Retirement Tribute: John N. Schaefer

Happy Retirement, John Schaefer!

McAfee & Taft is proud to honor the career and contributions of John N. Schaefer, and to celebrate his retirement from the firm.

Over the course of his long and distinguished career, which spanned six decades, he practiced in the areas of employee benefits law, estate planning, probate, and business taxation. His achievements earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (trusts and estates law).

Prior to joining McAfee & Taft, John served as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army from 1966–1970 and as a lawyer in private practice with a Texas-based firm for three years. While working as a JAG attorney, the Oklahoma native earned his Master of Laws degree in taxation from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.


Frank Hill
Business and real estate lawyer, McAfee & Taft

I first met John Schaefer when we were both in the College of Business at the University of Oklahoma, majoring in accounting — a fairly demanding major at O.U. It seemed like a lot of people were weeded out of it, didn’t like it, thought it was too hard. But we kind of hung around and we ended up getting to know each other, at least initially as part of our study group, to try to survive the professors in the accounting department at O.U., which were quite demanding.

I would say initially not close friends, but we certainly knew each other and work together. And as time evolved at O.U. in particular, we became closer. I think the the real pivotal point in my relationship with John was when we both made a decision talking to one another that we want to go to law school and that we should probably look at other law schools because the distractions at O.U. law school would have been pretty substantial for both John and I.

We talked about where to look. And, you know, we both decided pretty quickly that the best place to look would be down in the state of Texas, because it was pretty much like us. And there’s a lot of common interests and people we knew what our view from Texas. A lot of people thought we were traitors and leaving the state, going to the University of Texas.

And I assured him we were not. But we had a great education there and we were not as distracted because we didn’t know the people. You know, after law school, we were confronted with the same problem with the you know, we got a draft deferments, I mean, deferments from serving on active duty. We both were headed for active duty for four years in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

John was stationed in Baltimore, Maryland, at Fort Holabird. I was stationed in Washington, D.C. at the Pentagon. We kind of still were friends and we hung out together and we celebrated the birthdays and we took a few trips together. John and I both elected to go to night school at George Washington University and got a masters degree. We both got a master’s degree in taxation.

We got out of the military. John ended up taking a job in Dallas with a really good firm. I came here in December of 1970 with McAfee & Taft. And we didn’t see each other for a while.

Time passed and the firm was kind of starting to grow. And we thought, you know, we need somebody who’s really good at taxation and also understands estate planning and wills and trusts. And that’s where John was focused on that in Dallas. We recruited him and ultimately he came to work for the firm and been here ever since and done a great job. We’ve stayed very, very good friends ever since then.

We’ve traveled all over the world together. We travel to football games, athletic events, fun places to go. He’s an incredibly curious person. He is a great photographer and has taken photographs all over the world that are just phenomenal with all kinds of cameras. He’s really almost a professional photographer, I would say for sure. He could go into that business if he wanted to.

Again, these are amazingly all long-term friendships that started really, I guess, at O.U. and continued all through thick and thin, and ended up at McAfee & Taft.

Dee Replogle
Tax and family wealth lawyer, McAfee & Taft

I first met John when he came to work at McAfee & Taft, and he and I have been good friends ever since. John and I both have been involved in estate planning. John has specialized in estate planning and some in retirement activities.

John had the distinction of almost bankrupting the farm in an earlier part of his career. He and Dudley Hyde were revising all of the retirement plans that the firm had to address some changes in the law. They were working indefatigably on it and they would break only to have dinner and they would go across the street to the Beacon Club and they were ordering these huge lobster dinners. We couldn’t figure out how the firm was ever going to be able to afford it. And certainly they weren’t going to make a profit on them revising the plans given all that they were eating over there. But we got through it and John’s prospered ever since.

I think John’s tenure at McAfee & Taft has helped the firm tremendously. First of all, he’s very creative, very innovative. He sets a wonderful example to other attorneys on how to go about it. He’s meticulous in his detail. He developed estate planning software that really was better than anything on the market. And he used that extensively in his practice, as did some others, just, you know, just sort of the caboose to John.

I think the more than anything else, I think John has just set an example to the younger attorneys on how to treat clients, how to get along with clients, how to deal with all their various needs and eccentricities, and do it in an affable, professional manner. And he’s just exceptional in that regard.

One of the things that I admire the most about John is the fact, I think, that he is multidimensional. He is one of those individuals that would go off on these exotic trips and always come back with not just stories of his adventures, but he would come back with these wonderful photographic collections that he’d made. He’s quite the photographer.

It’s not just the ability to take pictures, it’s the ability to capture the environment in those pictures. Lots of people take pictures, you know, on trips. But John was able to capture the essence of the trip in his photography. And I hope when people think of him, they will think of him not simply as a lawyer, but as a multidimensional person and a guy that everyone wanted as his friend and could call his friend.

Susan Shields
Tax and family wealth lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Gosh, I think I worked with John probably as a baby lawyer before I even came to McAfee & Taft. And then was so grateful when I moved here in 2008 that I got to work with him directly. But I knew him for a long time before that.

John is just such an intelligent, talented attorney, but also just a really caring person that clients feel taking care of with and I think always made people feel comfortable and like they were in good hands.

One of my favorite things about John is he’s so well traveled and every time he went on a trip, he put together a book of his itinerary and photos, just a very detailed kind of diary of the trip. One that I remember him talking about, I wish I had been able to go on it,. was a trip, I think, to Memphis that John and Bill Conger and maybe Frank Hill too all went on to listen to some blues. And I’m sure there are lots of stories about that trip. I never heard, but I know it was a good time.

Michael Joseph
Business and healthcare lawyer, retired

Well, I met John Schaefer in 1978 when I first joined McAfee & Taft. He was a tax and ERISA lawyer, which was real different because ERISA was brand new at the time, it was like a new area of practice of law. The real experts were John Schaefer and Dudley Hyde.

I remember at the time working on a transaction and I needed some ERISA expertise and I talked to John about it. He came down to my office and he explained what ERISA was. I remember thinking that I was learning about ERISA and that other than subrogation and liens, ERISA is now my least favorite subject.

Michael Lauderdale
Employment and trial lawyer; managing director, McAfee & Taft

I want to be John. I want to be 85 years old. I want to be in great shape. I want to travel. I want to learn to speak another language, which isn’t going to happen. John is that guy that you look at and say, 25 years from now, I want to be John.

John was one of the key architects of our estate planning practice. He helped build that. His contacts are deep within the community with many of Oklahoma’s high net worth families, where John has done their estate planning. John’s legacy will last forever because those estate plans continue today. And so the things that John has done is going to carry on forever.

John always had a smile on his face, always has something positive to say. He’s always in a good mood. John does a lot of things behind the scenes that people aren’t aware of. He helps any lawyer that comes in and their family with estate planning issues. He has helped many of our partners navigate those things and John doesn’t publicize that. He just gets it done.

We owe a debt of gratitude to him because some of those situations are sensitive and complicated. And John steps in and takes over and does all those things.

Myrna Latham
Business and real estate lawyer, McAfee & Taft

John, you’ve been a good friend. I can think of conversations we’ve had about some business deals that we’ve been involved in. But the thing that I particularly appreciate, and you may not even remember this, but back in 1989 when my dad passed away, I came to you with questions about what I needed to do. I had no idea how to handle some of the issues related to this estate.

And you were so kind and so caring and so helpful, and I’ll always be grateful for that. I’ve always enjoyed our friendship and continue to wish you the very best.

Richard Riggs
Business and real estate lawyer, retired

John, congratulations on your retirement. It’s been great working with you. Going back to the days in the 100 Park Avenue building. I know you’ll find lots to do in your retirement, keeping occupied and interesting and fulfilling activities. All the best.

Michael Lauderdale
Employment and trial lawyer; managing director, McAfee & Taft

John, I wish you the best. You’re still going to have your office on the eighth floor. So when you do come in, stop by and say hello. Thank you for all you’ve done for the firm; it’s most appreciated. And congratulations.

Michael Joseph
Business and healthcare lawyer, retired

Congratulations, John. It’s been a privilege being your partner. I’m going to wish you happiness and a lot of fun during your retirement.

Susan Shields
Tax and family wealth lawyer, McAfee & Taft

John, we’re going to miss you so much. And I know you won’t be far and we’ll be in touch. Thank you so much for all of the friendship and education and ability to work together over the years. Love you so much. Take care.

Dee Replogle
Tax and family wealth lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Well, John, it’s been a long journey. You and I have been together for many, many years. And I can truthfully say there’s not been a single day when I have not enjoyed practicing or being around you. You’re invariably happy. You’re invariably professional. You’re invariably helpful on everything that I’ve done. And you’d better not be a stranger in the future.

Frank Hill
Business and real estate lawyer, McAfee & Taft

Hey, John, happy retirement. I think you’re going to have a great time. And I know we’re all in the fourth quarter of our lives, and I also know that we still have lots of things to do.

Let’s just continue our efforts to be friends and with our remarkable travel group that we have at this point and do things and continue to have adventures not only here but all over the world and continue to be best friends. You’re on my speed dialer. Have a great retirement.

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