Oakley W. Melton, Jr.
July 26, 1927 - November 10, 2013
In 1951, Oakley W. Melton, Jr., began practicing law in Montgomery, Alabama, with the law firm of Rushton, Stakely and Johnston; and to supplement his income, he obtained a second job as the reading clerk for the Alabama House of Representatives, working there on a part-time and seasonal basis for the next six years. He later was elected by the House of Representatives as Clerk of the Alabama House and served from 1957 to 1962.
In 1964, Oakley opened the doors of his solo law practice, which ultimately led to the founding of the present law firm of Melton, Espy & Williams, P.C. Oakley was always known in the Alabama legal community as a “lawyer’s lawyer,” as he represented many lawyers and judges during his career. Over the years, he made monumental contributions to the bench and bar. In 1971, he was appointed as Chairman of the Alabama Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Civil Practice and Procedure and was thereafter instrumental in the writing and adoption by the Alabama Supreme Court of the current Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure. In 1974, he was elected President of the Montgomery County Bar; and in 1979, he was elected President of the Alabama State Bar. During his tenure as State Bar President, Oakley proposed, and was successful in obtaining the approval of, the mandatory continuing legal education program for Alabama lawyers which is still in place today. Throughout his legal career, Oakley was the attorney for the Montgomery Housing Authority and numerous local and national businesses, state agencies, commissions, and public officials. He was a confidant and advisor to five Alabama governors, as well as lieutenant governors, legislators, and members of the trial and appellate courts.
Oakley became legal counsel for the Alabama Soft Drink Association in 1962; and for the next forty years, he was instrumental in building a trade Association so innovative it was long recognized as a model for state soft drink associations across the nation. In 1978, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Alabama Soft Drink Association; and in 1985, he was inducted into the Beverage World Hall of Fame.
Numerous professional honors were bestowed upon Oakley which included Fellow of the International Society of Barristers and Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1983, he received the first Annual “Boss of the Year” award of the Montgomery Association of Legal Secretaries. Throughout his career, Oakley held many prestigious professional positions including, President of the Alabama Law Institute from 1985-1992; Chairman of the Character and Fitness Committee of the Alabama State Bar; Chairman of the Constitution and By-Laws of the Alabama State Bar Task Force; Alabama State Chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers; Charter Master Bencher of the Montgomery County Inn of Court; Charter Member of the Farrah Law Society; Charter Member of the Alabama Law Foundation; Professor at Jones School of Law; member of the Montgomery County, Alabama State and American Bar Associations, Alabama and American Trial Lawyers Associations, Alabama Defense Lawyers Association, and American Judicature Society. He was a member and Chairman of the United States Middle District Court Historical Committee. When he first became eligible by age and experience, he received the highest legal designation, an “av” rating, by the nationally recognized Martindale-Hubbell legal directory. He was the first, and long-time, attorney of the Alabama High School Athletic Association; and as such attorney, he handled the historic merger in 1968 of the AHSAA and the Alabama Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Not only was Oakley a servant of the law, he was also a civic servant of his community. Through the years, he actively worked with and supported the Montgomery YMCA, serving as a Chairman of the YMCA Youth Legislature, Vice President of the Montgomery YMCA, and Life Member of the Montgomery YMCA Board of Directors. For his many years of service, the youth of Montgomery awarded him the Montgomery YMCA “Man of the Year” award in 1972. He served as a member of the City of Montgomery Planning Commission and was a member of the Montgomery Lions Club. Through the years, he enjoyed many friendships as a member of The American Legion. He was a Charter Member of The Krewe of the Phantom Host and was a former President and Junior Chamber of Commerce “Man of the Year.”
Oakley loved his family and Alabama football in that order. In 1948, while a student at the University of Alabama, he was instrumental in lobbying the administrations of both Alabama and Auburn, and the Alabama Legislature, to resume the playing of the “Iron Bowl,” which had not been played since 1907. He was then present at the first game in 1948, and thereafter attended 62 consecutive Alabama/Auburn games from 1948 through 2010. In 1997, he founded the Alabama/Auburn Perfect Attendance Club (AAPAC) in celebration of the game for fans of both teams with perfect attendance records at every game since 1948. While attending the University of Alabama, Oakley was a Number One (President) of the University of Alabama Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Alabama and, in 1950, was President of the University of Alabama Student Government Association. He received a B.S. Degree in Accounting from the Commerce and Business Administration School of the University of Alabama and his law degree from the University’s School of Law in 1951. Because of his great love for the University and its Law School, in 2006 the Oakley W. Melton, Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund was established by Oakley and the Alabama Beverage Association (the former Alabama Soft Drink Association) for deserving students attending the University of Alabama School of Law.
Oakley was a devoted and beloved member of the First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. He was a Chairman of the Official Administrative Board of the Church, and also a Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Oakley Webster Melton, Jr., age 86, of Montgomery, Alabama, departed this life on November 10, 2013, and is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Melba Studdard Melton; and by his children, daughter, Ree Smith (Sage); son, Oakley Melton, III (Diane); daughter, Marcia Hudson (Adams); daughter, Lee Hayes; and son, Ben Melton; eight grandchildren, namely Marlee Smith Terry, Sage Burgett Smith, Jr., Ben Smith, Davis Hudson, Bentley Hudson, Stead Hayes, Wylie Hayes and Will Hayes; three great-grandchildren; four nephews and two nieces.
Oakley’s generous heart, his endearing wisdom, and his patience with his family, friends and clients will leave an indelible mark on those who knew him and who relied on his counsel and advice. He was a true patriot, a mentor, an entertaining speaker, an encourager, a civic leader, and a great lawyer; but, above all, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, and friend. He will be missed.