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Oklahoma Legal Oral History

Interviews with Oklahoma Legal Professionals


Robert Gifford received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1996. He was a Judge Advocate General for the United States Army before becoming an Assistant U.S. Attorney. He is an adjunct professor at the Army JAG School. He assisted with the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay where he would review cases and give his opinion as to whether or not there was sufficient legal evidence to proceed and whether or not the charges were appropriate.

If a researcher wishes to use the information gathered in this interview for uses other than educational or scholarly uses, they may do so without further permission from the interview subject. If used for publications or presentation, please notify Mr. Gifford in a reasonable period prior to publication or discussion.


Below is a short selection of the interview with Robert Gifford. You can listen to the full interview by visiting the Chickasaw Nation Law Library at Oklahoma City University School of Law.


Below is an excerpt from Mr. Gifford's interview and a link to download the full transcript.

RG: I just took the Oklahoma Bar Exam. You know after, after finishing law school and glad that was over, and you know took the bar exam, knock on wood I passed on the first time and you know, even though I finished law school it did not really feel like I finished until I passed the bar. And, you know even though you go through the graduation ceremony, it’s a wonderful feeling, I still say your true graduation is when you know that you’re done. And you’re not done, granted people take their law degree and go into other areas and then they feel done, but if you are going to continue on into the law you have to be a member of the bar. And at that point, I already knew where I was headed but it was all contingent on me passing the bar.

KEK: And, where were you headed?

RG: Well, my first foray into the law was pre-bar exam. I worked for the, my very first legal job ever was I worked for the Cherokee Nation which is in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It is headquartered in their Cherokee courthouse which is also their capital building. Very historic, beautiful building and there were about four or five of us and I’m a member of the Cherokee Nation and so I had a deep interest in it. And there were five of us that were hired, that we all worked together and the chief then was Chief Wilma Mankiller and I got to meet her. She was just a wonderful woman, fascinating, one of the most powerful women that’s probably ever walked in the state of Oklahoma and had a bigger influence nationally than most people may not even recognize. My supervisor at the time, his name was Chad Smith. Chad Smith is now Chief Smith of the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee Nation as you may know is the second largest Indian tribe in the United States, probably one of the most developed tribes as far as business-wise, economically, and as far as programs for women, infants, and children through their gaming operations, through their mental, physical health programs, their school program. So, working for the Cherokee Nation was almost like working in a whole other state. Part of that program, working for the Cherokee Nation, is that you had to go through a several week Cherokee legal history where you got in to the in-depth studying of Indian law which I took in law school later, but I was so far ahead of the game. Chief Smith was an incredible instructor, back then he was not even contemplating running and I remember at the end of the year when I was headed back to school, I had asked him if he had ever considered running for the, for chief of the Cherokee Nation and he kind of laughed and he said, “You know, it’s funny you asked, it has crossed my mind.” And, lo and behold several years later he’s the chief of the Cherokee Nation and uh, while I was in law school that tie there to the Cherokee Nation sparked an interest in American Indian Law, which ties into a lot of what I do now in my civilian job. I finished law school and held a lot of legal jobs in between, working in DA’s offices, working for the state tax commission, working for the tribe, and then doing some volunteer work on the side as a legal intern.

Catalog Record

800 N. Harvey Oklahoma City, OK 73102 405.208.5271