BY JAMES NIMMO
If, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, the “arc of the moral universe is long but bends towards justice” is true, then the progressive movement of this state has lost one of the architects of the Oklahoma segment of that moral arc. And that would be Robert [Bob] Lemon who passed away Saturday.
Mr. Lemon [I could never call him Bob] and his soulmate, Mary Lou, moved to Oklahoma City from Perryton, TX many years ago [in the 1980s] and, as luck would have it, their house was just down the street from mine and Don’s. I met them and their family when I got a phone call from him concerning a letter I had written about gay/lesbian equality published in the Oklahoma Gazette.
I answered the phone to a question from a man’s voice, “Is this the Jim Nimmo that wrote a letter recently published in the Gazette about the gays?” “And do you live on 59th street?” Both my answers being yes, and since this was my very first public letter that exposed my often controversial opinions in newsprint for others to read, I was expecting an Oklahoma-style objection to my controverting the will of God. Nothing could be further from what developed next.
Mr. Lemon introduced himself on the phone and went on to express his relief that there was someone who lived so close and who felt the same way about the need for voicing our concerns about gay/lesbian equality. Our conversation continued pleasantly for several minutes with a mutual promise to meet in person with our respective spouses.
I’ve been trying to remember when we met face-to-face for the first time but there were numerous subsequent events where our social and political paths crossed. From Democratic Party conventions and rallies to union dinners and fundraisers to candidate work parties, Mr. Lemon would be there. He was a candidate for HD 85 in 2002 at the age of 73 and was described by the odious incumbent, Republican Odilia Dank, as a “notorious liberal” – a label Mr. Lemon was proud to wear, as any self-respecting liberal should be. Mr. Lemon’s name was also on the presidential ballot during one cycle among the seven Oklahoma electors to the Electoral College, a duty he was not able to discharge due to the hidebound politics of Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma chapter of the now-dormant National Stonewall Democrats, a national advocacy group for gay and lesbian equality founded by former Congressman Barney Frank, was very grateful for Mr. Lemon’s unfailing financial support and, above all, his ability to move our “gay agenda” in the minds of straight, and sometimes indifferent, Democrats in Oklahoma.
One of his best verbal bullet points that he loved to use to defuse, confuse and generally rattle any opponents [don’t forget, Mr. Lemon was a skillful attorney by profession] was to say, “Gay people aren’t broke and don’t need fixing.”
Hear one of these occasions yourself when Mr. Lemon spoke to the Oklahoma City Council concerning the passage of a non-discrimination ordinance for city employment:
As with the loss of Keith Smith in 2006 and Paul Thompson in 2010, the death of Bob Lemon will warp Dr. King’s arc of social justice but it won’t impede its continuing direction.
– James Nimmo lives in Oklahoma City and is an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer
Editor’s Note: Oklahoma lost a treasure with the passing of Bob Lemon, who served enthusiastically as a member of The Oklahoma Observer Advisory Board. For more on his life and his profound impact on progressive politics and social justice in Oklahoma, check out our Facebook page salute and the November print edition of The Observer. RIP, dear friend.
Photo: Bob Lemon addresses an Americans Against The Next War news conference at the state Capitol on July 10, 2012.