J. David  Rambo


J. David Rambo of Norman, age 82, died peacefully surrounded by his family May 13, 2019, after a 19-year fight against cancer.

Celebration of Life Party is pending. Please visit David's page on the John Ireland & Son Funeral Home website for details about the date, time, and location. http://www.irelandfuneralhome.com and click on "Obituaries" tab.

Born on June 13, 1936, Rambo was a life long Sooner. He graduated Norman High School class of 1954 then completed his OU BS in Geology in 1958. After serving as an officer in the Army from 1958-60, he returned to Norman, completing law school at OU in 1962. That same year he was appointed to US District Court, Western District of Oklahoma.

Rambo left a lasting legacy in the field of juvenile justice reform in the state of Oklahoma. He was an early and determined advocate, architect, and benefactor for change dedicating his lifetime to others.

David was a concerned judge and community organizer who collaborated with state and local agencies to develop and implement needed services for children, youth and families.

Thousands of Oklahoma children and teens have been the beneficiaries of his significant efforts to radically change and improve Oklahoma's juvenile justice system and provide basic legal rights to minors.

In 1967, he led state efforts for judicial reform in Oklahoma that resulted in today's District Court System.

He and Marian Opala, later Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, worked together to re-write and make significant changes to Oklahoma's infamous "juvenile injustice system."

In 1968 Judge Rambo was a leader in the effort to pass legislation that became known as the Children's Code, securing due process for minors for the first time in state history.

He advocated for community-based alternatives rather than housing children in state training schools. He was a catalyst resulting in interventional programs working with at-risk children and their families.

His work also led to changes that divided adjudication and disposition hearings for children. Before that, a judge would hear testimony from government authorities and often determine punishment and placement immediately without any representative speaking on behalf of the child.

When Rambo served as county judge and later associate district judge, he had responsibility for all juvenile cases in Cleveland County through the 1960s. Although the juvenile docket comprised only ten percent of his caseload, it took up ninety percent of his time.

He purchased Norman's first juvenile shelter with personal funds. The shelter on Eufaula in Norman provided safe space for abused, homeless, runaway, and delinquent children to stay during times of crises in their lives. This grew into the first full service Emergency Juvenile Shelter in Oklahoma in 1969.

Before the shelter opened, children who were abused or in need of supervision were housed in the county prison along with adult inmates. Several minors committed suicide while in jail.

Under Judge Rambo's leadership, along with Judges Elvin Brown, Alan Couch, and Sheriff Bill Porter, the shelter expanded in 1975 to Crossroads Youth and Family Services, providing comprehensive services and support to youth and their family. Crossroads also operates multi-county Head Start and Early Head Start for babies and children to age five.

Their efforts also led to creation of Juvenile Services, Inc., today known as The Center for Children and Families, Inc. (CCFI) protecting children who are abused or neglected.

Fifty years later both Crossroads Youth & Family and Center for Children & Families carry on the mission of serving and protecting children and families.

Rambo was also instrumental in the creation of Moore Youth and Family Services, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

His legacy continues to be felt throughout the state of Oklahoma, as youth services has grown into a system of 41 community agencies providing services throughout all 77 counties of Oklahoma.

He also collaborated with Dr. George Henderson, Dr. JR Morris, and Dr. Vee Gatch to create a model community-based cadre of volunteers to work with and enhance the quality of services to at-risk and neglected children.

Rambo was a district leader of the Last Frontier Boy Scouts Council. He was also a frequent lecturer and speaker on juvenile justice and social reform issues.

When serving as Cleveland County Judge, Rambo went on a two-month Rotary sponsored study of racially segregated South Africa at a time when it was illegal to interview black citizens or enter black homes. He returned committed to solving societal problems related to school desegregation and the treatment of Native American citizens.

During his legal career, Rambo served as both a prosecutor and a judge. He was an associate district judge, as well as county attorney, and municipal judge before returning to private practice. He also served on the statewide steering committee that worked to legalize pari-mutual gambling on horse races to increase state revenues.

Crossroads Youth and Family Center gave Rambo the "Legends of Crossroads" award on August 4, 2008. When presented with the surprise award, Rambo said, "What you do every day is more than wonderful-what you do is tremendous. This agency rewards me every day with the work they do on behalf of children."

Governor Brad Henry declared that same day, as "David Rambo Day" in the State of Oklahoma. In 2009 the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) honored Judge Rambo with a Lifetime Achievement Award as "an Oklahoman who made a difference in the lives of children and youth."

Upon retirement from his legal practice, Rambo was a volunteer driver for Meals on Wheels. He was tireless in his commitment and a great inspiration to the meal recipients whom he met every day on his rounds.

Rambo was an eternal optimist, even when dealing with serious medical issues of his own, he charged ahead, not letting his health issues get in the way of helping others.

Special thanks to Dr. Renee Ballard and nurse Sheri Allen; Dr. Jeremy Moore, Dr. Vince Montgomery and staff, and special caregiver Wendy Hodges for your dedicated care for David during his lengthy illness.

David was a master and devoted angler all of this life, informing young Laura on their first date that he suffered from "ichthytis" which required weekend treatments. Poor Laura desperately researched for days to discover what rare disorder David suffered from when she remembered "ichthys" means fish in Greek and his disorder was, in fact, fish fever!

Judge Rambo was the husband of the prominent therapist, Oklahoma legislator, and former Gubernatorial nominee, Dr. Laura Boyd. He was the son of Mae Belle Rambo and Joseph Daniel Rambo, both deceased. His brother, the late G. Dan Rambo was also a prominent Oklahoma attorney and Democratic Party activist. He was predeceased by his sister Betty Lou Mahone of Lubbock, Texas.

Other survivors include daughters Kristi Braun (Jeff), Vicki Rambo, Susan Thayer, and Brooke Laws (Jacob); grandchildren Kate Hyde, Josh Braun, Jed Braun, Josie Thayer, Caroline Liu, Henry Liu, his grand tolerance Zoe the Senegal Parrot, and other family members whom he loved deeply.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Big Brothers and Sisters of Cleveland County, Crossroads Youth & Family Services, and/or Center for Children and Families.

John M. Ireland & Son Funeral Home in Moore, Oklahoma is performing end-of-life arrangements.
Published on May 18, 2019
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3 posts

Nicole Poole
May 20, 2019
David was a surrogate Dad for me, and his steady, dependable presence, quiet, succinct advice (coupled with the ever-present twinkle in his eye) served as a life vest when I felt all hope was lost. He was such a humble man - it is only upon reading this that I learned I was only one of thousands of people whose lives were directly impacted by his time and care. But David made me feel like the only person who mattered at the time. He represented the best in us; he fought for what was right and true, defied the status quo in the face of injustice, reveled in small delights and held his friends close. He will be so terribly missed.
Joe Lankford
May 19, 2019
David was not only a great lawyer and Judge but an outstanding, caring and compassionate human being. I was fortunate to have office with him which was the happiest days of my legal career. Everyone who was fortunate enough to know him loved him. He will be missed by all of us and we know he is looking down on us from Heaven!
Eva Carter
May 19, 2019
Laura, I am thinking about you and your family. I always admired David and loved the times we spent with both of you.