The Honorable Lee R. West, Senior U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, will be named the recipient of the Rogers State University Constitution Award at a ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Claremore Expo Center, 400 Veterans Parkway.
Each fall since 1987, RSU has presented the Constitution Award to an Oklahoman who has demonstrated a strong commitment to the principles of the Constitution through his or her life’s work.
“We are proud and honored to present Judge West with this distinguished award,” said RSU President Joe Wiley. “As a lifelong public servant, Judge West has diligently guarded the principles of the U.S. Constitution and has advanced the well-being of the state of Oklahoma through his service as a federal judge.”
Past recipients of the RSU Constitution Award include Lyle Boren, Fred Daugherty, Ross Swimmer, Carl Albert, William J. Holloway, Jr., Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Henry Bellmon, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, Patience Latting, Marian P. Opala, David Boren, Hannah Diggs Atkins, William J. Crowe, Jr., James O. Ellison, Alex Adwan, Thomas R. Brett, G.T. Blankenship, Charles Ford, Penny Williams and Gov. George Nigh.
Judge West was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.
Born in Clayton, Okla., in 1929, he graduated from High School in Antlers, Okla., in 1948. He received a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Oklahoma in 1952. He served 28 months of active duty in Japan and Korea, achieving the rank of captain.
He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma in 1956 and was selected by the faculty as the Outstanding Graduate of his law school class and served as editor of the Oklahoma Law Review and president of the Law School Student Body.
He was admitted to the Oklahoma State Bar in 1956 and engaged in private practice in Ada, Okla., until 1961 when he became a member of the faculty at the University Of Oklahoma College Of Law where he taught torts, damages, evidence, trial practice and workmen’s compensation. During 1962-1963 he was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Law teaching at Harvard Law School where he received an LLM degree. From 1963- 1965, he was again in private practice in Ada.
In 1965, Judge West was appointed by Governor Bellmon to serve as District Judge for the 22nd Judicial District of Oklahoma, serving also as Special Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals until 1973. In 1966 he graduated from The National College of State Trial Judges. He was appointed by President Nixon to be a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board, Washington, D.C., in 1973 and was designated Acting Chairman by President Carter on May 1, 1977. He was in private practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma from 1978 until his appointment to the Federal Bench.
Judge West served as Chief Judge of the Western District of Oklahoma from 1993 until he took senior status in 1994. Since that time he has remained active hearing cases at both the District and Circuit level and serving as a settlement judge in complex and protracted cases throughout the 10th Circuit.
He has been married to Mary Ann Ellis of Antlers for more than 50 years and the couple has two children, the Honorable Kim West, a U. S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and Jennifer West of Tulsa. They also have one granddaughter, Mary Ellis Passey, who is presently a student at the University of Indiana.
His biography, Law and Laughter, The Life of Lee West, co-authored by Bob Burke and Honorable David L. Russell, was published by the Oklahoma Heritage Association in 2002 as part of its Oklahoma Trackmaker Series.
For more information about the RSU Constitution Award and ceremony, call (918) 343-7773.