Published February 15, 2016
PHOENIX — Today, the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) pays homage to one of our greatest members, Professor G. William Rice, who walked on early yesterday morning.
Professor Rice was a member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and tenured Associate Professor at the University of Tulsa College of Law, where he taught Indian law for 21 years and co-directed the Native American Law Center since 2004.
“Professor Rice was one of the greatest Indian lawyers ever,” said NNABA President Linda Benally. “We have all stood on his shoulders for decades. We will stand on them forever.”
His accolades and honors are too numerous to mention; they include:
- Arguing Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Sac and Fox Nation before the U.S. Supreme Court (as one of only 13 Indian lawyers to ever do so), and winning that seminal Indian tax case;
- Being elected to serve his people as Assistant Chief for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians;
- Serving as the Chief Justice of the Citizen Band of Potawatomi Nation Supreme Court for 30 years; and
- Contributing to the two latest revisions of Felix Cohen’s “Handbook of Federal Indian Law.”
“Bill helped lay the foundation in the late 1970’s for the resurrection of tribal courts in Oklahoma. He helped implement modern tribal codes that have been utilized and copied throughout Oklahoma and elsewhere,” said Greg Bigler (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), Professor Rice’s former law partner and close friend. “He was also a caring mentor to countless Indian lawyers and students, and tribal leaders.”
Professor Rice held teaching positions at Cornell Law School, University of North Dakota School of Law, University of Oklahoma, and Antioch School of Law’s Indian Paralegal Program. While at North Dakota, he was the founding Director of the Northern Plains Tribal Judicial Training Institute.
Professor Rice received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1978, and B.A. in Chemistry from Phillips University in 1973. He attended the M.S. Program for Radiological Safety and Control from Lowell Technological Institute in Massachusetts, from 1973 to 1975.
“His was a wonderful adventure of life,” continued Bigler. “I do not believe he regretted any of the paths that he took.”
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