John A. Fain. United
States attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, John A. Fain’s
work as a lawyer had already brought him many distinctions in
Northern Texas and Oklahoma before he entered upon the duties of his
present office at the beginning of 1914. Mr. Fain was one of the
first members of the bar at Lawton, where for a short time his office
was in a tent after the opening of the Kiowa and Comanche country. A
particularly noteworthy phase of his career was his prominent
connection with the Swanson County dissolution case, which he
conducted through practically all the courts of record in Oklahoma to
a successful conclusion. Mr. Fain is now living in Oklahoma City,
with offices in the Federal Building.
He was born at
Weatherford, Texas, August 20, 1870, a son of John A. and Elizabeth
Peyton (Hart) Fain. His father, who was born in Georgia, came to
Texas as an early settler in 1856, and for many years was in the
general merchandise business until his death in 1906. The mother was
a native of Kentucky and died in 1904.
Mr. Fain prefaced
his professional career with a liberal education. He is a graduate
with the class of 1892 and the degree A. B. from Southwestern
University at Georgetown. Texas. His
chief preceptor in the study of law was his brother-in-law, Judge G.
A. Brown, now an
associate justice of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. Judge Brown’s
office at that time was at Vernon, Texas, where Mr. Fain was admitted
to the bar in 1893. His active practice began as member of the firm
of Stephens, Huff & Fain
at Vernon, where he lived until 1896, and then became a member of the
firm of Alexander & Fain at Weatherford, Texas, and was one of
the able members of the Parker County bar until 1901.
At the opening of
the Kiowa and Comanche country to settlement, Mr. Fain moved to
Lawton, and as already stated his first office was a tent. He
practiced alone until 1906, and then took John M. Young as associate
under the name Fain & Young.
This firm was maintained until January 4, 1914, at which date Mr.
Fain received his appointment as United States attorney for the
Western District of Oklahoma, with offices in the state capital.
At the beginning of
statehood in 1907 Mr. Fain was elected county attorney of Comanche
County, and held that office from November 16, 1907, to January 6,
1913. During his administration as governor Mr. Haskell caused the
creation of the new County of Swanson out of parts of Kiowa and
Comanche counties. Mr. Fain, as county attorney of Comanche County,
brought suit for the dissolution of this county. The case was long
contested and attracted much attention. It passed through all the
state courts and was finally adjudicated in the Supreme Court of the
United States. The final decision directed the dissolution of Swanson
County. The decision was not only notable locally to those directly
interested in Swanson County, but established permanent precedent for
the creation of new counties. The principal rule evolved from this
litigation was that where a county is created from portions of two or
more counties already existing, at least sixty per cent of the legal
voters in the territory affected must favor the incorporation of such
territory within the limits of the proposed now county. Following the
final decision in the Swanson County case, considerable confusion was
caused by reason of the Swanson County officials refusing to abide by
the decision and failing to recognize the proper officials of Kiowa
and Comanche counties. It was only by the energetic measures taken by
Mr. Fain that matters were finally brought to a peaceful solution.
Coincident with the
adoption of the constitution the people of Oklahoma voted for
statewide prohibition. Before statehood open saloons had been
permitted in Oklahoma Territory. Hence men charged with law
enforcement at the outset of statehood were confronted with many
violations of the prohibition law. Mr. Fain was among the first
county attorneys who had, more than any other officials, to wrestle
with the bootlegging problem. Few encountered a more determined set
of violators. Comanche County once had had more than a hundred
saloons. Public sentiment was divided, which encouraged law
violations. Mr. Fain, remembering his oath of office, undertook to
rid Lawton, the county seat of Comanche County, and other towns of
bootleggers. The records show that he was more successful than any
other county attorney during the period of time in which he served.
In its earlier years
Lawton had a reputation of being the home of an unusually large
element of undesirable citizens. Some of them remained at statehood.
They organized an opposition to his
enforcement activities to the extent of placing a bomb inside his
office door, which luckily did not explode when he opened the door
next morning. Divers threats were made against him, some of them
demanding his life, and for months during the heated part of his
campaign for “cleaning up” the county it was not safe for
him to travel alone at night.
constitute an important phase of history in what originally
was the Kiowa and Comanche Indian country that was opened to
settlement in 1901. The country had been ranged over by cowmen,
blanketed Indians and adventurers, and when it was opened for
homestead purposes one of the largest contingents of riffraff ever
assembled in the West settled there. To get rid of their kind when
the people of the territories were granted statehood was an
undertaking that required unusual courage, although the element had
dwindled to small proportions. The tree, easy and untrammeled life of
the prairies had to be trimmed and expurgated so that it would fit
agreeably into the new life that men and women of good character from
all over the nation had established there. Hence the activities of
Mr. Fain as county attorney make a really vital chapter in the
history of that section of the state.
Mr. Fain is a
democrat, is past chancellor commander of the Knights of Pythias at
Lawton, affiliates with Lawton Lodge No. 1046, B. P. O. H., with the
Woodmen of the World at Lawton, and is a member of the Methodist
Episcopal Church, South.
In 1896 he married
Miss Maud Johnson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Johnson, of Vernon,
Texas. Mrs. Fain and both her parents were natives of Tennessee, and
the family moved to Texas about 1893. To their marriage have been
born two sons: John Clark Fain, born in 1899, and Charles Lesley
Fain, born in 1907.