A true pioneer woman in the legal field, Judge Alma Bell Wilson was the first woman to serve on the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the first to serve as Chief Justice.
Governor George Nigh appointed Wilson to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1982. She served as Chief Justice from 1995 to 1997.
Justice Wilson and her twin sister, Wilma, were born May 25, 1917 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. Valedictorian of her class, Alma was inspired to pursue a degree in law by her father, William, who was an abstracter and lawyer. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from Oklahoma City University in 1941, when only 2.4 percent of the nation’s lawyers were women.
Wilson founded the Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy in Oklahoma City in 1995 to provide an educational opportunity for juvenile offenders who have no alternatives in the public school system. This charter school’s focus is on individual learning and character building – these students are taught to learn and succeed by literally “seeing their own worth.”
Her achievements have been recognized through many awards and honors, including induction into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame as well as the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Each year, the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Alma Wilson Award recognizes an OBA member for significant contribution to improving the lives of Oklahoma children. She died in 1999.
Judge Wilson married Bill Wilson, a Pauls Valley attorney, in 1941. They had one daughter, Lee Anne, who is also an attorney in Oklahoma City.
Bob Burke and Louise Painter have written a biography, “The Life of Alma Bell Wilson,” which is available from the Oklahoma Heritage Association.