Monday, December 26, 2016

Senator Brinkley Embezzles Over $1Million To Feed Gambling Addiction

  Rick Brinkley was the heir-apparent to the Pro Tem office of the Oklahoma Senate, in 2015. But in late April his Tulsa Better Business Bureau completed an audit which alleged that Brinkley had embezzled over $1 million dollars over a period of about a decade if his leadership of the watchdog institution.
  He immediately resign committee chairmanships for the remainder of that session. Brinkley was expected to succeed Sen. Brian Bingman as the next Oklahoma State Senate President Pro Tempore. 

  Brinkley, in August 2015, initially resigned his seat effective December 31, 2015, citing personal reasons. The resignation came as Brinkley was being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on accusations of embezzlement from the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa where he had formerly served as Chief Operating Officer.  At the time of his resignation he was being sued by the BBB, with the organization alleging in court filings that Brinkley used the money for “his mortgage, pool cleaner, personal credit card invoices, and to support a hidden gambling habit, in an amount believed to be in excess of $1,800,000.” He resigned, effective immediately, nine days later upon agreeing with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to five wire fraud counts and one false income tax return count related to the embezzlement charges.

At the time, Brinkley was also pastoring a church in his Owasso-area district.

Friday, December 23, 2016

At Least We Are Not Louisiana

 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
In retrospect, several points stand out. The first is that Oklahoma does not deserve a reputation as the most corrupt of states, since Louisiana typically stands out as most deserving of that designation. Second, the state has known some spectacular cases of corruption reaching into the Supreme Court, the governorship, the House speakership, and the whole system of county commissioner government. Third, again and again it has been federal officials who attacked corruption and forced reform. Fourth, there have been some notable recent exceptions to the primacy of federal intervention, one being the case of Gov. David Walters and the other being the school bond scam. Fifth is that in both instances of state action, investigative reporting by the Daily Oklahoman deserves credit as a significant counterweight to the limitations of state and local officials.
Former Rep. Mickey Edwards
The Tulsa World wanted to say;
Dishonorable mention: For those who are counting, we've already listed dozens, but here's one more for good measure. Some will be remembered for improprieties that caused a big to-do at the time but did not result in more than embarrassment. Oklahoma gained some notoriety during a U.S. House check-writing scandal in the early 1990s when representatives were accused of bouncing checks on the House bank. Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards was named as one of the worst offenders with 386 overdrafts. Edwards received a letter, he said, in 1992 informing him that no wrongdoing was found in his case. But voters booted him out of office in 1992. After leaving office, Edwards taught for many years at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

State Auditor, Jeff McMahan, Goes To Prison

The Daily Oklahoman posted coverage of the McMahan scandal. Here is an exerpt:
  Jeff McMahan was sentenced  to eight years and a month for taking bribes from a southeast Oklahoma businessman. Wife, Lori McMahan, was sentenced to six years and six months on related charges.
"I am saddened when the political process is corrupted. Seeing people imprisoned generates mixed prosecutorial emotions,” U.S. Attorney Sheldon J. Sperling said Friday.
Jeff McMahan, a Democrat, was accused of showing favoritism as auditor to businessman Steve Phipps in exchange for cash, jewelry, campaign contributions, fishing trips, and trips to places like New Orleans and Boston.
The former state official was convicted of three felony counts June 14. He resigned two days later.
Sperling said after the sentencing that the McMahans were convicted of conspiracy to commit "dishonest public service mail fraud” and of racketeering through illicit interstate travel.
The charges stemmed from an investigation by the FBI, the IRS and the state Ethics Commission.  Sperling said Friday he was "impressed” the prosecution led to legal reform.
"The state auditor’s office no longer has authority over abstract companies,” he said. "A huge temptation towards corruption has been statutorily removed.”

Monday, December 5, 2016

John Rogers & Son Leave High Offices, In Disgrace

  John Rogers was elected examiner and inspector in 1958 and won re-election four times until his defeat by Tom Daxon in 1978, the year the job was changed to that of auditor and inspector.

  He had narrowly been re-elected four years earlier after a legislative committee and a federal grand jury received evidence that his employees had received raises based on their campaign contributions for Gov. David Hall during Hall's successful 1970 campaign.

  Rogers and his son, then-Secretary of State John Rogers Jr., were called before the grand jury investigating Gov. Hall just weeks before the 1974 election. Both refused to answer questions and invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

  The allegations produced no charges against Rogers or his son.

  Nonetheless, they set off a chain of events which ultimately led to Hall's conviction on bribery and extortion charges and the resignation of John Rogers Jr. under threat of impeachment.

  In 1977, the Office of Revenue Sharing of the U.S. Department of Treasury accused the elder Rogers of not following proper auditing procedures.

  It was also alleged about that time that he again had had employees donate one-third of their salaries under a formula to his re-election bid. Such allegations had been raised every few years against Rogers Sr. since 1960.

  His brother, Will Rogers, no relation to the humorist, served 10 years in Congress.

  In 1975 Rogers jr. resigned before the start of a Senate trial after the House voted to impeach him. Rogers was accused of numerous wrongs including closing his office on the last day that a referendum petition could be delivered to his office.
Rogers Sr. died in '82; Rogers Jr. died in '08.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Oklahoma Legislator, Randy Terrill; Found Guilty of Political Bribery

Former Speaker, Randy Terrill
  Rep., Randy Terrill was convicted in 2013 after prosecutors said he offered a bribe to Leftwich, a Democrat, to withdraw from her race for Senate so Terrill’s friend, Rep. Mike Christian, could seek the office.

  Terrill was sentenced to 1 year in prison and required to $5,000 fine.

  Leftwich was found guilty of soliciting a bribe during a bench trial — the judge found her guilty instead of a jury — and was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered never to seek a job with the state or run for public office again.
Former Sen. Debbe Leftwich

  Prosecutors said Terrill pushed officials with the state Medical Examiner’s Office to create an $80,000 per year position for Leftwich.

  The court rejected Terrill’s claim that a candidate for office cannot withdraw from office without filing a notice of withdrawal with the proper election board.

  “Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, any rational trier of fact could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Terrill bribed Leftwich by offering her a thing of value which caused her to withdraw from her reelection race,” Smith wrote.

  Terrill, from Moore, served in the state House from 2004 to 2012. Leftwich, of Oklahoma City, was a member of the Oklahoma Senate from 2003 until 2010.

  Both Leftwich and Terrill had appealed the District Court’s ruling, claiming that Leftwich was never a candidate for office, because she had not filed for re-election with the state Election Board. Records showed, however, that Leftwich had begun to raise money for a reelection campaign.
  Writing for the majority, Presiding Judge Clancy Smith said the law and evidence from the bribery and corruption trial of former state Rep. Randy Terrill did not require relief.

  The court, in a separate opinion, also turned back an appeal by former state Senator Debbe Leftwich.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Gene Stipes Machine Crumbles

Code Of Silence

  In the first decade of the new millennia, an old political machine crumbled under the weight of it's own corruption.  The following is a summary of the Daily Oklahoman's reporting from the Muskogee Federal Courthouse.

Read the full coverage at the Daily Oklahoman.

MUSKOGEE — Mike Mass, once an influential state representative and a past chairman of the state Democratic Party, became Wednesday the latest crooked Oklahoma politician to be sentenced to prison.

Ex-state Rep. Mike Mass, has written a book about his turbulent years in power and disgrace.

  A judge ordered Mass to spend two years in federal prison for taking kickbacks to divert taxpayer money to a gaming machine company and a dog food manufacturing company. A prosecutor said Mass, 57, of Wilburton, has a gambling addiction and left his family destitute. The judge ordered Mass to get treatment, if necessary, and to stay out of casinos while on supervision after his release.

  Businessman Steve Phipps was sentenced Wednesday to one year and one day in federal prison for paying kickbacks to Mass and two other legislators. Phipps’ companies illegally received almost $2.8 million and he agreed to pay legislators 10 percent in kickbacks. Both Mass and Phipps had faced up to five years in prison.
  U.S. District Judge Ronald White showed leniency to Phipps for his "extraordinary” cooperation in an ongoing federal probe of political corruption. The judge said the corrupt things Phipps testified about doing "made my skin crawl.” Phipps said, "I am ashamed of my conduct. I have tarnished the political process ... I have tried to make amends.”
  The judge ordered Phipps and Mass to together pay $279,258 in restitution to the state of Oklahoma. Phipps, 54, of Kiowa also must pay a $50,000 fine.
  Phipps’ supporters included Oklahoma country singer Reba McEntire. The two were classmates in Kiowa schools, beginning in the first grade. "It is not often that people admit their mistakes. It is less often they do something to rectify the problem. Steve Phipps will always be my friend,” she wrote the judge May 17.
Testimony key in federal case
  Phipps pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in 2007, admitting then he paid kickbacks to three legislators. He also has admitted other wrongdoing, including using straw donors to give excessive contributions to the state auditor’s race and to other campaigns. He was not charged further under a plea agreement with prosecutors that required him to cooperate.
  Phipps’ testimony was considered crucial to the conviction of former state Auditor Jeff McMahan. His cooperation also led to criminal and civil proceedings against former state Sen. Gene Stipe and a guilty plea in a criminal case against Stipe’s younger brother, Francis.

"Prince of Darkness,”

  In court papers, Phipps’ attorney described him as a business partner and protege of the "Prince of Darkness,” Gene Stipe. The defense attorney wrote Phipps refused to become one of Stipe’s "fall guys.” Prosecutors said Phipps is one of the few individuals from southeast Oklahoma "who has had the wherewithal to break an apparent ‘code of silence.’” Mass also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in 2007. Randall Erwin, a second former state representative implicated in the kickback plot, was acquitted at trial in April. Jerry Hefner, the third former state representative allegedly involved, was never charged. Prosecutors would not comment Wednesday about Hefner. Prosecutors said Mass "received the bulk of the $279,258 in kickbacks paid for financial favoritism.”

The judge also showed leniency to Phipps because he suffers from a rare medical condition that would be difficult for prison officials to treat long. A urologist reported Phipps might not survive prison. The judge also said he was concerned Phipps’ companies would fail and his employees lose their jobs if he was in prison for long.
After the sentencing, Phipps’ attorney, Dan Webber, said, "Steve is a strong person. I believe he will get through it. He and his wife will do whatever it takes to keep those businesses open.”  Phipps sought probation and a fine.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Speaker McCarty and His 1960s Bribery Machine

Speaker JD McCarty
  A 1950s major scandal centered on the former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, J.D. McCarty. The speaker is normally a powerful figure, and McCarty was more so than usual because he happened to serve during the term of the state's first Republican governor, Henry Bellman, elected in 1962. McCarty, a skilled politician, emerged as a highly visible and dominant figure, leading Democrats against the Republican governor.
  Unfortunately for McCarty, he lost his reelection bid from his district in 1966, and the IRS descended upon him with tax evasion charges. His critics unkindly claimed that he failed to report his many bribes. In any event, he was convicted and sent to jail. Thus, in a few short years, leading state judges and the powerful former speaker had proven to be corrupt. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fallin's Scandalous Affair

Lt. Gov’s bodyguard quits amid allegations of affair

December 8, 1998 AP
Trooper Greg Allen
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma Highway Patrol bodyguard for Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin has resigned after admitting ”unprofessional conduct” amid allegations by her estranged husband that she had an affair with a bodyguard.

Mrs. Fallin, a Republican who was elected to a second term last month, filed for divorce last week. At a hearing, Fallin’s attorney raised an allegation about the lieutenant governor having an affair with an unidentified bodyguard.

In a statement Monday, Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks said rumors surfaced in early September about ”alleged unprofessional conduct between a member of the executive security detail and the lieutenant governor.”

The statement said the trooper first denied the allegations, but was again questioned late last month and ”admitted to unprofessional conduct and was permitted to resign. That resignation was accepted last week. His admission did not indicate that sexual activity was involved.”

Monday, November 14, 2016

Leo Winters: State Treasurer And Banking Secrets

  In 1974 A federal grand jury indicted Winters, for, among other things, of using his position to extort campaign money from banks. Winters was acquitted of four counts during a well publicized trial, and other counts later were dropped. A few weeks after that, he was re-elected. 
  Winters served five terms and was trying for a sixth when his 1986 campaign was doomed by allegations that a Tulsa bank may have written off millions in loans to him.

  In 1986, many Oklahoma banks were on the brink of default from a crash in the oil markets, worldwide. Yet State Treasure Winters, decided to deposit a massive amount of state funds into a non-interest bearing account in Liberty National Bank of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoman reported:

Former Rep. Joe Manning of Cushing led the three-man field in the Republican primary and Rep. Bob Brown of Claremore finished second.

Manning, 39, was a member of the House of Representatives from 1974 to 1982 and now is business manager of the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. In that job, Manning says, he invests and manages the foundation's assets.

Brown, 49, became the first Republican elected to the House from District 9 in Rogers County, in 1984. He is financial vice president and treasurer of Keck Construction Inc., a Tulsa-based earth-moving and paving company.

With Winters still in the race at the time, Brown campaigned in the primary on a platform that "it's time to remove the secrecy surrounding this important office."

Brown said he had been turned down when he tried to look at records in Winters' office this spring. He said the records on where state funds were deposited were opened to him after he and another Republican legislator threatened to file a lawsuit against Winters.

Those records showed Winters had $130 million in state funds on deposit at Liberty National Bank in Oklahoma City in a non-interest bearing account, Brown said.
"Oklahomans can no longer afford for their hard-earned tax dollars to sit idle in non-interest bearing accounts," Brown said.

  The state treasurer had about $108 million in state funds on deposit with the Tulsa bank in the mid-1970s at a time that he and his associates had about $18 million in loans from the same bank.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Insurance Commissioner Shakes Down Citizens For Free Furniture

The Tulsa World said;
Free furniture: In 2007, Carroll Fisher, former state insurance commissioner, started serving a three-year prison term after he was caught depositing a $1,000 campaign contribution from his state campaign funds into his personal bank account when it was overdrawn in 2003. Fisher was reprimanded by the State Ethics Commission for soliciting office furniture from those he regulated. The governor said that Fisher could not keep more than $33,000 worth of furniture, artwork and kitchen equipment he had sought as "gifts to the state." 

 The Oklahoman followed up with..
 Carroll Fisher was then sentenced in 2009, in a bribery case, to six months in a private lock-down facility in Tulsa.
Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson spared Fisher, 69, from more time in state prison. Defense attorneys argued the former official already has been punished and humiliated enough.
"This is a man who has been very much humbled by what he’s experienced,” defense attorney Bob Wyatt said.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Senator Jim Lane's Secret Life As A Ghost Employee

When Gene Stipe's political machine imploded, several other elected officials also paid a price for their corruption. Jim Lane was one of them.
  The Tulsa World said;
Ghost employee: Former state Sen. Jim E. Lane of McAlester was sentenced in 2003 to three years probation and two months home detention for his role in funneling illegal money into Walt Roberts' unsuccessful 1998 congressional campaign. Of the more than $200,000 in illegal money that ended up in the Roberts campaign, most was tied to Stipe, but Lane was directly tied to less than $70,000. Lane's sentence in the Roberts case came only six months after he was released from prison where he served seven months of a five-year sentence for defrauding the state as a "ghost employee." 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Gene Stipe Dies In Prison

  After 50 years at the height of political power, Gene Stipe was taken down when term limits started bringing in Republicans to state government in sufficient volume to keep an eye on the "good ol' boys".
  The Tulsa World said;

 Gene Stipe: The McAlester Democrat is served a five-year probationary sentence for federal campaign violations and perjury and is in trouble again. After having served more than 50 years in political office, Stipe allegedly continued to hatch political campaign schemes by reimbursing "straw donors" who funneled money to Democratic campaigns. 
  In the long run, Stipe, 81, may not be remembered so much for his recent problems, at least in his old stomping grounds in southeastern Oklahoma's "Little Dixie," said Keith Gaddie, political science professor at the University of Oklahoma. At his height, Stipe "was such a colorful character," Gaddie said. Stipe fit the role of "the old-line, rural politician, the cigar-chomping country lawyer" who had a charismatic quality inside the courtroom, he said. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Prosecutor Prosecutes Himself

  Occasionally an elected official gets caught. But in this case the criminal comes forward on his own. Paul Anderson did just this, in 2002.
  The Tulsa World said;
  In Payne County, District Attorney Paul Anderson shocked the legal profession in 2002 when he admitted embezzling $84,000 over five years. He pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement and was sentenced to two years in prison. He served less than nine months but made full restitution.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Competing Nominees For Corporation Commission

Charles R. Nesbitt

Lame Duck Appointee Attempt:

  Since 1990, the Republicans controlled the commission when they held 2 of the 3 seats. When Commissioner JC Watts was elected to congress in November of 1994, the lame duck governor, David Walters; sought to give the Democrats control of the Commission by appointing former state attorney general Charles Nesbitt as a temporary successor to JC Watts. Gov. Elect, Frank Keating intended to name Ed Apple to the temporary post. The case ended up being argued before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Oklahoma's governor is sworn in a week after the US Congress swears in their members to a new term.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Brent VanMeter Extorts Nursing Homes For Inspection-Fixing

  The residents of our nursing homes are quite vulnerable. When they are abused, the whole state gets outraged. But when nursing home operators want to cut corners and get away with it, they eventually face a state inspector.
  The Tulsa World said;
  State Health Department: In 2000, the State Department of Health was rocked with scandal when the FBI showed up at the office of Deputy Health Commissioner Brent VanMeter, who was subsequently charged in federal court on several counts including money laundering and bribery. VanMeter conspired with two nursing home operators to have them pay VanMeter bribes in return for the Health Department's giving favorable treatment to their homes. VanMeter was convicted of both state and federal charges. Testimony showed he was using the bribes to feed his gambling habit.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Corporation Commission Bribes

  The watchdogs over the state-sanctioned monopolies are called "Corporation Commissioners". But too often they become cozy with the very corporations they are supposed to be watching.
The Tulsa World said;
Bribery scandal: Another Tulsan, Bob Hopkins, a former state corporation commissioner who represented Tulsa County for 28 years in the state Legislature, was convicted in 1994 of accepting a $10,000 bribe from a Southwestern Bell attorney. In return, Hopkins had voted to allow the telephone company to use $30 million in overcharges. Hopkins died in 1997 at age 68.

Lame Duck Appointee Attempt:

  Since 1990, the Republicans controlled he commission when they 2 of the 3 seats on the Corporation Commission. When Commissioner JC Watts was elected to congress in November of 1994, the lame duck governor, David Walters; sought to give the Democrats control of the Commission by appointing former state attorney general Charles Nesbitt as a temporary successor to JC Watts. Gov. Elect, Frank Keating intended to name Ed Apple to the temporary post. The case ended up being argued before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Oklahoma's governor is sworn in a week after the US Congress swears in their members to a new term.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Governor Walters Plea Deal And Avoidance Of Impeachment

Gov. David Walters stands before
District Judge John Amick in Oklahoma County
District Court as he pleads guilty to one
misdemeanor count of violating state campaign
finance laws. The court room was closed to the public
 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  Then in 1990 a scandal emerged from the gubernatorial campaign of winner and Democrat David Walters. Walters won, but the campaign was accompanied by a barrage of press reports that he had raised and spent more money that any previous candidate. Investigations by the state attorney general and Oklahoma County district attorney led to charges of campaign violations. Walters finally pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Critics attacked the outcome as letting him escape too easily from more serious charges. Still, the publicity probably moderated some of the worst excesses of campaign finance. And in this case reform had occurred with little federal intervention, in itself a significant gain.
NBC's "The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno showed the headline to his national television audience and quipped: "It's no secret now. " The negotiations concluded Oct. 21 with Walters and his wife, Rhonda, being whisked to the Oklahoma County Courthouse where in a late-night rather secretive court session the state's chief executive stood before a judge and coolly uttered the word - "Guilty" - to a misdemeanor campaign violation.
The governor's attorney, R. Thomas Seymour of Tulsa, who elbowed reporters out of the governor's way, described the seventh-floor courthouse hallway as a scene "straight out of the movies. " A noisy throng of journalists and television cameramen as well as curious onlookers, had crowded into the courthouse that night to see history unfold.
  One of the more prominent politicians convicted in the last 25 years of the state's history was former Gov. David Walters. Walters pleaded guilty in 1993 to a misdemeanor charge of violating a state campaign law in a plea agreement that dismissed eight felony charges of conspiracy and perjury. The conviction also led to his decision not to run for governor again. Walters, a Democrat, became president of Walters Power International, a company that provides huge electricity-generating mobile plants sometimes located in remote regions.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 1991 School Bond Federal Scandal

  Many Oklahoma school districts were found to be collecting far more money in property tax than their operations required. That 'slush fund' was secretly invested in money markets. As for where that interest income was finally accrued, was even more secret.
  Ironically, it was the IRS which blew the lid on this scheme, by insisting that taxes needed to be paid on this interest income. 

Roughly a decade after Okscam came to light, a major scandal broke that grew out of the misuse of education bonds issued by school districts. A word about bonds is in order. Federal officials allowed local officials to issue education bonds to tide them over financially tight periods, as when property tax receipts for schools were late coming in. The bonds were never intended as a means for local education officials to make money, a distinction that was to become quite important as the bond scam unfolded.
During the 1980s, a major bond underwriting company, Stifel, Nicolaus, and Co., was active in promoting the use of bonds to finance public projects. Stifel also engaged in promoting candidates for office via contributions to their campaigns. The Stifel bond company formed a political action committee (PAC) to channel political contributions to candidates, and also channeled contributions through company officers and lobbyists. By these means, they could contribute quite legitimately, just as other businesses did.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

1960s Voting Corruption In Oklahoma

by Paul R. Hollrah, reprinted from The New Media Journal - 
  In August 1963 I was transferred to Tulsa from Wall Street, in New York, in a corporate headquarters relocation. A month later, on Tuesday evening, September 10, 1963, I attended my first political meeting… the monthly meeting of the Tulsa County Young Republicans. 
  The guest speaker that evening was Tulsa attorney Walter Hall, Ballot Security Officer for the Oklahoma Republican State Committee. In his speech Hall described in detail the widespread fraud practiced by Oklahoma Democrats in every election. And since Democrats controlled all county and state election boards, the governor’s office, both houses of the legislature, the major law enforcement offices, and the courts, few Republicans were willing to challenge them. 
Walter Hall
Hall began by explaining that forty-four of Oklahoma’s seventy-seven counties had not provided a secret ballot for voters since statehood in 1907, and that local Democrats regularly used every conceivable illegal device to intimidate voters and to fraudulently control the outcome of elections.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Election Board Secretary, Harmon Moore, Goes To Prison For Embezzlement

  There were several claims of fraud and shiftiness for years. But none could be proven. Oldtimers still say that the 1984 mayoral race was wrought with corruption by the many broken machines that led to long lines at the polls, but only in the heavily Republican precincts!
  Then, in 1987, The Tulsa World said;

 Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Harmon Moore Jr. resigned amid allegations of embezzlement; he later was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for embezzling public funds.
Embezzlers: Also in Tulsa County, election board secretary Harmon Moore was sent to prison in 1987 for embezzling public funds. He was convicted of converting $16,713 in public funds to his own use. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lettergate: Tulsa Mayor Terry Young's Forgery Scandal

  When a high official gets involved in wrongdoing, it's usually the cover up that gets him in big trouble.

 The Democrats were 'circling the wagons' when Finis Smith was convicted. They knew it could lead to election losses. When several Democrats wrote to the judge in the Finis Smith trial, they begged for leniency for Smith. That revelation jeopardized several Democrat elected officials.
  Well, evidently some operatives thought it would be good strategy to make the Republicans look like their prosecutions were politically motivated. So another Republican federal prosecutor was targeted for a Democrat dirty trick. A letter was forged with the signature of Federal Prosecutor, Layn Phillips. The Federal investigation traced the source of the letter to a typewriter in Democrat mayor Terry Young's office. Everyone denied involvement and nothing was ever proven.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Senate Pro Temp, Finis Smith Goes To Prison For Fraud

 Senate President, Finis Smith, of West Tulsa, was caught with an unreported foreign bank account which he's not reported on his taxes. He and his wife both were sentenced to prison. They owned a Tag Agency. He was disbarred from his law practice.

  The Tulsa World said;
  Former Oklahoma Senate  president pro-tem Finis Smith, along with his wife Doris,  were convicted by a federal court jury here on felony counts  of mail and tax fraud, conspiracy and failure to disclose foreign bank accounts. Finis and Doris Smith, each got six years, and were sent to a federal prison in Texas.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Speaker, Dan Draper, Convicted Of Election Fraud, In 1983

  The Oklahoma Speaker, Dan Draper, was convicted in 1983 for election tampering. He was trying to help his father win a seat in the Oklahoma legislature.

  The Tulsa World reported;
  Then-House Speaker Dan Draper's troubles began in 1983.  He and House Majority Floor Leader Joe Fitzgibbon initially  were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy charges for  allegedly fixing absentee ballots to help Draper's father  in an unsuccessful race for a House seat. Draper and Fitzgibbon  later won new trials (in 1985), but a federal judge dismissed  the charges at the behest of U.S. Attorney Roger Hilfiger.  Muskogee Democrat Jim Barker became the new speaker thanks  to Draper's troubles.
 Draper was further convicted in 1984. the Tulsa World said;
  Dan Draper ended up in more trouble. He was arrested in February when a police officer found him slumped over the wheel of his car. He pleaded no contest to actual physical control while intoxicated, a charge later amended to a lesser offense after a year of probation. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Oklahoma County Commissioner Scandal

Bill Price prosecuted most of the County Commissioners
  When Republican President, Ronald Reagan started appointing conservative federal prosecutors and judges, The Democrats who ran Oklahoma began to sweat. Eventually, the IRS notified the Justice Department about fake billing invoices to county commissioners. Bill Price was one such federal prosecutor. After he sent scores of county commissioners to jail, he ran for governor. Sadly he lost, due to more corruption in David Walter's campaign funding.
   Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
 In 1980 a huge scandal erupted stemming from the conviction of some 220 county commissioners and suppliers. Their convictions rose from involvement in a scheme of kickbacks paid on orders for county road-building supplies such as timber and gravel. The scandal reached all across the state in roughly sixty counties large and small, urban and rural. It had been going on for as long as anyone could remember. Again, federal officials rooted out the corruption.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Oklahoma Governor Goes To Prison

David Hall
David Hall passed away this Spring. He has been living quietly since he left public life on his way to prison.
After the terrible governorships of the late 20s & early 30's, it wasn't  until the 1960s that major scandals again surfaced, and then they did so with a vengeance. Three justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court were removed from office by impeachment or resignation arising from IRS investigations of reports that justices were taking kickbacks for favorable decisions. A powerful former speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, who had been a dominant figure in state government, was convicted and sent to jail as a result of IRS investigations arising from charges that he failed to report income received in return for political favors. Then in 1975 a former governor, David Hall, was convicted, shortly after leaving office, of misusing his powers of office by trying to direct a state retirement fund to help a friend with a loan. Again, federal officials were the chief agents in cleaning up the corruption.
 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Impeachment and Imprisonment Of 3 Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices

  Fifty years ago, Oklahomans were humiliated by revelations that three state Supreme Court justices had accepted bribes. Former Justices N.S. Corn, Earl Welch and N.B. Johnson served jail time for their criminal actions.

Judicial Scandal
In 1965, scandal burst forth in an unusual setting, the Oklahoma Supreme Court.  Three judges were implicated in taking payoffs to decide cases before the court. These three judges were either convicted in court or impeached. IRS inquiries laid much of the groundwork.
One of the guilty judges, N.S. Corn, became contrite and publicly described his misbehavior. He admitted that over about 20 years of taking payoff, he could not recall one single year in which he had not taken a payoff. Professor Phillip M. Simpson of Cameron University has researched one spectacular payoff case in which "Corn . swore that he had received $150,000 in $100 bills ... in a downtown Oklahoma City
meeting .... The attorney wuo had established the pattern with Corn was O.A. Cargill, former Oklahoma City mayor and Corn's friend for 50 years." This corruption obviously reached into the highest levels and included citizens usually deemed quite respectable. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Alfalfa Bill Murray & His 34 Declarations Of Martial Law

Books can be written about Alfalfa Bill Murray. But with his populism there was also a bravado which got him into trouble.

 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  After the  two failed governorships of Walton & Johnson, the next governor, elected in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression, was William H. Murray, better known as "Alfalfa Bill." A couple decades earlier, Murray had chaired Oklahoma's constitutional convention, leading to statehood. He acquired a national reputation of sorts partly because of his oddball behavior. Like Jack Walton he was a great showman. He presented himself as one with the common farmers in language and in dress. He dressed in rumpled clothing, including the trademark long johns that extended conspicuously below his pant legs. His language could be crude, even obscene. That he was mostly an opportunist interested in electoral gain is suggested by his background. He had worked as a teacher and reporter, had read law, and had gained recognition as expert in tribal land claims. The woman he married was related to a tribal chief. These are high-status traits, not those of an unlettered, rumpled farmer.
  In office he did champion ordinary farmers and others in distress. Nevertheless, his own state programs did not get far, partly because of the Great Depression and partly because of his irascible personality. He clashed with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, feeling that FDR had ridiculed him. Federal officials bypassed Murray and thus cut him out of much patronage. Murray became enraged and consumed by vindictiveness in his opposition to FDR and the New Deal, an attitude that stayed with him after he left office. To the end of his days he railed against the New Deal, communists, and "International Jewry." Worst of all was his willingness to invoke martial law, which he did a total of thirty-four times.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Oklahoma's Psychic Governor, Henry Johnson

 Psychics have always had their opponents and their adherents. One fan of such things was a former governor in the 1920s

Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  After Walton was thrown out in his first year, through impeachment, the next freely elected governor in 1926 was Henry S. Johnston, who suffered a fate similar to Walton's, although not because of criminal misconduct. He spent much time in his office reportedly engaged in solitary meditation and consultation with his personal astrologer. His administrative assistant had a room full of caged canaries with whom he claimed to communicate. The governor's personal secretary ran a tight ship that effectively cut off legislators wanting to discuss vital patronage matters. Legislators became furious and, in keeping with these turbulent times, ousted Johnston from office in January 1929. Thus by this early date the young state had removed two sitting governors from office, a record not matched by any other state until much later.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jack Walton's Brief Governorship & Impeachment

Some say this man should have been in the entertainment business, or perhaps an evangelist? But his antics led to his quick exit from state high office.

 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  The period of the 1920s and 1930s was one of bitter political strife. Martial law was invoked repeatedly, and two sitting governors were removed from office. Jack Walton was the first to be removed. Elected in 1920, he ran a spectacular campaign heavy in showmanship. But in office he was a disaster. He publicly fought the Klan yet unofficially colluded with them. He wildly extended patronage powers to appoint college presidents and professors, arousing intense opposition. He invoked martial law and at one point had the whole state under martial law. Inaugurated on January 9, 1923, he was impeached and was removed from office in the same year on November 23.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Tulsa Race Riot & Cover Up

  Not many years after 1907 statehood, a race riot in 1921 convulsed Tulsa. The triggering event, inflamed by local newspaper reports, was an accusation that a black man had sexually assaulted a white woman. Racial tensions, abetted by growing Ku Klux Klan activities, had been on the rise for some time. Some commentators have described the riot as one of the nation's worst. The body count is uncertain but ranges from seventy or eighty to as many as three hundred. A destructive fire raged through the Greenwood District, destroying homes and a prosperous business section. Thousands of blacks were rounded up as "suspects" and jailed, some for a week or so. At the time, many whites reacted with horror. But a veil of denial, created mainly by public officials, descended. 
  History books usually gave this episode only passing mention. Not until the late 1990s was the riot reexamined and made the subject of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission that undertook further inquiry, including consideration of possible reparations. Whatever else might be said, the veil of denial had been lifted.
  Here's a research paper, presented by an undergrad student at the University of Tulsa, nearly 70 years later.



This paper is a discussion about the Tulsa Race Riot that occurred in 1921, and presents an argument that suggests that the Riot was not one event, but rather two separate, but linked events, each with their own separate set of causes.
Written to fulfill course requirements for a Bachelors Degree in History at Oklahoma State University; 1 January 1989 (HTMLized 1 February 1999)
The original copy of this paper is housed in the Special Collections department at McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa.

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is a little-known and somewhat misunderstood event in the history of the United States. It is generally considered, on those rare occasions it is discussed, to have been an isolated event in Tulsa's past that resulted in death and considerable destruction. The theories about what happened and why are divers and often conflicting. With the paucity of information available, it is difficult to determine absolutely the course of events. Enough evidence exists, however, to justify the drawing of certain limited conclusions.The conclusions presented in this paper stem from a view the Tulsa Race Riot, not as a single occurrence, but as two separate but linked events. Each event evolved from separate sets of causes. Each set of causes originated in the social context that existed prior to the events. It should be possible to determine some of these causes and from there interpolate other logical causes.In the years bridging the second and third decades of the twentieth century, episodes of racial tension and violence were frequent. In July of 1917, East St. Louis, Illinois erupted into a bloody battle between blacks and whites after an aluminum plant began to hire black workers to break a strike. Three hundred people were killed, and hundreds were injured.1 In August of the same year, more than one hundred black soldiers of the 3d Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment stationed in Houston, Texas mutinied against their officers. The mutineers seized arms and ammunition and engaged in a three hour riot. This riot was in protest to the abuses that local white civilians had perpetrated against the soldiers and the lack of concern about those abuses shown by the unit's commanders.2 As a final example, the Chicago Race Riot in late July, 1919 was based in a long-standing dispute over white-black neighborhood boundaries. A young black male accidentally entered a recreation area that was reserved for whites, triggering this riot that quickly moved beyond this otherwise minor incident and after a week of violence left many dead and wounded.3These are samples of the more striking episodes in an epidemic of racial violence that existed between 1917 and 1922.4 The Tulsa riot was one of the last disturbances of this kind before the Detroit Race Riot in 1942.5Each riot was catalyzed by an incident that seemed important to the instigators, but was often relatively minor when viewed in retrospect. The trigger event only gained importance in conjunction with the ongoing attitudes and already extant tensions. Of primary significance were the causes that had led up to the point of violence. For example, in the Chicago riot the trigger was insignificant, simply a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the potential for violence had been prepared beforehand by years of perceived threats to white neighborhood boundaries by black economic expansion. When that young man entered that area, the seeds of violence that had lain dormant finally sprouted.6The Tulsa riot found its trigger in an elevator mishap and a newspaper article. An article appeared on the first page of the Tuesday, 31 May 1921 Tulsa Tribune headlined "Nab Negro for attacking girl in elevator", along with an "inflammatory" editorial.The article and editorial described an attack by a young black man upon a white woman in a downtown Tulsa office building elevator.8The young woman, Mrs. Sarah Page, filed a complaint against Dick Rowland, the young man, and by the next morning he was in police custody. That afternoon the headline and article appeared. The article's description of the episode caused tremendous tension throughout both black and white Tulsa.9 Almost immediately talk of lynching Rowland for the assault began to circulate, along with reports that the assault had sexual overtones.10Several black leaders began to organize for the possible necessity of defending Rowland from a lynch mob.11 The police also prepared to repel a possible lynch mob. The chief of police had Rowland transferred to a detention cell in the county jail, on the top floor of the courthouse. The county jail was considered by both the police and sheriff's department to be easily defendable.12By 7.30 p.m., a crowd of three hundred white curiosity-seekers had formed around the courthouse.13 An hour and a half later, the crowd had swelled to over four hundred.14 After an abortive attempt by three white men to remove Rowland from custody, the sheriff effectively barricaded the prisoner, himself, and his men into the office.15A "company of armed and hostile"16 blacks marched up the street to the jail at 8.00 p.m. They had come to offer their services to the authorities who had Rowland in custody. They wanted to protect him from a lynch mob, such as the one that had hung Roy Belton, a white man, a year earlier.17 The sheriff and one of his black deputies convinced the men that they were not required and should return home quietly. The blacks left.18The white crowd was still growing an hour later19 when several carloads of armed blacks arrived at the courthouse. Approximately seventy-five men got out of the cars.20 Their arrival sparked a great deal of shouting, harsh words and insults between the crowds of whites and the blacks.21The Tulsa National Guard command communicated with higher headquarters at 10.15 p.m., in order to keep those up the chain of command abreast of the disturbance. General Charles F. Barrett, the National Guard Adjutant General, who was in constant communication with both the Tulsa unit and the Governor, told the unit's officers that they should mobilize only to guard the armory, and that they were to assist the civil authorities if necessary. The Governor was the only person who could mobilize the unit, and he could not officially do so unless the civil authorities felt that they were no longer able to control the situation.22At 10.30 p.m., encounters took place between individual whites and groups of armed blacks near the railroad tracks.23 At the courthouse no violence had as yet occurred.The 'spark' that touched off the riot was an incident between a white deputy and an armed black man outside the courthouse. The deputy was attempting to disarm one of the blacks when the gun for which they were wrestling discharged.24The crowd panicked and split into several confused groups. The armed blacks and the police began firing, first into the air, then eventually into the crowds and at each other. The police, quickly joined by the few armed whites, drove the blacks north. Many of the unarmed whites, led by a few police officers, broke into pawn shops and hardware stores searching for weapons and ammunition.25The battle rushed north, dividing along several of the main streets until it reached First Street. There the blacks drew, and for a short time held, a battle-line. The line broke after an hour and a half of shooting and the blacks fell back a block north to the railroad tracks. A line of black snipers formed at the tracks to prevent the white rioters from entering the black district. The blacks held back the whites across a "no man's land" of gravel and steel.26Shortly after midnight, the whites attempted to burn down the buildings protecting the black snipers. This arson, however, had no strategic result at the time.27Between 12.30 and 2.30 a.m., the battleground fell relatively silent, disturbed only by the occasional, sporadic gunfire from one side or another.28 No record exists of any moves made, by either side, to establish mutual, peaceful communication.It is this period that defines the division of the riot into two separate events. Before this period of relative calm, the riot was an armed brawl. After this point, the hostilities assume the guise of organized urban warfare. The riot shifted emphasis, and became two separate events.It is possible that, during this two-hour lull, the authorities could have put an end to the riot, had they taken any form of calm and decisive action directed towards that goal. The decisive actions that they did take only nurtured the violence. These actions included establishing and overseeing the arming of a small army of "Special Deputies", mostly volunteers from the white rioters.29Serious confusion existed, and still exists, as to who was actually in charge. There was a division between a minority of police officers and sheriff's deputies who were trying to maintain the peace, and those who were leading the special deputies.30 No actions were taken against armed whites violating the law, while all blacks caught on the streets were arrested. The only preparations that were made by the whites were those done to put down and contain the blacks.31At roughly 2.30 a.m., the battle increased in intensity as the whites tried to weaken the black's defenses and push across the railyard. They were pushed back by the black defenders who were now joined by other blacks coming to defend their homes from an invasion of their district by the whites.32It is impossible to establish an accurate timetable of the next morning because of the confusion inherent in the events. At daybreak, the loosely organized army of white rioters entered the black district in two movements. The first movement was a push from the south that came across the railyard, covered by white snipers. According to one witness, there was a machine gun atop the granary tower that covered this southern push as well.33 This push moved through the business district, and into the neighborhood, looting and burning.34 The second front attacked from the north down Standpipe Hill. A machine gun on the hilltop covered this attacking force. This second front ran into, and through, crowds of black refugees who were fleeing from their homes.35 Whites in spotter planes oversaw the entire battle. These planes, with no known official authority, were used to locate pockets of black resistance for the white ground forces.36 Eyewitness reported outrages committed by whites as the white belligerents swept over the district. Most of these reports involved the murder of blacks who had surrendered or were obviously non-hostile or noncombatants.37It can not be supposed that the relative majority of the white population was involved in the invasion, nor even in favor of it. There is a report of a white policeman trying to stop the white invaders at daybreak from crossing the rail-line.38 A National Guard captain was shot while trying to stop the whites atop Standpipe Hill from machine-gunning refugees.39 However, those police trying to protect the black populace were ineffective, and there were other police in apparent collusion with the white looters40 The police slowly brought the surviving black populace into "protective custody."41At 8.00 a.m., National Guard troops, under General Barrett, arrived from Oklahoma City42 What they did between that time and 11.29 a.m.,43 when General Barrett declared martial law, is not documentable. The fighting came to a stop when martial law was declared. The black district, after five to six hours of battle and looting, was a mass of black clouds of smoke rolling above the ruins of thirty-some city blocks of rubble and ashes.44 Conservatively, $1.5 million in real estate, including the black business district once called the "Black Wall Street",45 had been destroyed.Because very little has been written about the riot, a discussion of the primary authors on the subject is not difficult. Contemporary accounts centered their attention on the beginning of the riot and the armed blacks marching on the courthouse. Thus placing the white segment of the community in the position of defending itself. These accounts, however, tend to ignore the retributive counter-invasion.General Barrett's history of Oklahoma46, and Colonel Douglas's history and description of contemporary Tulsa47 typified the official view of the little-discussed riot. Barrett was the Commanding Officer of the National Guard troops that came and restored order. His history makes a concerted effort to keep any apparent bias from damaging his credibility as an historian. Douglas was also present during the events of the riot, although only as an uninvolved observer. He also tries to maintain a clear picture of the events, but is not as successful as Barrett in keeping a bias against the black participants from coloring his narrative.Mary Parrish, a black woman, made a collection of accounts told by survivors, and published these shortly afterwards together with her own experience of the riot. Mrs. Parrish's account, and the others collected in her book, are from the perspective of blacks who were forced from their homes, usually by heavy fighting nearby. Her sources were people who had lost everything they owned. There is a strong criticism against the initial rioters, both black and white, as well as the white looters. Her book is a major source for the study of the riot, but its contradictions and inconsistencies clearly show the innate difficulties in comparing multiple eyewitness accounts.48A number of firsthand accounts of the events given by blacks who survived the events exist, but none of the accounts are from people who were actually involved in the riot or the battle. Many of their accounts take as fact events that may have well been rumor or conjecture.49Also, few of the firsthand accounts found after the fact show the events from a white perspective. Most whites seemed to be unwilling to talk about the subject, although all of the official documentation that is available is from a white point of view. No one who will admit to having actually been involved have left a firsthand account of either the riot or the destruction of north Tulsa. Witnesses seem unwilling to commit, or possibly incriminate themselves, and so it is difficult to establish firmly what has happened. Much of the primary source material are interviews taken generally from people who were not directly involved in the combat. Even newspapers and the other official sources have trouble corroborating each other on details.The newspaper accounts are an interesting study in themselves. In 1921, the Tulsa Tribune was a newspaper with a strong racist bias, and yellow journalistic tendencies, and thus much of its reporting is suspect. This paper places the blame for the riot squarely on the shoulders of the "Bad Niggers" and their militant activities against the white population.50 The Tulsa World, on the other hand, had a less pronounced editorial viewpoint. On the morning of the riot, the World published five editions as it tried to maintain timeliness in its coverage.51 Copies of the black papers in town from the period are almost impossible to locate, but clippings about the riot and its aftermath have survived that state that the white population and its treatment of the blacks were to blame for the riot, and its aftermath.52Official documentation for the riot is even more difficult to find than black newspapers. Many of the police and court records are missing or unavailable. The report made by the grand jury, which had been convened by the governor to investigate the riot, placed the blame for the rioting on the black militants, an ineffective police department, the inflammatory reporting by an unnamed newspaper, and a laxity in segregation that led to unnecessary mixing of the races.53 The reports made by the Red Cross during the weeks after the riot list some important figures on damage and number of people treated for injuries, but shed no light on any details such as names or even give a death toll.54As the years progressed, public feeling about the riot seems to have changed. Loren L. Gill's master's thesis, although written twenty-five years after the riot, could easily be placed with the contemporary accounts, as much of his information is from eyewitness sources, as well as the sparse official record. This thesis was the first real historical study on the subject. Gill tends to blame black agitators for actually starting the riot. He feels, however, that they may have had reason for doing so.55The next interpretation of the event was not made until 1971. It was initially written as a newspaper article noting the fiftieth anniversary of the riot. Written by Ed Wheeler, this article's Change in perspective clearly indicates that perception of the riot had changed, possibly as a result of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s.56 Wheeler presents a view of the riot that stresses white culpability. His account is relatively impartial until he begins to discuss the aftermath of the riot. He is the first writer to speculate on a "cover-up" after the events based on the lack of information that is available. As his work progresses Wheeler becomes more interested in the "conspiracy of silence" that he sees in the riot's aftermath than he is in the riot itself.57R. Halliburton published his article, "The Tulsa Race War of 1921", in the Journal of Black Studies shortly after Wheeler's article saw print. Halliburton presents the view that the riot and ensuing destruction were an assault led by a white element against a peaceful and affluent black district. Halliburton, in his article, as well as in his later book of the same name, paints a portrait of complete white guilt.58Finally, Scott Ellsworth published in 1982 what may well be the most influential work on this subject, Death in a Promised Land. Ellsworth's work is basically fair to both sides; however, he still writes from the view that the whole sequence of events of the riot were primarily the fault of white Tulsa. Ellsworth carefully draws a valid portrait of an economically successful black section of Tulsa. Ellsworth centers the blame for the riot on the inability of the white population to accept the economic successes of "one of the finest black commercial districts in the entire southwest." He also contends that the Ku Klux Klan had a great influence on the events.59In examining the events of 31 May-1 June 1921 it is interesting to note that the that ideas most commonly held about the riot by the public are those that have little, if any, documentable basis. For example, Wheeler continually emphasizes the missing information, and while that lack of information appears to support his claims of a "conspiracy", it is speculation. Similar ideas appear repeatedly through out the literature and in interviews, but are still speculative in nature.60The events that can be documented as occurring reveal glimpses into the origins of the riot and destruction. In tracing those origins, the theory that the riot and the destruction were two different, but related, incidents becomes apparent. An examination of those pressures and of the causes of race riots will show that if fault must be established that each of these events was caused by a relatively small segment of the two segregated populations, which were reacting to social pressures that were consistent with the times.In 1921, no one made any studies of the actual causes of racial disturbances. This type of study was not really begun until the causes of the race riots in the late 1960s were sought for, in the hope of avoiding their reccurance.61 The studies of those later riots are useful when looking at the riot of Tulsa.There is no such thing as a "typical" riot.62 The riot of Tulsa in 1921 differed in many respects from the riots of forty-five years later. Many of those later riots focused against the symbols of white authority, but not against whites specifically. These riots were of a racial nature, not an interracial one.63 In 1921, however, the blacks were not rioting against the de jure white establishment, per se, but rather against the de facto white power structure inherent in the mob violence. When the armed blacks marched on the courthouse in Tulsa they desired to support the legitimate white power structure. This power structure had shown itself, via the Belton incident, to be incapable of self-defense.The problems expressed in 1921 were similar in nature to those expressed in the late sixties. The blacks in the sixties voiced complaints about discrimination in employment, underemployment, inadequate housing and municipal services, discriminatory police practices and administration of justice, an ineffective political structure with little or no mechanism for grievance relief, and the attitude of whites in general towards blacks.64 These charges are also valid for the riot in 1921 Tulsa.In the history of racial relations, the role of the black has been traditionally one of lower status. Discrimination has, through limiting growth possibilities and inhibiting prospects for advancement, kept this status quo.65 This was true in Tulsa, as it was throughout the United States in 1921.Although blacks occupied most fields of employment, they were generally barred from many of the higher status positions.66 Those blacks who bypassed the social barriers, such as doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers, found themselves forced to offer their services to only other blacks.67 This type of business segregation was more extreme than in Tulsa than in many other places. Tulsa supported its own black business district, two high schools, a hospital, a library, and a movie theatre.68 The urban growth and prosperity of the city had trickled down to the blacks, and although they were in a less favorable position than their white neighbors, they held a higher level of prosperity than that of blacks in many other cities. This level of prosperity was in particular contrast to the rest of Oklahoma, which relied on sharecropping as the primary form of black labor and farm management.69Many blacks were tiring of the low status position that they held in American society. These people were desirous of, if not total equality, at least social acceptance by the white segment of the community. Booker T. Washington had taught for many years that accommodation to the white position was the best idea. Only after each black person developed his own abilities until his own self-esteem had been improved would white society grant the black populace desired respect. Washington felt that no one would respect someone who did not fully respect himself.70Many blacks felt Washington's way was no longer an acceptable alternative. Among these people was the black activist W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois advocated a more direct approach. He felt that agitation and political activity, particularly through the N.A.A.C.P., an organization made up of both blacks and whites, was the only way to gain social acceptance.71The African Blood Brotherhood had another view, a view that seemed to build upon DuBois' arguments. The A.B.B. was a self-admittedly socialist, "secret", organization whose ultimate goa1 was the unification of all black organizations under one central committee. The committee to be made up of the leaders of those organizations under its suzerainty.72 If it took militant activism to achieve that goal, then that would be done.A chapter of the A.B.B. had been founded in Tulsa shortly before the riot, and, also, there had long been a chapter in Tulsa of another socialist organization, the Industrial Workers of the World. Previous encounters with the I.W.W. and a white K.K.K.-like group called the Knights of Liberty had at least once before resulted in a riot and lynchings.73The blacks in American society found themselves trapped. The harsh treatment by the whites caused frustration, leading the blacks to express a desire for a change. That desire to alter the status quo was, in turn, causing the situation to worsen.74This was the general situation in Tulsa in 1921. The already frustrating situation grew even worse. 1920 was a bad year for crops. The black sharecroppers had lived at a subsistence level before the crop failure. Now many found themselves forced off their farms, and eventually gravitated to Tulsa looking for work. In Tulsa, these itinerates only increased the black population without contributing to the economy with either their money or their labor, as there were few, if any, jobs to be had. The black community, segregated into a strictly defined ghetto, was forced to try to deal with this overcrowding in a district that the city government was not willing to assist. The city had not even built sewers into much of the district before the overcrowding, and as the situation worsened, there was little help from the city.75Then, in early 1921, the price of oil dropped suddenly to $1.00 per barrel of crude from nearly $3.00 a barrel.76 Without any warning white workers, previously employed in the oil fields, were placed in direct competition with blacks, particularly the dispossessed sharecroppers, for the few remaining jobs. This economic fluctuation did not strike everyone in Tulsa, but in a community whose economic foundation was the price of oil, nearly everyone felt some of the tension.With the high level of unemployment, the crime rate also rose.77 The police department applied pressure, first on the criminal class, much of whom existed on the border between black and white Tulsa. The police then spread their pressure gradually into the entire black community.  The police had been warned of the possibility of a riot months before it occurred.78 However, the civil authorities had either been totally unconcerned about the problem, or else unable to understand what was happening.79 Early in 1921, an entirely new city administration had been elected. Possibly, the socioeconomic dynamics of this complex situation were beyond the comprehension of the new administration, and their ignorance of the threat potentials led them to ignore the warnings.80Dick Rowland's arrest precipitated a succession of events. After the Belton lynching, the blacks community knew that the civil authorities were incapable of handling the situation effectively. This knowledge, when combined with the general feelings of black powerlessness, made it possible for a small group of activists, allegedly members of the A.B.B.,81 to arouse other blacks who were looking for a way to express their desires for reform.82 The rumored lynch mob preparing to hang Rowland gave an opportunity for such a demonstration. The activists wanted to show white Tulsa that they were not willing to stand still and let this sort of thing continue.83 The primary issue, then, was not Rowland, but the black frustration with the entire socioeconomic situation as it then existed. Such social issues were not likely to be on anyone's mind when the rioting began, but it was likely that these issues prompted the armed black presence that allowed the trigger situation to occur.84The significance of the event quickly moved away from the issue of Rowland's possible lynching as the riot progressed. Different motives, from different sources, led to the destruction. To understand what those motives were, the probable leaders of the white rioters must be examined.A recent view of the riot states that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the riot.85 This view is fundamentally flawed. The riot occurred on the night of 31 May-1 June, 1921. The first formal appearance of the Klan in Oklahoma took place on 12 August 1921.86 No evidence exists to implicate any Klansmen in fomenting unrest. However, it should be noted that the psychological characteristics of the average Klansman were present in the rioters, and that the large Klan organization, as described in most of the articles on the Klan in Tulsa, benefited from the race riot.87The average member of the Ku Klux Klan was a "decent, hardworking, patriotic if narrow-minded blue-collar worker".88 He was not driven so much by vindictiveness, as by a fear of change.89 The early twentieth century, particularly right after the First World War, was a period of immense social and technological changes, and it was with the desire to maintain feelings of self-esteem, and dignity that these people turned to the Klan.90 The Klan was more than willing to grant validation to these people. The Klan presented a comforting ideology, cloaked in mystery and ceremony, that asserted that the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant was the most important person on earth.91In Oklahoma, the Klan is purported to have operated covertly for a few months before its formal appearance.92 However, there is no direct evidence of any such operation. Regardless, whether subversive Klan recruiters were in the crowd that night or not, someone directed a need for self-esteem into an already existent violent confrontation. Because of a lack of situational control demonstrated by the authorities, that violence became legitimized in the guise of the special deputies.93 Most whites involved in the rioting only later became involved in the burning and looting, because they saw that such behavior had been legitimized. They were operating as "free riders" on the waves of violence.94 Other whites felt the desire to express their self worth through violence and destruction. While they would have been able to keep that exigency in check under normal circumstances, the existence of the riot's violence allowed these people to vent their desires, their behavior lending a further situational legitimacy to the riot.This situational belief in the legitimacy of the riot may have been further fueled by the cultural racism of the era. It seems to have been culturally normal to discriminate against black people in 1921. With white racism as a cultural norm and the apparent situational acceptance of the riot's violence, it should have been easy for even a relatively small group of white agitators to direct the response away from the armed blacks to blacks in general. This shift in emphasis leading the whites to a retaliatory invasion that quickly degenerated into total destruction, with little, or no regard for lives or property.As this paper has striven to show, the Tulsa race riot and the subsequent destruction of north Tulsa were separate events, and although they were closely related, they did not stem from the same causes. The riot itself resulted from the presence of an armed body of blacks led by a few agitators trying to defend a black man from a perceived threat by a white population. There followed a white response to the invasion by armed and threatening blacks who were evidently seeking violence. The inability of the legitimate authorities to defuse the situation agitated the white response, so that ultimately, when first shots fired, sufficient motivations on both sides caused the shooting to continue.Only a relatively few blacks were involved in the rioting, and certainly only a like segment of white Tulsa was involved in the actual destruction. Small groups of agitators were able to sufficiently direct the other participants in directions that would eventually achieve the agitator's goals. For the black agitators, those goals were Dick Rowland's safety, as well as showing the whites that force would be met with force. The white agitators were able to see to it that the relatively successful blacks, as well as those who weren't successful, were "Put back in their places."

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - "Tulsa Race Riot". Copyright © 1989, 1999  I. Marc Carlson
This page is given for the free exchange of information, provided the author's name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands, other than as expressed above.