PROFILE: Meet David Perryman State Representative, District 56


CHICKASHA - Although David Perryman has decided against running for re-election, the four-term state representative and House minority leader will continue his career as an attorney.

  • “Education is absolutely the best path toward our future; individually, as a state and as a nation,” - David Perryman
  • “Through a unified commitment – a joint commitment, the government is a tool that can provide betterment for our society.” - David Perryman

CHICKASHA - Although David Perryman has decided against running for re-election, the four-term state representative and House minority leader will continue his career as an attorney.

“I understood from an early age the impact of politics on life,” he said. “There were some things I wanted to accomplish, and I feel like I’ve accomplished those.” As Oklahoma’s only rural Democrat west of I-35 and south of I-40 in state Legislature, David spoke about the state’s needs for education funding, the value of vocational programs and broadband internet access, as well as how his interests and principles shaped his career as an attorney and legislator.


“Education is absolutely the best path toward our future; individually, as a state and as a nation,” David said. “That’s why supporting public education is something that I feel from my heart.” As a legislator, “I wanted to turn around the underfunding of education,” he added. “We had to increase funding, so we struggled to get the gross production tax increase. Oklahoma had the absolute lowest gross production tax in the oil and gas industry in the country. Embarrassingly low. At 2- to 3%, we didn’t have funding. That’s why we fought hard to get 5%.

“House Bill 1010xx gave us the revenue for things like education, roads, and bridges, mental health - things that needed to be done that had been neglected for so long because of cuts in taxes,” he continued. Although the House minority leader was integral to the bill, he explains that bipartisanship and external pressures made it difficult for legislators to come to a consensus.

“It’s very difficult at the state capitol right now,” David said. “What I saw happen over the past eight years has been very disappointing. There’s been a huge undermining of public education, and probably one of the biggest gut punches that I had was when rural legislators in western Oklahoma voted to allow charter schools to be established statewide. There are a lot of issues that shouldn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican; you ought to be in support of Oklahoma.”


“I recall the beginnings of the Oklahoma Career Tech program because that is so closely tied with when my dad was a vocational ag teacher working on a curriculum that went along with the Vo Tech system,” he said. “One of the real positives that I see with Oklahoma’s Career Tech, particularly in rural areas, those men and women are more inclined to stay in rural Oklahoma,” where they can do well for the communities, he added


David has always been fascinated by history, anthropology, and mapmaking. He understands rural Oklahoma’s need for infrastructure whether it’s roads and bridges or waterways and internet access. He is a proponent of broadband internet access for rural areas throughout Oklahoma.

“Broadband in 2019 is as essential as rural electrification was in the 1930s and ‘40s,” he stated. “If we don’t have broadband, then we don’t have any chance of economic development. To run any business at all, to have family farms, to have the quality of life in southwest Oklahoma, we’ve got to have fiber-to-the-home.”


“I’ve met Bill Clinton, President Obama, lots of Cabinet officials, Castro and even LBJ,” David said. “But Gene Stipe was the most colorful politician - and the reason for term limits.” Stipe was a state representative from 1949-1957, and a state senator from 1957-2003, winning 25 elections and serving as a legislator from more than 53 years.

David explains that term limits were initiated by the minority party as they were becoming the majority party in the state. “They used term limits to accelerate that,” he said. “And now they’re saying they need to adjust it and not be so strict on term limits. If we needed term limits to get rid of Democrats that were cemented into their positions, then we don’t need to remove those term limits so that Republicans can continue to serve.

“The most powerful people in Legislature are the lobbyists and agency guests because if you’re an elected official, 12 years is all they have to put up with you,” he observed. “Term limits really limit the ability of a populace to elect their legislator,” he added.


David’s maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Indiana and settled in the Cherokee Strip in the late 1890s. The family then moved to Carnegie in 1901-02. “Their only neighbors were the Kiowa Indians,” he said. “They probably would have starved to death if it weren’t for the Kiowas.”

David’s father grew up in Arkansas and his family were sharecroppers on Arbuckle Island, just east of Fort Smith. “They gradually got enough money together and started a dairy close to Barling, Ark.,” he said. “During the late ‘30s, the government came in and took 24 acres of their land and paid them $24 - a dollar an acre, for Fort Chaffee,” he chuckled in disbelief.

David learned that his paternal great-grandfather was orphaned during the Civil War. As an adult, he ran a sawmill about 50 miles from Branson, Mo. Right after Pearl Harbor, as soon as he could, David’s father dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. He of high school and joined the Navy. He was in the Naval Air Corps stationed out of Burns Flat.

After his service, he enrolled in an agriculture education program out of Russellville, Ark. The first of his family to go to college, he and several other young men from western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma transferred to Oklahoma A&M. After graduating, he began working as an ag teacher and “ad hoc veterinarian” in Kinta, in Haskell County.


Growing up in McAlester, while in second or third grade, David recalls seeing President Lyndon Baines Johnson being flown in by two Chinook helicopters to dedicate the hydroelectric dam (now Ladybird Landing) at Lake Eufaula in September of 1964.

Growing up, “most of the people I looked up to were teachers,” he said. “My dad, my science teacher James Holderfield, and David Michaels, my history teacher - those guys were my role models.”

As a youngster, he also remembers he and his siblings helping his father assemble curriculum packets for the vocational ag program in Kinta. When David graduated from Kinta High School, there were only nine students in his class. David and his four siblings all graduated from Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.

“I met my wife at Eastern, and we got married the summer before we transferred to Oklahoma State,” he beamed. “She was from Eufaula, so we thought we would go back out there, but she got a teaching job here, and then I got a job here at this very office, with this firm, as an intern,” he added. David’s wife Jo, their three daughters-in-law, and his late father all became teachers. David himself earned a teach- ing degree in history, geography and political science from Oklahoma State University and did his practice teaching in Stillwater Public Schools.

Of the four Perryman children, two are attorneys like their dad. James and Tyler Perryman started their own firm in Chickasha. Daughter Becky Seda is a realtor for Keller Williams in Oklahoma City, and the youngest son John is a firefighter and engine driver in Norman. David says he and Jo are also especially proud of their 11 wonderful grandchildren.


“On a lark, I took the law school acceptance test and scored high enough to get in,” said David. A whim that sparked his career, he began working at what is now Frailey, Chaffin, Cordell, Perryman, Sterkel, McCalla & Brown LLP as an intern in 1981. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school in 1983 and became an associate attorney for the firm. He was made partner in the firm in 1987 and has been with the firm ever since.

Currently, about 70% of David’s caseload is representing cities and towns working with rural water districts and public bonds. He also works with estate planning, probate, and trust work.


David has served as a state representative for District 56 since 2013, but he first stepped into the political arena during the mid-nineties. In 1994, he explains, after U.S. Senator David Boren announced his intentions to retire to become the president of the University of Oklahoma, Representative Dave McCurdy ran against Jim Inhofe and several others for Boren’s vacated seat. David, a Democrat from Chickasha successfully campaigned and secured the Democratic nomination for McCurdy’s seat.

“At that time, the 4th District included Norman, Pur- cell, Pauls Valley, Lawton, Walters, Frederick, and Altus,” he explains. “It was more southwestern than it is now.” Although David won Jackson, Jefferson, Cotton, Comanche, Tilman and Grady counties in the general election, former OU quarterback and Republican J.C. Watts was elected. “By losing Cleveland County by such a huge margin, I lost the election,” he said. “I should’ve campaigned more in Cleveland County,” he added.

Inhofe won the U.S. Senate race, retiring Dave McCurdy. As part of what was called the “Republican Revolution,” in Washington, Democrats lost 54 seats in the House; 19 in the South. For the House, this was the first time Republicans had the majority in the House since 1955 and the majority in the South since Reconstruction. Republicans defeated 38 House Democrat incumbents, making the toll 230 Republicans to 204 Democrats and one Independent.

But in retrospect, David explains that it simply wasn’t his time. In an earlier video posted on his webpage, he stated: “God was good to me ... because I was able to stay in Oklahoma and help raise our children.”


Along with his current caseload at the firm, David is working on a bill to help alleviate the financial stresses placed on those called for jury duty. While Oklahomans receive payment for jury duty, it is minimal, he explains. Oklahoma doesn’t require employers to pay employees while serving jury duty. David says if that were the case in Oklahoma, he would like to find a way to reimburse the employers. But he wants to ensure jury members can serve without having a financial hardship.

While David has decided against running for his fifth term representing District 56, he will continue his work until his last day in office. “I see the potential of what the government can do for a depressed area,” he concluded. “Through a unified commitment – a joint commitment, the government is a tool that can provide betterment for our society.”