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Oklahoma State University

Larry Derryberry

Tue, October 11, 2016
Publication: 
Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources

Long-time friend of Oklahoma 4-H

Oklahoma attorney and former Oklahoma representative and attorney general Larry Derryberry attributes much of his professional success to the lessons he learned as a 4-H member. Photo/Todd Johnson

He is a man with many different monikers. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Attorney. State representative. Attorney General. Children’s book author. Even when you roll all of these together, you just scratch the surface of the man known as Larry Derryberry. There is one more title Derryberry said helps explain who he is and how he achieved some of the others: 4-H member.

“I love 4-H,” Derryberry said. “All I’ve done in my life and my law practice are the things I learned in 4-H … meeting people, working with people and talking to people. It’s pretty simple.”

The son of a cotton farmer in rural Jackson County, Derryberry said it was somewhat of a fluke he joined 4-H in the first place in 1953. 

“My girlfriend at the time was on her way to a 4-H meeting after school and asked if I wanted to come along. She said we could sit together in the double desk, so I agreed,” Derryberry said.

The next thing he knew he had been elected president of the club, and his 4-H career was launched. Public speaking and leadership became his main project areas, and at the urging of Leonard Solomon, his county Extension educator, he entered his first county speech contest that year and won.

He went on to win the regional and state titles as well, using that same speech, “My Cooperative.” Derryberry won a trip to Ithica, New York, where the rural farm kid presented that speech to more than 5,000 people. He went on to give dozens of speeches during his 4-H career and continued his public speaking efforts throughout his life.

Following high school graduation, at the urging of Solomon and one of his high school teachers, he attended the University of Oklahoma where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history and set his sights on law school. During his second year at the OU College of Law, he made a run for state representative and was elected. He served in that capacity from 1963 until 1971 when he was elected to serve the State of Oklahoma as Attorney General. Eight years later he made a bid for the office of governor, but was defeated. It was then he opened his law practice, and he has practiced law ever since.

Derryberry has never forgotten about his beginnings in the 4-H program, and he has long been a staunch supporter of this youth organization. He served two six-year terms on the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation Board and was instrumental in establishing the Circle of Champions, which is comprised of individuals who are dedicated to contributing $1,000 per year to the 4-H Foundation for sponsoring scholarships for current club members. He has been named a National 4-H Alumni award winner and has been recognized as a State 4-H Partner and State 4-H Alumni winner.

“Larry has always been a friend of 4-H and was an outstanding 4-H Foundation trustee,” said Jim Rutledge, executive director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation.

Despite having thousands of public speaking engagements under his belt, Derryberry said he still gets a bit nervous before a speech.

“To this day I use techniques I learned as a 4-H’er to get me through a speech,” he said.

Derryberry has some advice for those who are just starting their 4-H careers.

“Every child is different. Each has talent. You just have to find your place,” he said. “Find those things where you have fun and can be successful.”

By Trisha Gedon

College News Network

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