Former State Senator Gene Stipe Dead at 85 - News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

Former State Senator Gene Stipe Dead at 85

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Gene Stipe Gene Stipe
McALESTER, Oklahoma -

Former Oklahoma State Senator Gene Stipe died peacefully Saturday evening following a long illness. His wife, Mary, daughter, Beth, and other family members were by his side at the family home in McAlester. He was 85.

Known as the "Dean of the Senate," Stipe will forever hold the distinction of the longest service in the Oklahoma Legislature at 53 years. His tenure for more than half of the time Oklahoma has been a state is legendary.

In 1948, at the age of 21, he was elected to the House of Representatives and served through 1954. In 1956, Stipe was elected to the State Senate, where he served until 2003. For many of those years, he served as chairman of the Senate Roads and Highways Committee, later known as the Transportation Committee, where he oversaw expansion and improvement of the state's highway system.

A life-long Democrat, Stipe will best be remembered for his impassioned and undying support for Oklahoma's poor and working men and women. Throughout his service, those in need would gather to meet the senator at his McAlester office on Saturday mornings. He would pay the bills of the penniless, find jobs for the jobless, and advocate for the downtrodden.

His vast influence turned McAlester into a hub of political and economic activity. Through his support of his entire Senate district, Stipe brought home millions of dollars of funding for roads and highways that resulted in economic development and thousands of jobs.

The people of the district responded by electing him 17 times.

Former Governor George Nigh, also a native of Pittsburg County, remembered Stipe.

"In 1948, a coal miner's son, while living in the Norman fire station and attending law school at the University of Oklahoma, was elected as the youngest member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He went on to become the longest serving state legislator in US History," Nigh recalled. "He truly believed in public service. He always encouraged me to also be involved. Thanks, Gene."

Former Oklahoma State Senate President Pro Tempore Robert V. Cullison said, "Gene was my mentor, my friend and someone I deeply admired and respected. I always valued his wisdom and his deep love for the State Senate. I will miss him."

Senior Federal Judge Lee R. West of the Western District of Oklahoma honored Stipe's public service.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of Gene Stipe's passing. He was an Oklahoma original. In his more than half century of public service, he helped ensure that each generation of Oklahomans was healthier, better educated, and more secure than the generation that preceded it. It is unlikely that anyone will ever exceed his contributions," West said.

In addition to his service to the people, Stipe was a renowned defense attorney and entrepreneur. He owned radio stations, newspapers, convenience stores and multiple oil and gas holdings.

Stipe was born on October 21, 1926 in Blanco, in Pittsburg County, where his father was a miner and farm worker.

Stipe served in the United States Navy in World War II and was commissioned as an ensign. He was honorably discharged at the end of his military service.

Funeral services, under the direction of Brumley-Mills Funeral Home, will be held at the First Baptist Church of McAlester at a date and time to be announced later.

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