Patrick B. McGuigan
Funeral services for Senator David Myers will be held this afternoon (Tuesday, November 15) at the First Baptist Church in his hometown of Ponca City.
Sometimes when a political notable dies, there is a tendency toward dark humor among close observers of the scene. They sometimes say quietly to one another, as words of praise come forth, “Who are they talking about?”
In the case of David Myers, however, everyone knew the press releases and interviews, the heartfelt sentiments and convicted memories, fit the man, and the moment.
Myers came relatively late to the Legislature. First elected in 2002, he was chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. While not a soaring speaker or assertive man, he was among the most influential Solons. When he rose to speak on the floor, colleagues would stop conversations to listen attentively. His views were measured, restrained -- giving them even more authority.
Myers died early Friday morning (November 11) at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, from complications of pneumonia. At the state Capitol, where staff in both House and Senate revered him, word of his passing traveled quickly.
Even as repairs to staff offices continued on the third floor that morning, with many employees away for the Veterans Day holiday and a long weekend, heart-broken communication specialists for the upper chamber came to prepare an alert then a detailed release, and to get the word to the small “town” that is the Capitol between sessions.
David Myers was a man noticed slowly, not all at once.
He pressed hard for what he believed, including a steady drive for transparency in government public school finance that was the focus of a policy disagreement with Gov. Brad Henry, and a veto, in 2010. He spoke in comparatively simple terms, but his meaning was clear. Concerning the budget situation legislators faced early this year, Myers commented, “Basically it’s simple math.” He said “the hole we've got” meant, in the final analysis, “some painful cuts.”
Often remarked upon in the eulogies that flowed from friends and colleagues were attributes of the man's manner and style. Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman of Sapulpa said his friend was “measured; humble, selfless, and dedicated beyond question.”
Pro Temp Bingman said all who served with Myers will remember “David's strength of conviction and uncompromising values.” Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage of Claremore pointed to his friend's “great intellect, character and integrity. He was the go-to Senator on many of our most difficult issues, including the state budget.”
In the Senate, he was coach and manager of the “Redhots” baseball team that played an annual charity game against the state House, benefiting the American Cancer Society. After he took on that coaching position a few years back, legislators began to call him “Coach” when they saw him in the hall.
The first comment to CapitolBeatOK concerning Myers death came from the President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. He called the District 20 Senator “a pillar not only at the State Capitol but also among the Oklahomans he served diligently.” In a hallway conversation early Friday, he used words like “compassion and conviction” to describe Myers' service.
Later that day, Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond said news of Myers death was “simply devastating.” He said the departed was “one of the kindest, most genteel and honest men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.”
Former Sen. Owen Laughlin, now an executive at the Department of Insurance, had trouble talking about his friend's death. Over the years, the pair had campaigned together for the north central Oklahoma GOP. Despite that mild manner, Myers was a powerful force on his home turf, covering Alfalfa, Garfield, Grant, Kay and Noble counties.
Laughlin said, “We worked closely together on Appropriations matters when I was the floor leader in the Senate. He was my dear friend; I’ve been in his home. He was loved by the people out in the rural areas of the state.”
Insurance Commissioner John Doak pointed to Myers' role in guiding an Insurance seminar in the home district back in mid-October, calling Myers “wise, pragmatic, and diplomatic.”
Then came House Speaker Kris Steele. Myers was a statesman, Steele said. He commented, “We already miss Senator Myers at the Capitol and in life. He was a gentle giant, bringing infectious doses of sincerity and dedication to everything he did.” He praised Myers for “the thoughtful, conscientious approach he took to his service.”
Governor Mary Fallin called him “principled” and “a dedicated guardian of taxpayer dollars and resources.”She asked Oklahomans to keep Myers' wife Sara and the rest of his family in thoughts and prayers.
Myers was a chemical engineer, a graduate of Oklahoma State University. He worked at Conoco Phillips in Ponca City for 33 years before become an oil industry consultant. In addition to work on the family farm, he was a pilot and antique car buff, rebuilding classic vehicles and driving them in local parades.
Besides his wife Sara, he is survived by a son, Craig, a daughter Cheryl, six grandchildren and a great-grandson. Myers' family asked that in lieu of flowers, friends and admirers donate to Ponca City's Marland Children's Home.