Former state Sen. Gene Stipe dead at 85
BY STAFF REPORTS
Saturday, July 21, 2012
7/21/12 at 11:36 PM
McALESTER — Gene Stipe, a legendary state senator and noted trial lawyer who became the longest-serving legislator in Oklahoma history but whose legacy was later tarnished by a federal conviction, died Saturday. He was 85.
Services are pending with Brumley-Mills Funeral Home in McAlester.
Stipe had battled various health problems for the last decade.
Born Oct. 21, 1926, in Blanco, south of McAlester, Gene Stipe grew up during the Depression.
Graduating from Savanna High School at age 16, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1944, and served in World War II.
After the war, he paid his way through the University of Oklahoma law school by working nights as a full-time firefighter.
Stipe won his first election at age 21 in July 1948, beating C. Plowboy Edwards by a nearly 2-to-1 margin to take a seat in the state House of Representatives. He left the House after six years to run for the State Senate but was trounced by the incumbent, Kirksey Nix. When Nix won a judicial post in 1956, Stipe prevailed in a special election for the Senate seat he would hold for the next 45 years.
Known as the dean of state lawmakers, Stipe had little competition for the unofficial title during his last two decades. By the time he left in 2003, he had won more than 25 elections and served 53 years in the Oklahoma Legislature — a record that still stands.
Stipe’s political career was derailed by a federal investigation into allegations that he funneled illegal money into the unsuccessful 1998 congressional campaign of his one-time political protegee Walt Roberts.
Pleading guilty for both his leading role in the scheme and lying to federal investigators about his involvement, Stipe resigned from the state Senate in 2003 and gave up his law license.
His health failing, the then-77-year-old was sentenced to six months of home detention, five years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. He was also fined $735,567 — the maximum allowed and three times the amount of money that Stipe admitted providing in illegal campaign money.
In 2007, Stipe was again indicted, this time with his brother Francis Stipe, by a federal grand jury as part of an investigation into political corruption in southeastern Oklahoma.
But Stipe, who had numerous health problems over the last decade of his life, including multiple brain surgeries, was twice found mentally incompetent to face trial.
Former state Sen. Gene Stipe