Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert has been elected by his fellow justices to become the next chief justice of the state’s highest court. Justice John Reif will serve as vice chief justice.
The term, which begins Jan. 1, 2013, will make Oklahoma history because Justice Colbert is the first African-American to become chief justice. He also holds the distinction of being the first African-American vice chief justice and also the first African-American on the court. He was originally appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Brad Henry in October 2004. Justice Colbert was appointed by Gov. Frank Keating to serve as a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals in 2000 and served until 2004.
Justice Colbert was born in Oklahoma City and graduated from Sapulpa High School. He attended Eastern Oklahoma State College and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State University in 1973. He was an All-American track and field competitor in college. He served in the U.S. Army and received an honorable discharge in 1975. He then earned a Master of Education degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1976 and taught in the Chicago public schools.
He received his Juris Doctorate from the OU College of Law in 1982, was assistant dean at Marquette University Law School from 1982-1984 and then assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County from 1984-1986. He maintained a private law practice in Oklahoma City from 1986-2000.
Formal swearing in ceremonies for Chief Justice Colbert and Vice Chief Justice Reif will be Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at the State Capitol, Second Floor, at 1:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. The public is invited to attend.