Born in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, on October 3, 1913, Julian J. Rothbaum was the son of a general store owner. He attended the University of Oklahoma (OU) from 1932-1936, was president of the student body during his senior year and graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1938. He served a four-year tour in the Army during World War II and in 1946 became the first director of the newly created Tulsa District of the Federal Housing Administration. In the early 1950s he owned and operated the Julian J. Rothbaum Mortgage Banking Company. He later became associated with Francis Oil & Gas, Inc. of Tulsa and eventually was chairman of the board from 1966 until his death on September 26, 2003.
Throughout his life, Mr. Rothbaum actively supported education in the state of Oklahoma and established student awards in honor of Carl Albert at the University of Oklahoma and McAlester High School as well as the Carl Albert Prize at St. Peters College, Oxford University. Together with his wife Irene, he endowed a Presidential Professorship of Excellence in the College of Fine Arts at OU. In 1998 he established at the OU College of Law an annual award in honor of his son, Joel Jankowsky, to recognize the graduating student who exemplifies the highest standard of excellence in leadership, scholarship, and selfless service to others. In addition, he endowed lectures, awards, and professorships at numerous institutions of higher education across Oklahoma, including Southeastern Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, East Central University, Carl Albert State College, and Eastern Oklahoma State College.
An active participant in the administration and development of the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Rothbaum served two terms on its Board of Regents. In honor of his record of service to OU, he received the Distinguished Service Citation in 1974 and an honorary doctorate in 1993. Also a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Mr. Rothbaum was the Special Advisor on Higher Education to Governor David Walters. In 1986, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Mr. Rothbaum's firm commitment to the relationship between education and public service has been reflected in his own service as a regent as well as the many other activities he undertook on behalf of education in Oklahoma and elsewhere. This commitment was guided by his conviction that the success of representative institutions and the future of representative government depend upon human enlightenment in general and civic education in particular. He also believed in the importance of participation by private citizens in public affairs. The commitment to this notion has been illustrated by his service to his country, his state, and his community. In 1981, Mrs. Rothbaum and Mr. Jankowsky endowed the Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government.