Mark’s Story is One of Blessing & Opportunity

Mark is a home-grown Okie. Born and raised in North and East Tulsa, his mixed racial background reflects the grand historical diversity of Oklahoma. As the grandson of miners, construction laborers, and migrant farm workers, he seeks to elevate and reward the contributions of all Oklahomans. As a husband, father and grandfather, he recognizes the centrality of family in all that we look to achieve as a society. And in all things, he strives to be a faithful disciple of Jesus.

Mark is a 4th-generation Tulsan on both sides of his family. The Fords moved to T-Town off a Sallisaw farm in the late 1910’s, using their draft animals to scrape out a living excavating for the foundations of some of Tulsa’s most notable commercial and residential buildings in the heyday of the Oil-Boom. The Garcias arrived from Guanajuato, Mexico about that same time to mine coal in Midtown Tulsa.

Coal Mining in Midtown Tulsa - ca. 1910

After Oklahoma coal played out, the Garcias became migrant farm workers, following crops across the Midwest. The Sanders were miners also – heading underground in southwestern Missouri, starting in the 19th century, to extract lead and zinc, before moving to Tulsa in the 1920s to work in bakeries and the construction trades.

Mark is a grateful product of Tulsa Public Schools (Celia Clinton & Audubon Elementaries, and Skelly Junior High School). Through a generous offer of financial aid, Mark was also fortunate to attend Holland Hall School for most of high school and graduate from there, cum laude, in 1978.

Mark’s First School — Celia Clinton Elementary

During his time as an Economics major at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Mark won academic prizes for his writing and analytical skills. He also met and befriended a 19-yr.-old named “Barry” Obama, and became a co-activist with him in a struggle to end the College’s investment in companies doing business with South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Mark helped Obama craft a rally address that he has since identified as his first “political speech”. That same year Obama supported Mark’s successful run for Student Body President, leading to Mark’s favorite “fun fact”: “Obama voted for me before I ever voted for him”!

1981 Occidental College Divestment Rally — Planned by Mark, Obama & other student leaders. (Mark & Obama seated on wall at right)

During law school at Columbia University in New York City, Mark interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, working directly with Attorney Deval Patrick (later Governor of Massachusetts) and Prof. Lani Guinier. Mark also took a year off from law school to work in civil rights enforcement for the City of New York.

Mark then spent the early and middle years of his legal career in St. Louis and Connecticut, but in the early 2000s began to get an irrepressible “homing instinct” to be back in Tulsa. While his daughter was in college, Mark, his wife, and their two sons, completed the move back to town in 2009.

Since returning to Tulsa, Mark has continued his professional practice as a commercial lawyer, specializing in Bankruptcy & Reorganization law. He is currently a partner (shareholder) at GableGotwals -- a 100-attorney, general practice law firm with offices in Tulsa, OKC and Houston. In recent years, Mark also had the opportunity to teach - serving as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Tulsa School of Law.

Mark has always sought to be an active (and activist) member of his community. Wherever he has lived he has conspired with others of diverse political affiliations to creatively upset the local Establishment, regardless of party. He’s been appointed to serve on local government Boards and Commissions, both in Tulsa and in Connecticut. He is currently serving as Chairperson of the Tulsa Preservation Commission. He’s also contributed his time to private institutional governance, volunteering to serve on numerous church, school, and non-profit boards. Most recently, Mark served on the Board of Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS).

Mark is a student of history, particularly local Tulsa history. He’s become an inveterate collector of Tulsa ephemera and artifacts – an obsession he “inherited” from his second-cousin, the late citizen-historian, Beryl Ford. To his wife’s and kids’ dismay, he’s also an amateur archeologist – meaning, he’s that goofy-looking guy with a metal detector you may have seen digging for early Tulsa relics on the side of the road!

Mark is a thankful cancer survivor. His struggle with that disease has imparted a sense of urgency for national healing, and a belief that Oklahoma should play an important role in that process.

Mark and his wife, Sarah, reside in North Maple Ridge and are an active part of the community of believers at Sanctuary Church in Midtown Tulsa.