Retired Oklahoma Chief Supreme Court Justice Steven W. Taylor, of McAlester, first worked with Gov. Kevin Stitt in November after he asked Taylor to join the transition team to oversee the then-incoming governor's Public Safety Policy Committee.

The governor must have liked the results, because Stitt appointed Taylor on Wednesday to become the newest member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Taylor must appear before the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate must still vote on his appointment, but no major roadblocks are anticipated. If Taylor's appointment is approved by the Senate as expected, he's set to begin serving a 9-year term on May 17.

"I appreciate the governor's confidence in me and I will do my very best to make a difference for public service," Taylor said Wednesday.

Stitt spoke of the new appointee in a statement issued by the governor's office.

"Chief Justice Taylor has been a dedicated public servant for the people of Oklahoma his entire career," Stitt said. "He has a passion for education and a love for our great state. He will be an impactful addition to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education as we work to move our state forward."

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is a constitutional body that oversees the state's higher education system. Regents oversee virtually everything to do with higher education in Oklahoma.

While funding for higher education is allocated by the state Legislature, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education determines how the funds are allocated between 25 colleges and universities in the state. Although higher educational facilities in the state are overseen by their own Board of Regents, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education coordinates with all of them.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education also oversees each university's academic degree policies, tuition and other aspects of the universities' policies.

Before retiring from the judiciary, Taylor served on the Oklahoma State Supreme Court from 2004 until 2016, and served as chief justice for two years from 2011 to 2013.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry appointed Taylor to the Supreme Court not long after Taylor presided over the state trial of Oklahoma City bombing defendant Terry Nichols, after the trial was moved to the Pittsburg County Courthouse in McAlester due to a change of venue.

Taylor presided over the Oklahoma City bombing trial while serving as District 18 District Judge for Pittsburg and McIntosh counties.

Prior to serving as district judge, Taylor served as associate district judge for Pittsburg County after then-Gov. George Nigh appointed him to the post in 1984. Taylor had previously served as a McAlester city councilor and as mayor prior to serving as judge.

Taylor is the only individual to have received the highest alumni awards granted by both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

Before he practiced law in McAlester, Taylor joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served as chief defense counsel and as a prosecutor. He was promoted to major in 1977, which won him recognition as the youngest judge in the U.S. armed forces.

More recently, Taylor was appointed to serve on the McAlester Regional Health Center Trust Authority. He also heads the Puterbaugh Foundation and is on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He has also been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Taylor is now looking forward to serving on the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, along with his many other projects. He is especially pleased to be serving in the field of higher education.

"This is something I'm really interested in doing," Taylor said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

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