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ADA – All legacies begin with someone and for the Hargraves at East Central University it was Justice Rudolph Hargrave.

Rudolph Hargrave, Retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday at the age of 89. The thoughts of the ECU community toward the elder Hargrave, is certain to have far-reaching effects for years to come.

In a transcript interview with Rudolph Hargrave during the 2011 Lou Watkins Lecture by political science student Joe Trail and Dr. Christine Pappas, department coordinator of the political science and legal studies. Just a year after his retirement, he talked about how he met his wife Madeline and how ECU was a springboard toward his law career.

“If East Central had a law school, I never would have left East Central. I loved it there. I had a job putting up the lights down at the football field. Because somebody would shoot them out if we didn’t. I would go down on Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon if it was a night game,” Rudolph said. “I turned on the P.A. system one time and turned it up just as loud as it would go and I sang to the girls in Knight Hall. I immediately, got called to the President’s office and was told not to do that anymore. I don’t know if they didn’t like my singing or just didn’t like what I was doing.”

He eventually met his future wife, Madeline (Shipley), during her first year that she was enrolled at the university.

Madeline graduated from ECU in 1949, and Rudolph, after earning about 90 hours of credit at ECU, obtained his degree from the University of Oklahoma that same year.

Rudolph took the bar exam, but before he got the results, the pair were married on faith that same year.

“That’s easy to remember. I’ve been a lawyer 62 years and I’ve been married 62 years,” Rudolph said in 2011. “It was a good year.”

The couple made their home in Wewoka where they chose to raise their three children Cindy, John and Jana (all ECU alums).

He began his private practice of law in Wewoka, Oklahoma until 1964. Afterward he became the County Judge for Seminole County, Oklahoma from 1964 to 1967. From 1967-1969, Rudolph was Seminole County Superior Court Judge and was Seminole County District Judge from 1969-1978.  In 1978 he was appointed by Gov. David Boren to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and in January 1989 was elected to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

In 1989, Hargrave delivered the commencement address at ECU where he was named ECU’s Distinguished Alumnus. Also, Justice Hargrave was also honored by the namesake "Hargrave Prize" award, first given in 2013 as an annual recognition of the best three faculty papers of the Sovereignty Symposium.

Most recently, a moot courtroom in the new ECU Chickasaw Business and Conference Center, which opened in August of 2013, was named in honor of Justice Hargrave after overwhelming support from family and friends. The courtroom benefits legal studies and criminal justice majors.

In honor and memory of Justice Rudolph Hargrave, the family has requested that donations be made to the Madeline Hargrave Centennial Endowment at the ECU Foundation in lieu of flowers.


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