Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma. She applied for admission into the University of Oklahoma law school in order to challenge the state's segregation laws and to become a lawyer.
Fisher’s admission to the OU College of Law 70 years ago was preceded by a three-year legal battle. At the time of her application to OU’s law school in January 1946, Oklahoma schools were segregated. Despite the merit of her academic credentials, Fisher’s application was rejected because of her race.
With the support of civic leaders from across the state, Fisher filed a lawsuit in Cleveland County District Court. This launched a three-year fight through the justice system, ultimately reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in her favor. Fisher was finally admitted to the OU College of Law on June 18, 1949. Her landmark case laid the groundwork for the elimination of segregation in public education nationwide.
Over 1,000 university students rally in 1948 to support Fisher.
After graduating from the OU College of Law in 1951, Fisher practiced law in Chickasha and later joined the faculty at Langston University. She retired 30 years later as assistant vice president of academic affairs. In 1991, OU awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters, and the following year, she was appointed to the OU Board of Regents – the very group that once rejected her.
Fisher passed away Oct. 18, 1995, at the age of 71. In her honor, the university dedicated the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden on the Norman campus. The garden’s fountain is made from rocks from all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
At the bottom of the plaque commemorating Fisher's contributions, an inscription reads, “In Psalm 118, the psalmist speaks of how the stone that the builders once rejected becomes the cornerstone.”
Recent efforts to honor also include Fisher's legacy include the establishment of the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Fund, one of the highest academic awards at OU Law and a perminant display in Monnet Hall in her memory.
Explore more of Fisher's fight for civil rights and the legacy she's left behind through the University of Oklahoma College of Law's photo essay.