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.
These facts 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.