Ardmoreite Tom Tipps, a highly decorated World War II fighter pilot and the only Carter County resident to serve in both Houses of the Oklahoma Legislature, died Thursday at age 90.
Enlisting in the United States Army, 45th Infantry Division on September 16, 1940, Tipps served as a lieutenant in the 8th Air Force Division, 479th Fighter Group and 434th Fighter Squadron of the Air Corps. His fighter group, known as "Riddle's Raiders," was one of the most decorated groups in World War II.
Tipps flew more than 60 combat missions over France and Germany and flew "top cover" in the allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. On his 64th mission, his plane was hit by enemy fire and he was forced to "bail out" over Belgium. He suffered a broken back and leg. His injuries ended his military career. He retired in 1945 as a first lieutenant, having received numerous awards including the Air Medal Award with four clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart.
In October 2009, Tipps' commanding officer presented him with a field promotion to the rank of captain.
Returning to Ardmore, Tipps served from 1952 to 1954 in the House of Representatives and from 1954 to 1962 in the Oklahoma Senate. A champion of veterans programs, Tipps was also involved in the enactment of Oklahoma Central Purchasing Law and the Oklahoma Merit Protection System Law. He chaired the Oklahoma State Senate Roads and Highways Committee and accomplished his goal of building a four-lane highway "from Ardmore to the oil patch located in western Carter County." On May 27, 2003, that highway was named "Tom Tipps Highway".
On hearing the news of Tipps' death Friday State Senator Frank Simpson called him a "true American hero. He came from that greatest generation. A generation that changed our world for the better. I respected him greatly for his service to our country during World War II and his service to our great state."
Rep. Pat Ownbey also lauded Tipps as, ".... a man who understood what serving others was all about. He served as a role model for his family. He served his country honorably and he was a great public servant as a state representative and state senator. He showed all of us how to live life to the fullest."
Services for Tipps are scheduled at 2 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church.