By Gary Copeland
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Julian J. Rothbaum died in Tulsa on September 26, a few days short of his 90th birthday.
The Carl Albert Center always enjoyed a special relationship with Julian. He provided support and encouragement from the beginning and remained a frequent advocate for our programs. His political observations gave all of us a different kind of political intelligence than is normally found in a university setting. His stories inevitably combined humor and wisdom.
But the cornerstone of the Center's relationship with Julian has been the Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government. Endowed in 1981 by Julian's late wife, Irene Rothbaum, and their son, Joel Jankowsky, the Rothbaum Lectureship is devoted to values that were reflected in Julian's own life: the importance of the relationship between education and public service in a representative democracy, and the importance of participation by private citizens in public affairs. The lecturers of this biennial series have been a who's who of political science and have made important contributions to our understanding of representative government.
Julian was born on October 3, 1913 and grew up in rural Pittsburgh County in Oklahoma. He completed his education at the University of Oklahoma, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1936 and his law degree in 1938. He served as student body president in 1936.
Julian served four years as an Army artillery officer in the United States during World War II. After the war, he moved to Tulsa in 1946 to serve as the first director of the newly created Tulsa Federal Housing Administration.
In the early 1950s, he owned and operated the Julian J. Rothbaum Mortgage Banking Company, and he also served as president of the Oklahoma Mortgage Bankers Association in 1953.
Julian became associated with Francis Oil & Gas, Inc. of Tulsa during the late 1950s, eventually serving as chairman of the board. He held that position the rest of his life.
More important than Julian's resume is how he lived his life. Never a holder of elected office himself, Julian was a model private citizen and a friend and confidant to those in public office. He served as treasurer for Carl Albert's first campaign for Congress, and they remained lifelong friends.
Julian also provided support to various political leaders throughout his life. His advice and insight were widely sought and highly valued. One statewide elected official recently shared his own story about being on the fence, trying to decide whether to make a particular race in the face of long odds. Still torn after listening to many friends, he turned to Julian who simply told him, "You can't win if you don't run." All the advice the candidate had been given paled in comparison to this observation. Julian combined the obvious with a deeper sentiment, and he delivered it at just the right time.
Julianwas appointed twice as an OU regent, serving from 1959 to 1966 and from 1979 to 1986. While serving on the board, he was known for writing hundreds of personal letters of thanks, congratulations, or encouragement to students and faculty. He said it was his way of keeping the large university experience from becoming too impersonal. He also served as a state regent for higher education in 1986-87, and he was the Special Advisor on Higher Education to Governor David Walters in the early 1990s.
Rothbaum was a model citizen. He felt and
acted upon a sense of responsibility to his community and was an
especially good friend to education. With
his late wife, Irene, he supported virtually every area of life at the
University of Oklahoma. Among their many contributions to the university
In recognition of Julian's professional accomplishments, his numerous contributions to institutions of higher learning, and his philanthropic endeavors, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by OU in 1993.
Julian's life is a model for those who struggle to understand their responsibilities as citizens and for those who seek to inspire others in their civic efforts. He provided encouragement by building institutions and programs, and also by being a friend to countless individuals he encountered every day of his life.