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great discoveries

What surprised me most.

1. YANCEY WILLIAMS

2. THE AFTERMATH

3. LIGHT BULB MOMENTS

4. LEWIS ADAMS

5. HOW THE HORNETS GOT THEIR STING

6. OSU & TU

7. THE DUNNS & THE BTW CLASS OF 1942

8. COACH GRAHAM

9. WAVES, GENERALS & SUPERSTARS

10. 1921-1953  THE BTW HS FACULTY


Listed not in order of significance, but, just off the top of my head, these were a few of the surprises that sometimes overwhelmed me, sometimes just made smile and very often cleared up a lifetime of questions about NORTH TULSA, the place my father, Harold Clardy, always called "the greatest place on earth." Switzerland, he always said, was a close second.


1. YANCEY WILLIAMS

Verifying AL DUNN's list of names of Oklahoma's famed Tuskegee Airmen, for months, created one snag, verifying the enlistment of Isaac Woods, Mr. Woods' own son.  By winter, 2018, in a last ditch Google search, Woods' ID and even number of kills popped up.  What also popped up were endless references to a Yancey Williams just by typing in "Tuskegee Airmen."


"Yancy" Williams was on Mr. Dunn's list of airmen and on the committee's list of 1932 BTW grads.


ID and enlistment dates matched. Yancey Williams, a Howard University senior in engineering was also a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School from Tulsa, Oklahoma who, after being denied entrance into the U.S. Army Air Corps on the basis of his race, swiftly filed a lawsuit against the United States Of America.


To avoid the trial, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the swift creation of an all Black air squadron, the TUSKEGEE AIRMEN.


2. THE AFTERMATH

Julius Pegues, Project Manager for the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial, and  Dr. La Verne Wimberly, EWW Liaison to OSU-Tulsa, both BTW grads, knew nearly all the teachers, coaches and staff whose lives the memorial honors. In addition, the Dunns and their classmate Richard Gipson knew Ellis Walker Woods.. Mr. Pegues, whose uncles, Japhee Clinton and William Shakespeare Latimer were the Tuskegee-trained architects who designed and built most of the businesses and homes in North Tulsa before and after 1921, is an encyclopedia of North Tulsa history, Mr. Pegues' story should also be told one day.  During the project he recounted vivid stories of life in North Tulsa beyond the 1950s, filling in decades of lost details, clarifying the origins of the loss of power and agency that led to the calamitous decline in North Tulsa's Black population in the 21st century. 


3. AHA/LIGHT BULB MOMENTS

Visiting the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial you can not help but read the names of the universities attended by Ellis Walker Woods' army of teachers, many with multiple advanced degrees, and not notice that few of those degrees were attained at colleges in Oklahoma.  Principal Woods, who was akin to a de facto mayor of African American Tulsa, which would not have political representation in Tulsa until 1990, lured the best and the brightest faculty and staff from throughout the nation and, more importantly created a school and a system that reproduced that same excellence generation after generation until it was solidly homegrown.  Students were groomed by Woods, his teachers and staff and often supported financially by the community, as well, to attend college, again often far from home, and return to teach and lead the next generation.  I was surprised to learn that this  system was dismantled with desegregation in Oklahoma which was initially accomplished by "letting go" the majority of the state's Black teachers, undermining education in North Tulsa and destroying its economy.


Working on the panel for the Class of 1942, I started to realize that post WWII their generation, though sometimes well into their adulthood in the 1960s and 1970s, was the first generation of Blacks in the USA with mass work opportunities beyond enslavement and sharecropping in the South and what would also have been considered servile and menial jobs throughout the rest of the country.  Conditions that were, ironically, countered during  a short window in the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s by life in all-Black towns and communities, especially in  the cities within cities including major cities like New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and mid-sized cities like Tulsa. For a brief period, these Civil Rights warriors, which many in this generation had become, filled the quota of opportunity for which they fought.


4. LEWIS ADAMS

Lewis Adams was the Alabama merchant (and former slave) who  founded Tuskegee Institute, later Tuskegee University, and hired a young man named BOOKER T. WASHINGTON as the school's first "Principal."


5. HOW THE HORNETS GOT THEIR STING

According to Hornets athletics historian, LaMar Burks, the legendary BTW teacher W.D. Williams along with another assistant coach, replaced the school's panther mascot with the hornets saying "Hornets sting and never let go." This matched, they felt, the BTW athlete's style of play. 


6. LU, OSU & TU

Without the existence of LANGSTON UNIVERSITY and Oklahoma's abundance of All-Black towns, North Tulsa could not have existed, Greenwood could not have thrived and acquiring higher education in Indian Territory and later in the state of Oklahoma might have been all but impossible for over half a century for students of African descent. OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY and THE UNIVERSITY OF TULSA were among the first Oklahoma universities outside of LANGSTON UNIVERSITY to accept African American students.  BTW grad and Fulbright Scholar, Dr.  Cecilia Nails Palmer become the first African American professor at both Oklahoma State University and The University of Tulsa in the 1970s.


7. THE DUNNS & THE BTW CLASS OF 1942

Over 30 years before the unveiling of the ELLIS WALKER WOODS MEMORIAL in August 2019 on the Tulsa campus of Oklahoma State University,  Edgar Albert Dunn, Captola Spiller Dunn and Richard Gipson, three Tulsa Booker T. Washington HS grads of the 1940s transplanted to Los Angeles had the idea, along with their expat classmates in L.A., to create a memorial honoring one of the greatest Americans ever...ELLIS WALKER WOODS.


Al Dunn would later spend decades researching Mr. Woods, his faculty and students and the eras and the places that molded them. For over 13 years alone,  Giselle McDaniels, a librarian at Tulsa Community College's Northeast Campus assisted him.


With this research as the project brief for what Mrs. Dunn and the ELLIS WALKER WOODS MEMORIAL COMMITTEE expected as the final design for 60 blank 7 feet panels, I spent weeks after hours working on archives for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, on just the formatting for the columns. 


EWW Committee members, Mrs. Dunn, Dr. La Verne Ford Wimberly and Barbara Thompson met with me for about an  hour weekly for nearly a year to approve copy, graphics and consistency and to check for errors, following the guidelines of the memorial's engraver, James Hartlep.  


At the request of project manager Julius Peques, I spent the following eight months on a grueling, relentless pace of seven days a week and 12-24 hour workdays modifying the design to delete overt references to the world around Principal Woods and his staff and students and to, instead, include only Principal Woods, his incredibly distinguished faculty and BTW students under there tenures.


8. COACH GRAHAM

BTW athletics is legendary and it has probably been said hundreds of times by thousands of athletes that there has never been a greater molder of athletes or men than S.E. WILLIAMS, the Hornets coach who not only organized national athletics for Black high schools, but, also helped establish HBCU athletics.

This makes it all the more amazing that the school's first winning superstar coach was COACH GRAHAM, a woman and William's contemporary who coached the BTW Girls Basketball team to a 544 record.  


9. WAVES, GENERALS, & SUPERSTARS


10. 1913-1951 THE BTW HS FACULTY


9 & 10 add up to the ELLIS WALKER WOODS CHALLENGE:

For every age group, visit the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial on the campus of OSU-Tulsa and choose a figure to research and write about and share with us at info@northtulsamagazine.com 





A MONUMENT TO THE LIFE OF ONE MAN TELLS THE STORY TULSA AND A NATION

ELLIS WALKER WOODS WAS THE FIRST PRINCIPAL OF BOOKER T. WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL IN TULSA, OKLAHOMA. PRINCIPAL WOODS, HIS FACULTY AND STAFF TURNED TULSA'S FIRST HIGH SCHOOL FOR AMERICAN STUDENTS OF AFRICAN DESCENT INTO A LABORATORY FOR EXCELLENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION. 

VISIT THE ELLIS WALKER WOODS MEMORIAL ON THE TULSA CAMPUS OF OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY

700 North Greenwood Avenue

Tulsa. Oklahoma 


This talk was given Monday and Thursday April 13 & April 15. 2020

OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY DIVERSITY & EQUITY

PROFESSOR DENNI BLUM

OSU-TULSA DOCTORAL CANDIDATES 

SPEAKERS: 

ROBERTA CLARDY

ELLIS WALKER WOODS MEMORIAL Chief Designer

MIKE MCUSIC

THE GREEN BOOK PROJECT

CAROL ANDERSON

EMORY UNIVERSITY

 "We have to name things in order to be able to face them." 

EDWARD BAPTIST

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

 "The moment when you stepped  into the broken dirt of the cotton fields was a moment when you learned things that perhaps you'd  heard but didn't really know from experience about what it was to be enslaved." 

IBRAM X. KENDI

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

"The three lethal weapons that are threatening American existence and human existence are, of course, nuclear war, climate change and bigotry."

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THIS IS LANGSTON UNIVERSITY

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OSU-TULSA

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