Oklahoma law school reports diverse student body
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Seventy years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for nonwhite students to attend the only taxpayer-funded law school in Oklahoma.
On Jan. 12, 1948, voting 9-0 in Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the court ruled states could not discriminate against law-school applicants due to race.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher — denied admission in 1946 because she was black — began law school classes at OU in the summer of 1949 and graduated two years later.
Not only was Fisher the only black student pursuing a law degree at OU in 1950, she was one of only three women out of a total of 178 students.
Today, nearly one-quarter of students enrolled in the program identify as nonwhite, including those who identify as being two or more races, according to data from the OU College of Law.
Of the total student population, 26 percent of women and 21 percent of men identify as non-while, for a total of 117 students, The Oklahoman reported.
The data show 216 women currently are enrolled, or a little more than 42 percent of the 509 law school students.
Student-driven organizations and groups within the college include the American Indian Law Review, Black Law Students Association, Hispanic American Law Student Association, Native American Law Student Association and Organization for the Advancement of Women in the Law.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher was born in 1924 in Chickasha. She received her undergraduate degree from Langston University, then the state’s only school of higher education for black students. State statutes mandated racial separation in education.
At the urging of the NAACP, 21-year-old Fisher agreed to seek admission to OU’s law school and challenge Oklahoma’s segregation laws.
When her application to the university was denied on the basis of race, a team of NAACP lawyers — led by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall — filed the lawsuit that eventually ended in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of Fisher.
After graduating from law school, the Civil Rights activist had careers as both a lawyer in her hometown and as a professor at Langston. In 1992, Gov. David Walters appointed her to the OU Board of Regents, the body she successfully sued decades earlier.
OU awarded Fisher an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1991 and dedicated a garden in her honor on campus after her death Oct. 18, 1995.
In November, she was honored posthumously by the Oklahoma Hall of Fame as a member of its 2017 class.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com