takes great pride in being a judge and “doing something worthwhile.” One downside to the position was his being on call 24/7. Being a judge did come with a couple of fears, just like being in the banking business. First, there was always the fear of being robbed and/or taken hostage by robbers. Secondly, he was concerned about convicted felons seeking retribution on him and his family for their sentences. He never strayed too far from a weapon when he served as judge.
Judge Lovell claims that he has been “blessed each time that he turned around.” He and his three sons—Rusty, Bill, and John—maintain close ties. Mrs. Lovell, a long-time elementary school teacher and graduate of Phillips University, died from cancer in 2020.
Lovell enjoys shooting sports and travels to eastern New Mexico to the NRA Whittington Center twice a year to enjoy the camaraderie of friends and shoot long-range targets, off-hand, with his military weapon of choice, the .308 M1.
A world traveler, he has been to all 50 US states, Australia, Germany, Japan, and all of the Canadian provinces. He has two granddaughters, one great-granddaughter, and two great-grandsons. A true American legend by dint of his military service and legal career, Robert Lovell deserves the pride and respect of Kingfisher County and Hennessey as his life has been one of sacrifice and dedication to his fellow citizens. I’m proud to know him.