Bernice Mitchell, 81, of Stillwater died Saturday, May 8, 2021 after a long illness. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on May 27, 2021 at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, 524 N. Stallard Street. Strode Funeral Home and Cremation.
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Bernice Mitchell was born October 27, 1939 in New Orleans to Richard and Lucille
Compton. Her father was a laborer, and her mother was a domestic servant as they
lived in public housing. Bernice graduated from high school with a license in Cosmetology in which she had planned to be a cosmetologist, but allergies to the chemicals changed that, and she ended up working at a department store while attending a secretarial school. She
worked in the library at Xavier University where her boyfriend Earl, who later became
her husband, attended. They were married in his senior year, and they moved to East
Lansing where he earned a MS and PhD in Biochemistry. she worked 3-11 shifts at
night and took care of the children in the daytime while Earl attended class and worked
in the lab.
The family moved to Stillwater in 1967 with three small children for a temporary
research position with Dr. George Waller for two years. This was the beginning of
Bernice’s community involvement. She became active in the UMW and the League of
Women voters. She started college at 33, all the while Bernice worked to organize a
group of women-students who were either returning or beginning college, like herself.
The group became the Women’s Council with the help of women faculty at Oklahoma
State. She graduated with honors and went to work for Presiding District Judge Ray
Wall as the Bailiff. Judge Wall authorized her to organize a citizen’s review board to help
some felons with alternatives to incarceration. Some local lawyers convinced her to run for County Commissioner because they thought she would be good for county government. She won the first time with 25 votes and easily won a second term. After the Commissioners had failed to get a tax program for county roads, she volunteered to take it on as a project. She organized a county-wide citizens group to develop a plan that people would have to vote every six years to continue it. It has passed several times which proves that people will vote for
taxes, providing they are aware of the results. Bernice was instrumental in the organization of the Mission of Hope homeless shelter and the Stillwater Domestic Violence Center.
She was a United Methodist Woman and served the United Methodist Church. Bernice
was a long-time active member of the League of Women Voters. Her first involvement
was to attend the National Meeting and later serve as local President. She served on
the Governor’s Committee on the Status of Women which eventually became a state
Commission, and she also served as Vice President of the National Women's Political
Caucus. Her work has been for families, with her focus being on advocating for women
and children. That work, the work of advocacy, was her passion.
Due to her work in these fields, Bernice received the following awards: Oklahoma
Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, The OSU Women’s Council Alumnae Award as well as
The Carl Albert Award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the Democratic party.
Bernice Mitchell is preceded in death by her parents, Richard and Lucille Compton. Her
brother, Earl Compton and her sister, Ramona Skipper.
Bernice is survived by her husband of 61 years, Earl Mitchell, as well as her three
children and their respective spouses, Karen Mitchell, Doug Mitchell (Dr. Sharlene Matten)
and Michael Mitchell (Tera Mitchell). Bernice is also survived by her grandchildren, Brendel
Mitchell, Gabriel Mitchell, Reagan Mitchell, Ciara Mitchell-Greenwood (Mason
Mitchell-Greenwood), Bryson Mitchell, and Reece Mitchell. Bernice is survived by a
great-grandchild, Zander Mitchell-Greenwood.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to, HPUMC United Methodist Women and the Stillwater Domestic Violence Center (Wings of Hope)