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Civil Rights Crusader Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Named U. of Oklahoma Regent

April 28, 1992 GMT

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, whose landmark lawsuit in 1946 led to the desegregation of the University of Oklahoma, was named Monday to the university’s governing body.

″This truly is a historic and happy day,″ she said. ″This is the day that completes a 45-year cycle.″

Ms. Fisher, 66, an attorney and educator, was the first black admitted to the school’s law school in 1949 after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thurgood Marshall, who later became a Supreme Court justice, represented her.

Gov. David Walters made Ms. Fisher’s appointment to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in a ceremony outside Monnet Hall, the university’s old law school where Ms. Fisher first was refused admission.

″With Ms. Fisher’s appointment, we celebrate the progress made from the bigotry of the past and rededicate ourselves to eliminating all remaining vestiges of racism in our society,″ the governor said.

Walters also appointed Melvin Hall, a Norman attorney, to the board. Hall also is black.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 1948, declaring that Ms. Fisher was ″entitled to secure a legal education offered by a state institution.″

The state tried to limit her to separate classes in Oklahoma City, prompting Marshall to appeal.

In 1949, the Legislature amended segregation statutes to allow blacks to enroll for graduate study. During the summer of that year, Ms. Fisher was admitted to the college of law.

After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing states’ separate-but-equal doctrines, regents announced in 1955 that blacks would be accepted in all state colleges. The decision is considered a turning point in U.S. civil rights reform.

Last year, Ms. Fisher received an honorary doctorate degree from the university, one of four people to be so honored.