Clay Steven Hager
Clay Steven Hager, of Edmond, lost his battle with cancer and COVID in Oklahoma City on February 9, 2021. He passed away with his wife and son by his side. Steve made a difference in the lives of countless people, was a loyal friend, husband, and father, and spent his professional life advocating for the underserved. He had an enormous capacity for fun, loved to travel, and had an uncanny ability to recite the Gettysburg address. Thirty years of circuit-riding around the state of Oklahoma kept him on the road, and those of us who were fortunate enough to ride shotgun were always the better for it. As busy as his work kept him, he always found time to make stops along the way to take photos wherever he went around the country.
Steve takes with him a brilliant, knowledgeable legal mind. He was an avid reader, often finishing books into the early hours of the morning. Throughout his life, he always kept himself informed of the latest news, current events, and trends and was always enthusiastic about advancements in technology. He was a snappy dresser with a wardrobe that included a collection of bow ties and a kilt made from his ancestors’ tartan. His balanced council, steadfast nature, irreverent humor, and giving spirit will be missed by a long list of friends, colleagues, students, and interns.
Steve was born in Enid on February 25, 1958, to his parents Jim and Joy Hager. After graduation from Enid High School in 1976, he earned his Bachelor’s degree from Phillips University in 1981, where he met his wife Nina. They married on April 7, 1984. He then went on to work as a photojournalist for the Enid News & Eagle back when film and photos had to be developed in a darkroom. Moving to Norman, he studied with Kit Petersen, Judith Maute, and Browning Pipestem, graduating from the University of Oklahoma College of Law with a Juris Doctor degree in 1987.
C. Steven Hager was serving as a senior staff attorney at Oklahoma Indian Legal Services (“OILS”), where he had worked since 1990. While at OILS, was the author of 24 editions of The Indian Child Welfare Act: Case, Regulation, and Analysis (Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, August 2020).
Hager received the 2015 Hargrave Writing Prize at the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s annual Sovereignty Symposium. He won second place in this competition in 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2019. He was a contributing author to Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Indian Issues Today (ABC-CLIO Publishing, 2013), and the Child Fatality Review (George Washington Publishing, 2009), a treatise for social workers, attorneys, and doctors.
In addition to his responsibilities at OILS, Steve served as the Chief Judge for the Kickapoo Nation in Kansas and served on the Supreme Court for the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law, teaching in the Masters of Law and L.L.M. programs, specializing in Indigenous Peoples Law.
Hager was a member of the Board of Directors for the National American Indian Court Judge’s Association (NAICJA) and the Kansas Tribal-State Judicial Committee. He twice served as the chair of the Indian Law Section of the Oklahoma Bar Association. Steve was honored as the 2008 Attorney of the year by the Pawnee County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. He was also a regular contributor to Talk Jive Radio’s “Ask a Lawyer.”
Steve was preceded in death by his father, Jim, his mother, Joy, sister Jane Puckett and niece Amy Castleberry. He is survived by his wife Nina and son Nate of the home; sister Jobie McCloskey of Paris, Idaho; sister Peggy Hager, and brother Tim Hager, both of Enid, OK; nephew Josh Puckett and wife Heidi of Greenville, N.C.; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.
He had always wanted to be a lumberjack, leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia, with his best girl by his side.
The family has chosen not to have services due to pandemic concerns. Please honor Steve’s life of service by making donations to Oklahoma Indian Legal Services in Oklahoma City, www.oilsonline.org.