Born Wednesday, July 8, 1936
Died Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Losie Vergil “L.V.” Watkins, Jr., aged 84, departed this life later than expected on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, which should surprise no one who knew him. His passing in the early morning was peaceful, attended by Brenda, his wife of 33 years. In his last days, he was surrounded by the love of his family and friends.
L.V. was born at home on a farm just outside DeQueen, AR, on July 8, 1936, very close to his Grandpa Johnson’s homestead. Forced to relocate because of a deepening economic depression, his family made the trek to California during WWII to find work. They lived in Oakland where L.V. attended 2nd grade and his parents worked in the nearby shipyards. At the close of the war, they returned to settle in Bennington, OK, near his paternal grandparents.
L.V. graduated from Bennington High School in 1955. While there he played multiple sports and joined the FFA, under the guidance of his vo-ag teacher Harold Chitwood. Bennington was truly his hometown, and he returned for the Bennington Homecoming and annual high school reunions for most of his life. L.V. attended Oklahoma A&M College (OSU) where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1959, and a Master’s in agricultural economics in 1965. In between he served 3 years in the U.S. Air Force, after being in R.O.T.C as an undergraduate. He was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX from 1959 to 1962, when he shifted from active duty to the reserves, to continue his education. He remained in the reserves until he resigned in 1970, with the rank of Captain. L.V. moved to Oxford, MS to attend law school at Ole Miss during the turbulence of the late 60’s, just after the school had been integrated. He graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 1970 and was admitted to the Bar in Mississippi. He would later be admitted to the Bar in Oklahoma in 1977.
L.V.’s entire career was focused on economic development. His family’s forced move to California had a profound impact on him. He often said he did not want people to have to leave the small towns and rural areas that they loved just to make a living. He organized the substate planning districts in Oklahoma, then served as the Executive Director of the Eastern Oklahoma Development District. After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1974 (Let’s Vote Watkins!), L.V. began working for himself and established the Verd-Ark-Ca Development Corporation, which helped small businesses all over the state get their start. It was a point of pride with him, and gave him an enormous sense of accomplishment, when he drove through small towns in Eastern Oklahoma and saw all the businesses, libraries, fire stations, water systems, senior centers and other community projects that he had helped to build. He also opened a law practice with his legal partner Jim Goodwin of Tulsa. As an attorney, he served as a legal advisor to Native tribes and local governments on water rights.
Born into a family of gifted talkers, L.V. truly never met a stranger. He would talk to anyone, and he was interested in nearly everything they said. Many times he surprised people by being familiar with the tiny town they were from. He was known for teasing and pranks, especially directed at his siblings. He gave unconventional advice to young people and loved playing devil’s advocate in any argument. He was notorious for frequently arriving late. He was color blind, which prevented him from becoming an Air Force pilot, and led to some alarming fashion choices in the mid-70’s. He stood 6’2” tall, with blue eyes, long legs, strong, slender fingers, and a shockingly full head of thick wavy hair. He was a lifelong registered Democrat, even when the Democrats became the minority around him, and remained politically active all his life.
L.V. was the father of a blended and extended family, and he loved them all greatly. It was his dream to buy a small acreage of land and build a house, which he finally did in 1984. He lived there, just north of Muskogee, where the land drops down into the Arkansas River bottoms, for 34 years. He loved to sit out on the back patio at the end of the day and watch for deer or other wildlife, while talking over the events of the day with Brenda. He taught his kids to appreciate the natural beauty of Oklahoma and the wisdom of common folk. He would paraphrase Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If -” (“Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch”), believing one should be comfortable whether you were sitting down to dinner with the most powerful or the least fortunate. He wanted his children and grandchildren to define success on their own terms, instead of letting society define it for them.
L.V. was preceded in death by his parents, L.V. Watkins, Sr. and Mary Etta (Johnson) Watkins, his beloved sister Mary Althea Yeats, his granddaughter Allison Patton James, and lifelong friends Donald “Bud” Hathcote, Perry Wheeler, and Bill Milligan.
He is survived by his wife Brenda (Horner) Watkins of Tulsa, and his children: Martha Alston (Rusty) and their daughter Kassondra Gunn (Danny) of San Antonio, TX; Ruth Anne Nelson and her son Matthew, of Fort Smith, AR; his sons Tom Watkins and Ashley Webb, both from Tulsa; Jerry Patton (Amy Jo) of Pryor and sons Jerry Jr. and Jeremy, from Choteau; 2 great grandchildren, Jalen Patton and Kaeden James, and numerous nephews and nieces. L.V. also leaves behind his brother Wes Watkins (Lou), brother-in-law Gene Yeats, sister-in-law Linda Patton, and many close friends.
Funeral services will be Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 12:00 noon at Cornerstone Funeral Home in Muskogee. Family visitation will be Monday evening from 5-7 p.m. Burial will be at the Ft. Gibson National Cemetery. Please visit www.cornerstoneofmuskogee.com and share your most outrageous L.V. story with his family and friends. He was passionate about family history, and we will make sure these stories are preserved for posterity!
Funeral services are under the direction of Cornerstone Funeral Home, 1830 North York St, Muskogee, Oklahoma.