Keating: Riot pay from state not likely
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Aug 10, 2001
1/20/13 at 8:16 AM
Tulsa County Commissioner Wilbert Collins (left) sits next to Gov.
Frank Keating on a Racial Reconciliation Forum panel Thursday.
JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World
Gov. Frank Keating said Thursday that he does not think Tulsa race riot survivors will receive
direct compensation from the state.
Speaking during a Racial Reconciliation Forum at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, Keating
said he doesn't believe that the state was shown to be at fault in the 1921 melee that
destroyed about 35 blocks of Tulsa's near north side and resulted in at least 38 deaths. More
than 100 individuals whose homes were in the burned area are still living.
Keating said he supports appropriating up to $5 million for a riot memorial and development
incentives for the economically depressed area.
Proponents of direct compensation to the survivors and descendents of those who suffered
losses in the riot claim that the state has a moral if not legal responsibility. They say the
state created an atmosphere that fostered racial tension and that National Guardsmen who were sent
to quell the violence may have participated in it.
Mayor Susan Savage, also speaking at the forum, said she favors compensation to survivors
but doubts the city can do it. Most governmental entities, including the state of Oklahoma and
the city of Tulsa, have strict regulations about cash disbursements to individuals.
Savage said efforts are under way to raise money privately.
"The issue of cash payments is complicated," Savage said. "How much do you pay? To whom? Who
The compensation issue occupied only a few minutes of the 1-1/2-hour program, which consisted
of questions to a panel of Keating, Savage, Tulsa County Commissioner Wilbert Collins, Tulsa
Public Schools Superintendent David Sawyer and Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith.
An estimated 150 people attended.
The questions, which came from moderator Hannibal Johnson and in written form from the
audience, ranged from athletic team mascots to police conduct.
Collins, the panel's only black member, said economic opportunity and development is
essential to racial harmony.
"Economic parity is at the core of racial equality," he said. "Until we reach some level of
economic parity, it will be difficult to continue in the direction we are going."
Collins has taken some criticism for not giving survivor compensation a higher priority.
Thursday, he outlined a proposal
that would include an enterprise zone in north Tulsa, low-interest business loans and mortgages
for riot victim descendents, and tax incentives for development.
Eddie Faye Gates, the only member of the riot commission present, said she liked the forum,
sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice, but wished it had focused more
on the compensation issue. "I'm still kind of upset the city hasn't started serious
discussions," she said.
Contemporary accounts of the riot suggest that local law enforcement officers were, at best,
ineffectual at defusing the riot. Some evidence indicates that police officers abandoned their
posts, changed to civilian clothes
and joined in the mayhem.
Mark Stodghill of the Tulsa Reparations Coalition, an organization pressing for cash
compensation, said he was surprised to hear about the attempt to raise funds privately. "I wish
the process was more open," he said.
The coalition recently announced an "All Eyes on Tulsa" campaign, intended to bring national
attention on the city and the reparations issue. Gates, who is a member of the coalition, said
it will bring legal action if compensation from the city is not forthcoming.
Randy Krehbiel, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8365 or via e-mail at