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Feat:  Daniel T. Coates

Written by:  Barry P. Foley
Copyright © 28 Aug 2021

This is a story of four important figures before, during and after the Tulsa Massacre of 1921.

In 1905, O. W. Gurley, had a vision and he purchased 40 acres of land north of the Frisco railroad tracks in Tulsa.  His vision was create a community for Negros to live and prosper.  He named the community Greenwood.  He built 2 luxury hotels on this property and helped many other Negros start businesses of their own.  By 1921, there were over 10,000 residents.   During the Tulsa race massacre, O. W. Gurley’s vision and everything he had worked for was burned to the ground.  He survived the massacre and in 1922 moved with his wife to Los Angeles!

Walter Francis White said of himself:  I am a Negro, My skin is white, my eyes are blue and my hair is blond.  The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.  Two years after graduation from Atlanta University in 1916, Walter White moved to NYC and worked for the NAACP.  Because of his whiteness, he was sent to the south to investigate the surge of lynchings in 1919. He was able to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.  During the Tulsa race massacre, he was inadvertently deputized and told he could shoot any black person and the law would be behind him.  He eventually became the leader of the NAACP for a 10 year period.  He worked with President Truman on desegregating the Military after WW2.

Buck Colbert Franklin wrote that:  “From my office window, I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another building began to burn from the top.”  African-American lawyer B.C. Franklin’s eye-witness account of the 1921  He was a successful lawyer in his early forties.  Buck Franklin and his family survived the riot. In the wake of the massacre, the Tulsa City Council passed an ordinance that prevented the black people of Tulsa from rebuilding their community because the city planned instead to rezone Greenwood from a residential to a commercial district. Franklin sued the city of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and won. Black Tulsa residents began the slow, painful reconstruction of their community.

Sit down and shut up Fatmouth.  That’s what Mr. Bill Williams told the young swagging Don Ross.   Mr. Williams had just told the Booker T. Washington High School history class about the Massacre of Tulsa in 1921 that occurred almost 40 years ago.  Don Ross interjected…that’s a lie, I’ve lived here all my life and I’m never heard that.  That started a learning experience that even amazes scholars.  In quick fashion, Don Ross was told first hand by the several survivors of the Massacre, courtesy of Mr. Williams..  That set the young man on a lifelong journey. After serving 4 years in the Air Force, he came home to be the first black Union Baker in the state of Oklahoma.

At 30, he became the editor of the Oklahoma Impact, where he introduced its readers to the Tulsa Disaster.  In 1977, Don Ross returned to Tulsa and successfully ran for local political office.  By 1982 he was a Oklahoma Congressman and served for 18 years.  7 years later, in 1989, he led a successful effort to get the Confederate Flag removed from the State Capitol.  Bravo Don Ross!

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