Alma Wilson
Alma Bell Wilson.jpg
Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court
In office
February 17, 1982 – July 27, 1999
Appointed byGeorge Nigh
Preceded byBen T. Williams
Succeeded byJames R. Winchester
Personal details
Alma Dorothy Bell

(1917-05-25)May 25, 1917
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
DiedJuly 27, 1999(1999-07-27) (aged 82)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
William Allan Wilson
(m. 1948)
Occupationattorney, judge
Known forFirst woman justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court

Alma Bell Wilson (May 25, 1917 – July 27, 1999) was an Oklahoma attorney who was appointed as the second female district judge in the state of Oklahoma in 1975. In 1982, she was elevated as the first woman to serve on the Oklahoma Supreme Court and between 1995 and 1997 was the first woman chief justice. Wilson was honored by many awards in her lifetime including induction into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and was named Appellate Judge of the Year in both 1986 and 1989.

Early life

Alma Bell and her twin sister Wilma were born on May 25, 1917 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma to Anna and William R. Bell.[1] From age eight, Bell had decided to become a lawyer and after graduating as valedictorian of the class of 1935 from Pauls Valley High School,[2] she attended Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, completing her BA degree. Bell then attended Oklahoma City University where she obtained her Bachelor of Laws[3][4] before enrolling at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She was one of six women in a class of 100 students, who graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1941.[2]


After law school, Bell returned to Pauls Valley and began her practice as a tax attorney. After World War II ended, she met a veteran, who was also a practicing attorney in Pauls Valley. She and Bill Wilson married in 1948 and had their daughter Lee Ann in 1951. After taking a few years to raise Lee Ann and earn her pilot's license, Wilson returned to the court in 1960 with an eye to pursuing a judgeship.[2] Her first appointment was as a municipal judge in Pauls Valley, but she also continued to practice law in both Oklahoma City and Pauls Valley.[4]

In 1969, when the Oklahoma Court System was reorganized and both county judges and justices of the peace were abolished in favor of a district trial system, Wilson was appointed as the Special Judge in charge of minor cases for Garvin County.[5] In 1975, she was appointed as the second woman District Judge in the state, when Governor David Boren appointed her to serve for the 21st District, encompassing Cleveland, Garvin, and McClain Counties. Judge Margaret Lamm McCalister, of Tulsa County was the first female district judge and simultaneously with Wilson's appointment, Judge Patricia M. Hoebel was appointed for District 15, which included Pawnee and part of Tulsa Counties.[6] Wilson also served on the Court of Tax Review for six years and was an appointee by the governor to the Commission on the Status of Women.[3]

Wilson was appointed by Governor George Nigh in 1982 as the first woman justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, becoming the first female chief justice in the state in 1995.[2] She served until 1997 as chief justice[1] and also served the presiding judge of the Appellate jurisdiction of the judiciary.[4] Though she was involved in many notable cases, like the Southwestern Bell rate refund case, legislative appropriations and school funding,[3] one of Wilson's special interests was juvenile justice. In 1998, she co-founded the Seeworth Preparatory Academy in Oklahoma City to help 6th- through 9th-graders, overcome issues like poverty or dysfunctional family situations which impact children's ability to learn.[2] Wilson died after a short illness at her home in Oklahoma City, on July 27, 1999.[1]


Wilson received numerous awards and honors both during her lifetime and posthumously. In 1974, she received the Guy Brown Award to recognize outstanding alumni from the University of Oklahoma and the following year inducted into the OU Hall of Fame.[4] She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1983 for her service as president of the Oklahoma Association of Women Lawyers, as well as her appointment to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.[7] Wilson was recognized with the Pioneer Woman award in 1985[4] and named Appellate Judge of the Year in both 1986 and 1989.[1] In 1994, she was named Woman of the Year and in 1996 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.[4] The Oklahoma Bar Association annually awards the Alma Bell Wilson citation to bar members who have made contributions to improve children's lives.[8] In 2001, Bob Burke and Louise Painter published Justice Served: The Life of Alma Bell Wilson, the biography of Wilson's life.[9]

See also




  • Hall, Dennie (December 30, 2001). "Pauls Valley native overturns history". NewsOK. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • Ross, Tamie (July 11, 1999). "Justice Served Alma Wilson Not Afraid to Fight, Defend". NewsOK. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • Wilson, Linda D. (2009). "Wilson, Alma Bell". Oklahoma History. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • "Alma Wilson, state high court justice, dies". The Tulsa World. Tulsa, Oklahoma. July 28, 1999. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • "County Judges, Peace Justices are Outlawed". The Daily Ardmoreite. Ardmore, Oklahoma. January 12, 1969. Retrieved 13 July 2016 – via open access
  • "Hall of Fame Women Chosen For Induction". NewsOK. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. October 16, 1983. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • "High Court Justice Alma Wilson Dies". NewsOK. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. July 28, 1999. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • "Individuals for Whom Awards are Named". OK Bar. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Bar Association. 2013. Archived from the original on 21 June 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  • "Oklahoma News Briefs: Oklahoma City". Lawton, Oklahoma: The Lawton Constitution. June 20, 1975. Retrieved 13 July 2016 – via open access