“Atticus Finch. I wanted to be a real-life modern-day Atticus Finch.” The second he finished To Kill a Mockingbird, Mike Turpen knew his vocation. Not only was he going to be a lawyer, but he was going to climb into other people’s skin and walk around in it.
Mike Turpen has been an illustrious lawyer and politician in the Oklahoma City community for the past few decades. However, his life simply began with “love, support, and a place to live.” Turpen’s father ran a printing press and his mother worked as a dispatcher at a rock crushing company when he was a child. As a first generation college student, Turpen condemns extreme student debt and continues to advocate to reduce student-debt in Oklahoma today.
After earning his undergraduate and law degree from the University of Tulsa, Turpen moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma and worked to become the county’s District Attorney. Soon after, he ran for Attorney General of Oklahoma on the slogan “It’s Time for Turpen, It’s Turpen Time.”
“Everybody said it was a silly slogan,” Turpen remarked fondly, “…but I won. I was Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma.”
Then he decided it was time for a bigger race. Unfortunately, Turpen was not elected as the Democratic nominee for governor. “I came up short; Turpen Time was over, but you gotta turn setbacks into comebacks,” Turpen said resolutely. “Robert Frost on his eightieth birthday–they asked him ‘what have you learned over eighty years? He said just three words, ‘Life goes on.’ After I lost the governor’s race, I thought of that.”
The governors’ race taught Turpen many of his life lessons and philosophies, however, most came from his mother. “She’s the one who taught me that a room without books is like a person without a soul,” Turpen reflected. “She never went to college, but I like to say she went to the university of experience where the lessons are bumps and bruises, and the school colors and black and blue. She was the greatest influence of my life.”
After Turpen’s mother passed away, he was faced with a new set of challenges, but three words delivered some of the resilience he needed: “Endure, Maintain, Prevail.”
“We’re all gonna be confronted with very hard and challenging times,” Turpen acknowledged, “and that’s when your life philosophy has to carry you through.”
After the governor’s race, Turpen went on to private practice to be an attorney, however, his second passion was always to serve the community. “My vocation was to practice law, but my avocation was being a community volunteer.” He continues to work with Oklahoma’s elected officials to unify and diversify Oklahoma City. ”[Oklahoma City] needs more diversity, more respect for diversity, and effort for inclusion.”
When asked to share his final words of wisdom, Turpen contributed his most salient declarations: “We are all touched with a divine spark of infinite goodness. Just be kind to each other. Be nice to each other. Be good to each other because the greatest force on earth is goodness.”