From rural Oklahoma to the Oklahoma Supreme Court
Yvonne Kauger has been a justice on Oklahoma’s Supreme Court since 1984, when Governor George Nigh appointed her as the second woman to the bench. Growing up on Centennial Farm in Colony, the oldest town in Western Oklahoma, Kauger picked cotton, drove a tractor and played on the girls’ basketball team. A longshot artist on the basketball court, the day she was appointed to the highest court in the state, Kauger called her father and proclaimed “Daddy, I can still hit the long shot!”
Kauger was valedictorian of Colony High School and knew from early on that she wanted to be a lawyer. A scholarship from Southwestern Oklahoma State University made her undergraduate choice an easy decision.
She roomed with her cousin, Frances Stamper Summers, at SWOSU and was a member of the Delta Zeta sorority. “There was no house or meeting room then. We met inside on the steps of Stewart Hall.” Subsequently, Kauger was named National Delta Zeta of the year in 1988.
Kauger majored in biology with a minor in chemistry and English. “I loved the faculty. Studying both English and the sciences, I had many wonderful professors. Gladys Bellamy was the authority on Mark Twain and my chemistry professor, Donald Hamm, became a life-long friend and was instrumental in my being inducted into the SWOSU Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.”
She graduated from SWOSU in three years and was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. She served her year of internship at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City and became a certified medical technologist (MT. ASCP).
Following her internship at St. Anthony Hospital, Kauger spent seven and a half years as a medical technologist at Medical Arts Lab. She worked during the day and went to law school at night. Kauger graduated first in her law school class from Oklahoma City University.
She spent two and a half years in private practice with the law firm of Rogers, Travis and Jordan. In 1972, Justice Ralph B. Hodges hired her as the first woman staff lawyer at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Kauger, who has received the Governors Arts Award twice, was a 2021 inductee into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She has had significant impact on her community and nurtures her family’s strong connections in Washita County. A proud adopted member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, she counts among her biggest accomplishments the founding of Red Earth and the Sovereignty Symposium, securing the History Center building and chairing the building and arts committees for the Oklahoma Judicial Center, and the Colony renaissance. However, she views her legacy as her daughter Jonna and her practically perfect grandsons, Jay and Winston.
In recent years, Kauger has worked alongside town leaders and community members to tell the story of Colony, population of just 125. Colony’s mayor, Lonnie Yearwood received the Governor’s Arts Award this year. Kauger has been instrumental in the creation of the Colony Museum, which opened in September 2021, and wants the town to become a destination for the arts and artists. View the website at colony.ok.com.
Kauger’s work and commitment to her community has had a lasting impact on her hometown and the entire state of Oklahoma. “You don’t have to be from a big town or go to an ivy league university to be successful,” Kauger said. “You can brighten the corner where you are.”