Two former members of the Oklahoma Legislature died within the last 24 hours. Former Sen. Mark Snyder (R-Edmond) died at age 74, and former Rep. Neil Brannon (D-Poteau) died at age 80.
“It’s been a tough day,” said Joe Dorman, a former legislator who knew both men. “It’s just a reminder that you have to treat every day as precious. Both had very different political views and represented different areas of the state, but both had a heart for public service.”
Brannon served District 3 in the House from 2002 through 2010, departing to seek a State Senate seat that year. Snyder represented Senate District 41 in Edmond for 17 years, starting in 1987. He opened Bedlam BAR-B-Q on Lincoln Boulevard and also worked as a lobbyist after leaving the Senate.
Mark Snyder ‘an honorable man’
Dawn Watson, a lobbyist who worked closely Snyder on health care issues, said Snyder had been battling cancer.
“He was always very kind, and he was very good at his job. He worked hard and cared about what he was doing,” Watson said. “But he was also a pleasure to be around as well. He treated everyone with respect.”
Watson called Snyder “an honorable man.” As a lobbyist, Snyder represented the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association for years, as well as Universal Roofing & Sheet Metal
“He was a team player, and he always tried to make sure his team knew what was going on,” she said. “We did good things together for patients and providers in Oklahoma.”
Snyder served as Senate minority leader from 1998 to 2000. When term limits forced Snyder out of SD 41, current Oklahoma Tax Commissioner Clark Jolley won the seat.
“I had big shoes to fill when I followed Mark Snyder in the Oklahoma State Senate,” Jolley said. “Mark was a huge advocate for common-sense business regulations, rules and laws. He represented Edmond and the surrounding area without any scandal or any controversy. He did his job and did it well.”
Jeff Cloud defeated Snyder in the 2002 election cycle for a seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. He called Snyder “a stand-up guy.”
“He was a good politician, but he wasn’t really concerned about being a good politician,” Cloud said. “He was straightforward and transparent. He didn’t mind the competition. He seemed to get a kick out of it. We could still be political opponents but not enemies.”
A graduate of Oklahoma State University and a retired Army Ranger, Snyder previously served on the Edmond City Council. He is survived by his wife, Dianne.
Neil Brannon ‘humble and decent’
Brannon represented the Poteau area and unsuccessfully sought the Senate District 4 seat vacated by Sen. Kenneth Corn (D-Poteau) in 2010. Corn said Brannon died of a heart attack Tuesday morning, and he posted on Facebook about his friend.
“My heart aches today and my eyes are full of tears for my friend Rep. Neil Brannon who passed away early this morning. Neil has been a mentor, friend and brother to me for many years. My love for him knows no boundaries and his friendship was a gift that only God could grant to one of his children,” Corn wrote. “Neil never failed to help someone who sought him out. He was the most compassionate and loving man I have ever encountered in both my public and private life. Never once in my years of friendship have I ever heard him speak a word in anger or an unkind word of another. His charity was enormous and his concern was genuine for the students and people he served.”
Corn called Brannon a “humble and decent man.” Prior to seeking elected office, Brannon was an educator in the town of Arkoma along the Oklahoma-Arkansas border.
Dorman said Brannon “was a prince of a man and a true gentleman.”
“After he ran for the Senate and lost, he stayed active in his community and worked hard,” Dorman said. “He really cared about his area of the state and continued that after having served in office.”
Scott Inman, who served in the Oklahoma House from 2006 through 2018, called Brannon “soft spoken” and “kind hearted.”
“In my time in the Legislature, considering the members of my caucus, there wasn’t a kinder or gentler person than Neil Brannon. He never had a cross word to say about anything or anybody,” Inman said. “Neil’s passion was to fight for public education, the students and the teachers who desperately needed more resources and access to better education. He was always loyal to the folks in his district.”
A graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma State University, Brannon is survived by his wife, Gail.