By Ken Miller
OKLAHOMA CITY —
A powerful former state lawmaker whose more than half-century in the state Legislature ended in scandal was one of the most notable Oklahomans to die during 2012.
Eugene “Gene” Stipe, 85, died July 21 at his home in McAlester, nine years after he resigned from the state Senate shortly before he pleaded guilty to federal campaign violation and perjury charges in 2003. Stipe admitted to illegally funneling campaign contributions to the failed 1998 congressional campaign of fellow Democrat Walt Roberts.
Stipe, a Democrat, was given probation and fined more than $735,000.
Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who as lieutenant governor was president of the state Senate when Stipe resigned, called him “a legend in Oklahoma politics.”
He was called “a man of the people” by former Gov. George Nigh and was a longtime advocate of increased funding for education and highways.
“He did more for the poor people of Oklahoma than anyone I know,” former state Treasurer Leo Winters, a longtime friend, once told The Associated Press.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Anthony Shadid, an Oklahoma City native, also died during the year. Shadid, 43, collapsed and died of an apparent asthma attack on Feb. 16 in Syria, where he was reporting for The New York Times.
Associated Press Senior Managing Editor John Daniszewski, who worked with Shadid in Baghdad during the U.S. invasion in 2003, called him “a brilliant colleague.
“He was calm under fire and quietly daring, the most admired of his generation of foreign correspondents,” Daniszewski said.
Others who died during the year include state Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, former Rep. Abraham “Abe” Deutschendorf, D-Lawton, Oklahoma Commission for Human Services member Jay Dee Chase, and former Guthrie Mayor Jon Gumerson.
The sports world lost Hollis native Darrell Royal, the legendary coach of University of Oklahoma arch-rival Texas. Royal was an All-American at OU where he played quarterback, defensive back and punted. He remains the Sooners’ career leader in interceptions and was praised by current OU athletic director Joe Castiglione.
“We’ve truly lost an icon,” Castiglione said. “A champion, an innovator and an educator.”
Other Oklahomans from the sports world who died during the year include former Oral Roberts University basketball coach Ken Trickey, LPGA rules official Doug Brecht, Nolan “Notes” Richardson III, the son of former Tulsa basketball coach Nolan Richardson, former Oklahoma State football coach Jim Stanley and Ashley Harris, the wife of and former Oklahoma football standout Tommie Harris.
Retired meteorologist Don Woods, whose weather cartoon character, “Gusty,” drawn in the 1950s for KTUL in Tulsa and became the official cartoon character of the state of Oklahoma in 2005, died in June at age 84.
Oklahomans in the entertainment industry who died during the year include actor John Ingle, perhaps best known for his role as Edward Quartermaine on the on the daytime drama “General Hospital” died in Los Angeles. And Gilbert LaPiere, the stepfather of Oscar- and Grammy winning singer and actor Cher died in Oklahoma City, where he had lived since 1966.
Longtime news photographer Jerry Laizure of The Norman Transcript died in December while former Stillwater NewsPress publisher, L.F. “Chub” Bellatti, who also started two radio stations in Stillwater and served as commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety died in October.