Divided Senate OKs race riot bill
BY CHUCK ERVIN World Capitol Bureau
May 24, 2001
1/20/13 at 8:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Despite strong Republican opposition, the Senate passed the Tulsa Race Riot
Reconciliation Act on Wednesday and sent it to Gov. Frank Keating to sign or veto.
All 18 Senate Republicans and two Democrats voted against the conference committee report
on House Bill 1178, which was adopted, 24-20. The bill passed, 32-13, and while some GOP
senators switched, all 13 "no" votes were cast by Republicans.
The bill faced similar Republican hostility in the House, which passed it Tuesday. Keating
often has vetoed bills strongly opposed by the Republican minority in the House and Senate.
Republican senators heatedly objected to language in one section of the bill, claiming it
blames all white people for the 1921 race riot that destroyed most of the Greenwood section of
north Tulsa. It also left a death toll of mainly black victims that could total more than 300,
according to some estimates.
"It tries to accuse every white person of being a bunch of thugs who did something wrong,"
said Sen. Charles Ford, R-Tulsa. "That's not right. That's not proper."
Sen. Jim Williamson, R-Tulsa and several other Republicans said they could vote for the
bill, if the offending section was removed.
Sen. Robert Milacek, R-Waukomis, who served on the fact-
finding Tulsa Riot Commission, said he would feel better about the legislation if the section
was taken out.
Milacek said society as a whole, not any one race, should be blamed. He later voted for
But Sen. Maxine Horner, D-Tulsa, one of two blacks in the Senate and the bill's Senate author, refused to delete the
section Republicans wanted removed, saying it doesn't blame all whites, only those who
participated in the riot.
"This is not to put the blame on white folks," she said. "This is just saying what
The Republicans continued their opposition.
They branded as untrue language that refers to "a conspiracy of silence" allegedly used to
obscure the facts and scale of the riot.
Williamson charged the bill could make Oklahoma vulnerable to lawsuits. Horner denied
that, saying she has been assured there is nothing in it that would support lawsuits against
the state or city and that there is no intention by anyone to seek reparations.
The debate deteriorated into a partisan confrontation when Sen. Carol Martin, R-Comanche,
attempted to blame the riot on Democrats, since they were in charge of the constitutional
convention and the Legislature when Oklahoma's Jim Crow segregation laws were adopted.
"I find that the most offensive statement I've ever heard out here," said Sen. Keith
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, who added that both political parties bear responsibility for past
racial problems in the state and nation.
"You shouldn't try to make cheap political points on this," Leftwich told Martin.
He said the bill doesn't blame all white people, but he pointed out that no white was
convicted of a crime against a black despite the heavy loss of life and widespread destruction.
Chuck Ervin, World Capitol Bureau chief, can be reached at (405)
528-2465 or via e-mail at email@example.com .