OKLAHOMA CITY -- Former Oklahoma House Speaker J.D. McCarty, one of the most powerful figures ever to serve in the state government, died New Year's Day of an apparent heart attack.
McCarty, 64, once known as the 'king' of the Oklahoma House, was stricken at his residence Thursday and died in an Oklahoma City hospital, his wife Mary said.
In 26 years in the House, McCarty rose from a back-seat legislator and a member of the so-called 'knothole gang' to become the first Oklahoman to serve three terms as House Speaker.
Both his legislative and political career had an unfortunate end.
McCarty considered running for governor in 1966, but gave up the idea in the face of a worsening political climate that produced his own defeat in that fall's House race.
Rep. Vondel Smith, who defeated McCarty in his home Capitol Hill district, lasted only one term. McCarty's defeat came after House Democrats had already picked him for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term as speaker.
The next year he was convicted of federal income tax evasion, a charge he repeatedly denied, and drew a three-year sentence. He served six months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Ark., where he completed his term in June of 1969.
McCarty returned to his Oklahoma City insurance business and continued to be active in government as a lobbyist, handling numerous major bills for a respectable Oklahoma City clientele.
McCarty was born in Waurika, Okla., Aug. 28, 1916, and moved to Oklahoma City in 1927.
He worked nights for the Daily Oklahoman while attending the University of Oklahoma, where he majored in government and economics. He served in the Navy in the South Pacific and Okinawa during World War II.