Cemetery dig pushed
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Jan 11, 2000
1/20/13 at 8:04 AM
Race riot panel, city officials to prepare legal ground for search
A contingent from the Tulsa Race Riot Commission met with Mayor Susan Savage on Monday
to begin the process of excavating a possible unmarked gravesite in Oaklawn Cemetery.
The commission, which is supposed to submit a report to the Legislature by Feb. 7, had hoped to begin the work
Savage, however, said the city clerk's records indicate that two and possibly three
graves unrelated to the 1921 riot are in the vicinity of the proposed excavation.
If that is true, the commission would have to obtain a court or
der and a Health Department permit before digging.
Assistant City Attorney Paul Prather and commission member Jim Lloyd are to meet
Tuesday to begin preparing documents for the legal process, Savage said.
Commission members believe that an unknown number of people who were killed in the
were buried singly and in common graves at three locations in Oaklawn. Underground
radar identified the site in question as being a likely spot for a common grave.
The commission proposes a limited excavation under the direction of state
archeologist Bob Brooks.
Bob Blackburn, the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, and commission members Currie Ballard and
Lloyd met Monday with Savage,
Prather and city Public Works Director Charles Hardt to discuss the project.
"Blackburn indicated (that historian) Scott Ellsworth and Bob Brooks looked at the
city records and didn't think any (nonriot graves) were there," Savage said. "I said
if they want to come look at our records and see if they can reconcile the
differences, they are welcome.
"I think the work of the Race Riot Commission has been very interesting and
enormously difficult. My hope is that they are able to have a thorough and fac
Forty-five people are known to have died in the riot, but many historians believe
the death toll was at least twice that and probably higher. Stories of burials in
unmarked and common graves at various sites have persisted for generations but have
never been proved.
The commission, however, did find records indicating that at least a dozen people
who were killed in the riot were buried in unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery.
The riot destroyed 35 blocks
in the city's Greenwood district and left thousands of people homeless. Although it
received nationwide news coverage at the time, the incident was rarely spoken of again
until recent years.
The commission was formed in 1997 to determine the riot's causes and whether
survivors were entitled to compensation from the state.
Randy Krehbiel, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8365 or via
e-mail at email@example.com .