The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
STIPE, EUGENE EDWARD (1926-2012).
Born on October 21, 1926, in Blanco, Oklahoma, Eugene Edward “Gene” Stipe still is the longest-serving Oklahoma state senator at forty-seven years, with fifty-three years overall in the state legislature. He was raised on Peaceable Mountain in Pittsburg County by Jacob Stipe, a coal miner and farmer, and his wife Eva. The family struggled after Eva Stipe died when he was young. The father and four dealt with the Great Depression. Gene Stipe joined the U.S. Navy after high school and served during World War II. He earned college credits while attending officer’s training.
In 1948, while studying at the University of Oklahoma law school, Stipe ran for the Oklahoma House of Representatives and was elected Pittsburg County’s representative. At the time, he was twenty-one, the youngest person elected to the legislature. In 1954 he ran against Kirksey Nix for a seat in the Oklahoma Senate but lost. Nix then won a race to become a member of the Oklahoma Court of Appeals. Stipe won the Senate seat in a 1956 special election. He continued in the Senate for forty-eight years. He opened his law offices in McAlester every Saturday morning for his constituents, many looking for help or job placement.
In 1978 he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate, coming in third in the Democratic primary behind David Boren and Ed Edmondson. Throughout his long career, Stipe wielded tremendous power and was known for his ability to filibuster. In the 1970s another legislator called Stipe “the Prince of Darkness” and the epithet was used by many of his critics and jokingly by his friends throughout the years.
Stipe had a reputation as an excellent trial lawyer and took the lead in some important Oklahoma court cases. In 1970 Gene Stipe and Denzil Garrison represented Randall Herrod, a young Muscogee (Creek) Marine in the Vietnam War, who was accused of murdering sixteen women and children in a small Vietnam village. They did this work pro bono and successfully attained a not-guilty verdict. In the 1970 Mullendore murder case Stipe and a team of lawyers sued an insurance company for claiming that E. C. Mullendore III had committed suicide, and therefore they did not have to pay out on his life insurance policy. The judgment against the company awarded the Mullendore family $8 million, the largest life insurance award ever made in the United States.
While serving in the Oklahoma Senate, Stipe successfully staved off federal indictments. They included charges in 1968 for tax evasion, in 1979 for financial wrongdoing, and in 1980 for conspiracy, fraud, and extortion. In 2003 he resigned from the Senate and pled guilty to federal campaign violations and perjury.
Gene Stipe’s last years were difficult. In 2002 his wife since 1949, Agnes Minter, died. They had raised one daughter, Mary Elizabeth. In December 2003 he married Mary Bea Thetford. The federal government again indicted him in 2007 on allegations that he and his brother used their positions to get a large sum of state money for a dog food plant to be built on Stipe’s property. He was found incompetent to go through a court case. Gene Stipe passed away on July 21, 2012.
Denzil Garrison, Honor Restored (Oklahoma City: Tate Publishing, 2006).
Ralph Marsh, with Gene Stipe, State Senator Gene Stipe’s A Gathering of Heroes (Heavener, Okla.: Spring Mountain, 2000).
Sean Murphy, “Storied Politician Gene Stipe Dies at 85,” McAlester (Oklahoma) News, 22 July 2012.
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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Stipe, Eugene Edward,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ST065.
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