March 31, 1954 – February 4, 2008
Opio Toure, a former Oklahoma State Representative, lawyer, activist, mentor and Langston University alumnus. Toure (who had changed his name from Ezellmo A. Stephens) was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on March 31, 1954. He was the eldest of five siblings. Toure received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Langston University in 1976, a J.D. from the University Of Oklahoma School Of Law in 1979, and a Masters of Divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary in 2001.
Toure was greatly active in the Oklahoma legislature. He served with honor and distinction as a member of the Oklahoma Democratic Legislature from 1994 to 2006 during this time, he was appointed to leadership roles including serving as the Democratic Floor Leader. Opio Toure also had the distinguish honor as being a former president of the Oklahoma City Association of Black Lawyers and the Northeast Youth Athletic Association. He also once served on the Board of Directors of Oklahoma City Northeast, Inc., and was once a county co-chair of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party.
One of Toure’s many notable accomplishments included writing legislation in 2003 that gave people who are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned the right to apply for up to $175,000 in compensation, and in 2002, he was awarded the Angie Debo Award by the American Civil Liberties Union. During the same year, Toure, who was a die-hard opponent of the death penalty, shepherded House Bill 2635 through the Legislature, which was a measure that sought to stop the execution of mentally disabled offenders with intelligence quotients of 70 and/or below, and received wide bipartisan support. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case of Atkins v. the state of Virginia that executing the mentally disabled was in fact cruel and unusual punishment.
For more than 30 years, Toure served as a dedicated and proud Langston alumnus who advocated publicly for the advancement of the university. At the time of his death, Toure, who had taken a position as assistant professor at Langston University in January 2007, was very instrumental in developing the institution’s Pre-Law Initiative, a program geared towards getting more students of African descent into law schools. He also served as associate pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Meridian, Oklahoma. “Opio Toure was a compassionate Christian man who worked tirelessly on behalf of those who have no voice, and Oklahoma is a better place because of him,” said, Representative Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City. “He was a dear friend and fellow lawmaker, and I was humbled and inspired by his life and legacy.”