Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel | 2017
- Birth and Death Year | 1924-1995
- Induction Year | 2017
- Profession | Attorney/Educator/Civil Rights Pioneer
- Oklahoma Connection | Fisher was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma.
- Hometown | Chickasha
In Fisher's honor, the University of Oklahoma dedicated the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden on the Norman campus. At the bottom of a bronze plaque commemorating Fisher's contribution to the state of Oklahoma, an inscription reads, "In Psalm 118, the psalmist speaks of how the stone that the builders once rejected becomes the cornerstone."
“She considered herself as training the next generation of social engineers.” - Bruce Fisher, The Norman Transcript, 2007
A graduate of Langston University, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher dreamed of being a lawyer. However, Langston did not have a law school and at that time state statutes prohibited blacks from attending white state universities. At the urging of the NAACP, twenty-one-year-old Fisher agreed to seek admission to the University of Oklahoma's law school and challenge Oklahoma's segregation laws.
Her application was denied. Not because of her academic credentials, but because of her race. Fisher filed a lawsuit, represented by a young Thurgood Marshall and later U.S. Supreme Court Justice. After losing at the county and state levels, she appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. The nation's highest tribunal ruled that Oklahoma must provide Fisher with the same opportunities for securing a legal education as it provided to other citizens.
Rather than admitting Fisher to OU, the Oklahoma Legislature created a Langston University School of Law in the Senate rooms of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Fisher filed a motion contending that the Langston law school did not afford the equal legal education as that of OU. Although the county and state courts upheld that the two were “equal,” after learning of Fisher’s intent to again appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court the Oklahoma Attorney General conceded and Fisher was admitted to the University of Oklahoma, more than three years after her initial application. Langston’s law school closed 12 days later.
Fisher graduated from the OU College of Law and earned a master’s degree in history. After practicing law in Chickasha, she joined the faculty at Langston University. She retired 30 years later as assistant vice president of academic affairs. In 1991, the University of Oklahoma awarded Fisher an honorary doctorate of humane letters.