Saying goodbye to a Woods County treasure
July 21, 2021
Alva and Woods County lost a treasure last week with the passing of Ray Dean Linder. Over the years, he garnered accolades in his career as a judge. He was also recognized for his sports broadcasts.
I first met him in his role as a radio sportscaster. He began that career in 1962 and thankfully consented to continue when my husband Lynn and I took ownership of KALV radio in 1969. Why would someone who was so successful in his judicial career agree to give up his weekends to travel long distances covering football and basketball games? It certainly wasn’t the pay!
Having played baseball, basketball and football in high school at Waynoka and following that with baseball and football at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Linder was well-versed in sports. Surely he enjoyed continuing an active sports role through broadcasting. I would think that watching young men and women work hard and give their best in sports competition was a nice break from dealing with court cases where the opposite attitude was often displayed.
Linder broadcast around 2,000 high school and college basketball and football games in a period of 28 years before he gave up the travel to concentrate on his judicial career. Even though he was a graduate of rival SWOSU, he was inducted into the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 for his years as the voice of Ranger sports.
In September 2015, the new Dean Linder Press Box was dedicated at the NWOSU football stadium. University President Dr. Janet Cunningham said in the 28 seasons Judge Linder was the voice of the Ranger, “we were blessed and a bit spoiled to have one of the best broadcasters in Oklahoma behind the microphone.”
Introducing Linder at the event, his longtime sports traveling companion Ben Buckland said, “I am incredibly honored to have been beside and behind this man to see him at his very broadcasting best, and to ride thousands of miles with him and to learn how I can be a better guy.” Buckland said Linder taught him about integrity and how to act when you’re around other people in a social or business setting.
Concluding his speech on that occasion, Linder said, “It has been the grandest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve never missed anything any more in my life than I miss being directly involved with Ranger athletics. It may seem a little strange that a guy who played in four conference championships in football, four conference championships in baseball and who pitched in the first small college world series while wearing blue and white can be so proud of the red and black. Be proud of where you are, who you are and who you support.”
Judge Linder served 46 years on the bench before his retirement at age 79. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma law school in 1960, he was County Attorney for Woods County. When court reform went into effect on Jan. 13, 1969, each county was given an Associate District Judge position. Linder became Woods County’s first associate district judge. In 1982, he ran for district judge and was elected.
Judge Linder presided over all kinds of cases from probate to traffic to murder. The most memorable was the State vs. Terry Nichols, who had been convicted in federal court of the conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building and involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of eight federal agents. Nichols’ charges in the state case involved the 161 others who died in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Building. Linder presided over the case for 20 months, handling legal motions made by attorneys for Nichols and for the state before the trial was held before another judge.
Upon Linder’s retirement, Chief Justice Joseph Watt of the Oklahoma Supreme Court heaped significant praise on him. Watt explained what Supreme Court judges do, “We grade papers from all the district judges who have rendered decisions for folks who are unhappy with those decisions. They appeal those cases up to us.
“I can tell you after 23 and a half years, which has been my tenure thus far on the Supreme Court, I don’t think it has been more than once or twice that we have had the opportunity to grade Judge Dean Linder’s papers, because he has been that outstanding as a trial judge.
“Since I’ve been on the court, I’ve had the opportunity to converse and see the work of the 280 plus judges in the state of Oklahoma, and I can tell you without any reservation that the finest judge in this state in the last 40 years – and probably in the history of the state – is the man sitting here right in front of me.
“I met him when I first went on the bench in 1985. I was so impressed that I said to myself, ‘If I can ever be half the judge that Ray Dean Linder is, I will have had a great life.”