Joe B. Lawter
May 25, 1958 – May 20, 2018
On the morning of May 20, 2018, Joe B. Lawter, in his own words, “retired from life.” Metastatic melanoma took his body. But he faced death as he lived his life with humility and a sense of humor that never failed him.
Joe was born in Oklahoma City on May 25, 1958 to Donna and Jack Lawter, the younger of two boys. After earning degrees from Putnam City West High School, where he played football, ran track and swam, and Oklahoma State University, he headed to Norman. There, he would find two of the loves of his life.
At the University of Oklahoma College of Law, Joe discovered his professional calling. He earned his law degree in 1983, then worked for the McKenzie Law Firm in Norman and United Bank. In the late 1980s Joe made the decision to start his own law firm. He spent the next three decades leading a general practice in Norman, advocating for clients large and small.
Joe had an abiding sense of justice and a passion for the underdog. A talented trial lawyer, Joe represented every client as if they were members of his own family. He invited them to his home and took them meals on holidays. Every November, working with his longtime colleague David Bernstein and the nonprofit Lawyers Against Hunger, he would purchase and distribute countless Thanksgiving turkeys to Cleveland County residence in need.
While still an intern at the McKenzie Law Firm, Joe met a part-time receptionist named Lisa Clinkenbeard. When Joe returned as a full-time attorney, he began wooing Lisa (although Lisa didn’t at first recognize Joe’s romantic intentions) by adorning her desk with a procession of silly notes. Lisa, who was attending OU at the time, eventually took notice. In Joe’s banana yellow Volvo two-seater, the pair attended a Sooner football game for their first date in 1983. They were married a year later.
Over the next 15 years, Joe and Lisa enjoyed traveling the world together. The destinations could be exotic (London, Paris, Rome) or closer to their Norman home. But what Joe loved more than the destinations were the people he met along the way. Lisa still fondly recalls a card game they played with two women who spoke no English when they were stranded in a European train station. “So many times, we had things that went wrong—we lost our passports, we had car trouble, we got stranded—but we never had a bad trip. We just loved each other’s company.”
In 1999, Joe and Lisa welcomed a son, Parker. Two years later, they welcomed another, Leyton. The boys would quickly become Joe and Lisa’s everything.
Joe shared his love for tennis, golf, ping pong and sports with his sons. He coached them as youngsters, then he and Lisa logged thousands of miles to cheer the boys on as each played competitive soccer. In the summers, the family continued the Lawter tradition of travel including sailing trips, snorkeling in Mexico, national parks, museums, and many trips to the ocean. In the winters, they loved snow skiing in Colorado, where Joe liked to proclaim jokingly, “No snow will touch this jacket.”
Joe served as president of the Norman Tennis Association and generously supported the Norman High School Tigers Society Scholars. He was a long-time member of Norman’s First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, where he served in many different capacities, including deacon, elder, Sunday school teacher, and youth group volunteer.
Joe is survived by Lisa, Parker and Leyton, along with his father (Jack), his brother (Jack Jr.) and sister-in-law (Dianne), his father-in-law (Gene Clinkenbeard), his sisters-in-law (Teresa Hamra and Deborah Hoover), their husbands (Robert Hamra and Rick Hoover), three nephews, two nieces, and one grandniece.
Joe was a father figure to all, and his family and friends will miss his sense of humor, his kindness, and his compassion. There will be a memorial service celebrating his life on Thursday, May 24, at 4:00 PM at First Christian Church, 220 S. Webster Avenue, Norman.
Memorial donations in Joe’s name can be made to support Lawyers Against Hunger at 104 West Gray, Norman, OK, Norman High School Tiger Society Scholars 911 West Main, Norman, OK or Oklahoma Medical Research Foundations.