Four Outstanding Lawyers to be Inducted into OU Law Hall of Fame

October 5, 2011

NORMAN - Four outstanding lawyers are being honored as the inaugural inductees into the Order of the Owl, a newly established hall of fame recognizing University of Oklahoma College of Law graduates. They will be honored at a dinner scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom in Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave.

Honorees are:

  • William G. Paul, American Bar Association president from 1999 to 2000 and of counsel for Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City
  • W. DeVier Pierson, co-chair of the OU College of Law Board of Visitors and special counsel for Hunton & Williams in Washington, D.C.
  • William J. Ross, co-chair of the OU College of Law Board of Visitors and chairman of the board of Inasmuch Foundation in Oklahoma City
  • and Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher (in memoriam), a civil rights leader, OU Regent from 1992 to 1993, and the first African American to attend and graduate from OU College of Law.

“The university is proud to have the opportunity to honor graduates from the College of Law who have been outstanding stewards of our legal system and great public-spirited citizen leaders,” said OU President David L. Boren.

Initiated by OU College of Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr., the Order of the Owl pays tribute to individuals who demonstrate leadership and service through outstanding accomplishments in their legal careers.

A leader in the bar, Paul has served as president of the Oklahoma County, Oklahoma and American bar associations, the American Bar Endowment, and the National Conference of Bar Presidents, among other organizations. Paul serves as of counsel with Crowe & Dunlevy and specializes in the practice areas of alternative dispute resolution, commercial transactions, corporate governance, and trusts and estates law. Named one of “The Best Lawyers in America for Alternative Dispute Resolution,” he is a recipient of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s President’s Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2003 and is a member of the OU Alumni Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was honored by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession with its Spirit of Excellence Award for his commitment to diversity in the legal profession.

Pierson built a nationally recognized legal practice during his 30 years in Washington, D.C. His practice focuses on litigation, with concentration on the domestic and international energy fields and on international arbitration and litigation. He has held prominent positions in the executive and legislative branches of government, including as special counsel to President Lyndon B. Johnson and chief counsel to the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. He also was a member of the Task Force for the Organization of the Department of Transportation, the Trade Advisory Group of the Council on International Economic Policy, the Carter Energy Task Force, the Advisory Committee to the U.S Trade Representative, and the U.S. Delegation to the El Salvador Legislative Elections.

Ross is of counsel for Rainey Ross Rice & Binns of Oklahoma City. He also serves as chairman of the board of the Inasmuch Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City. His extensive involvement with OU includes service on the Reach for Excellence Campaign Committee, where he was instrumental in helping secure a number of major gifts. He also serves as co-chairman of the OU College of Law’s Board of Visitors and, along with Co-Chair DeVier Pierson, led a successful campaign to expand and renovate the OU Law Center. In 2000, Ross was honored with the Regents’ Alumni Award, which honors individuals who have given generously of their time and service to the university.

Fisher graduated from Langston University with honors in 1945 and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. However, Langston University did not have a law school, and state statutes prohibited blacks from attending white state universities. At the urging of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 21-year-old Fisher on Jan. 14, 1946, applied for admission to the OU law school to challenge Oklahoma’s segregation laws. After reviewing Fisher’s application, then-OU President George Lynn Cross advised her that there was no academic reason to reject her application for admission, but that Oklahoma statutes prohibited whites and blacks from attending classes together. After a lengthy struggle, led by Thurgood Marshall and requiring two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sipuel was admitted to the OU College of Law.

In August 1951, Fisher graduated from the OU College of Law. She earned a master’s degree in history from OU in 1968. After briefly practicing law in Chickasha, Fisher joined the faculty of Langston University in 1957, where she served as chair of the Department of Social Sciences. She retired in December 1987 as assistant vice president for academic affairs.

In 1981, the Smithsonian Institution designated her as one of the 150 outstanding Black Women Who Have Had the Most Impact on the Course of American History. In 1991, OU honored her with an Honorary Doctorate, and in 1992, she was appointed to the OU Board of Regents.

After Fisher died in 1995, OU dedicated the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden on the Norman campus in her honor.

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