Color Lines

Artist: Justice Steven Taylor

Justice Steven W. Taylor served as Chief Justice of the Court in 2011-2012 when the Court moved from the State Capitol to the Oklahoma Judicial Center. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004, Taylor served more than 20 years as a trial judge in the 18th Judicial District, (McIntosh and Pittsburg Counties) presiding over more than 500 jury trials, including the state trial of the Oklahoma City bombing case.

Taylor majored in political science at Oklahoma State University and went on to earn a Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1974. He had been a reserve member of the United States Marine Corps since 1970, and upon graduation from law school began serving on active duty. He was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, working in the military justice system. He initially served as a prosecutor before becoming Chief Defense Counsel.

During this period of time, in 1976, he painted Color Lines. “It was a moment in my life that I decided to paint. I haven’t painted before or since.” Though he has long enjoyed the outlet provided by running and physical exercise, painting gave him room for creative expression with a practical bonus: “It was something I could do at night. Something fun.”

Taylor described his work at the time as being very stressful. “We worked all the time. Even had court on Saturdays sometimes. It was a very difficult time in the military justice system. The back-end of the long Vietnam war, veterans were coming back and having problems with all the things they’d had to deal with during their tours.” Crime and drug problems were both on the rise. “I worried a lot about my clients.”

During the year and a half he served as defense counsel, Taylor finished seven paintings. Since then, he has given most away to friends and family. In 1977, Taylor was promoted to Special Court Martial Judge, becoming the youngest judge in the United States Armed Forces at the time. He completed his active duty commitment to the Unites States Marine Corps as a Major the following year.

In 2009, Taylor was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He is the co-author of The University of Oklahoma College of Law: A Centennial History. Taylor donated Color Lines to the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection in 2011.

You have most likely noticed the large painting in this room, which is our next subject.