The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety initially planned to start issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses by April before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, pushing the rollout back to the summer.
But a spokeswoman said Friday that DPS, which began offering Real IDs in Tulsa this week, is “still doing pretty good” on its efforts to ensure Real ID access will be available statewide well before the federal government’s new deadline of Oct. 1, 2021.
“This is a brand new system for us. And this is one of the reasons it’s taking so long to roll this out to the entire state because we have to install brand new equipment, brand new computer systems, scanners,” spokeswoman Sarah Stewart said at DPS’ Tulsa Eastgate location, 14002 E. 21st St., which issues Real IDs.
DPS issued the first Real ID licenses in the Oklahoma City area and later expanded access into Edmond before reaching Tulsa this week. It will start offering Real IDs next week in west Tulsa and Broken Arrow. A live map of active Real ID locations is available at Realid.ok.gov.
Stewart said while a Real ID may not look significantly different from a standard identification card — the only visible physical difference is a gold star in one corner — the process of obtaining one differs.
To get a Real ID, applicants will need to show proof of identity or lawful presence in the United States, proof of a Social Security number and two proofs listing a current Oklahoma address.
Stewart said the price of a non-commercial Real ID will be $42.50, while license renewals will cost $38.50. It costs $25 to replace a lost Real ID or to convert a person’s current noncompliant card to a Real ID. Seniors 62 and older can get a discount and those 65 and older can get an ID free of charge.
“We’re going to central issuance, so right now when you come in to get an Oklahoma driver’s license you walk out with a piece of plastic for that license,” Stewart said.
“That’s not the case anymore. You will walk out with a temporary paper license and then the actual Real ID will come in the mail about five to seven business days later, so you’ll want to remember that as well.”
She also said DPS sent out a statewide bulletin to Oklahoma law enforcement agencies informing them what temporary licenses look like and notifying them they are valid forms of ID to accept from citizens.
“This has been a long time coming. This is great for us to finally be able to be implementing this and getting this done,” she said of the process.
Travelers are not required to have Real ID compliant driver’s licenses in order to drive. But those who opt not to get one after Oct. 1, 2021, will need to have an alternate form of identification before they can clear Transportation Security Administration checkpoints and fly.
DPS Commissioner John Scully has acknowledged before that the state has at least 600,000 residents who may be in need of a Real ID card to fly because they do not already have another compliant form of identification such as a U.S. passport. But Real ID Project Manager Randy Rogers said Friday that the agency is confident there will be enough time for anyone in that group to get a card by the October 2021 federal deadline.
Not long after arriving in Washington, D.C., as Oklahoma’s newest elected congressman, J.C. Watts decided to seize the opportunity.
He invited Rep. John Lewis to lunch.
“I wanted to pick his brain about the civil rights movement, its inner-workings,” said Watts, who had begun to idolize the Georgia activist-turned-legislator and other giants of the movement as a child in Eufaula.
“One of the questions I asked him was: ‘John, how did you do it? How could you be nonviolent? They spit on you; you got kicked, beaten. You saw lynchings. Church bombings. How could you not strike back?’
“And this was his answer: ‘It would have hurt the movement.’”
From that first meeting in 1995, the Republican Watts and his Democratic counterpart became friends.
Later, Watts would play a pivotal part in helping Lewis realize his dream of a national museum of African American history.
Lewis, who died July 17 at age 80, has been much on the minds of Watts and other Oklahomans in recent days, as they’ve joined others around the nation in reflecting on his legacy.
Lewis, who will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Monday night and all day Tuesday, was the last survivor of the “Big Six,” a group of civil rights activists led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was best known for his role in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, during which his skull was fractured in a beating by state troopers.
Additionally, Lewis helped organized the 1963 March on Washington, where he spoke shortly before King, who delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Lewis went on to run for Congress, and was in his 17th term at the time of his death.
Lewis’ funeral service, to be held Thursday at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will be private, his family announced.
“When I went to Washington,” recalled Watts, “literally there were two things on my bucket list I wanted to do before my time was up. One was to have lunch or dinner with Lou Stokes (first Black congressman from Ohio). And the second was to do the same with John Lewis.”
“It was surreal,” he said of his two-hour lunch with Lewis.
“He was a very, very humble guy. Considering all he’d seen and experienced,” Watts said.
“When you heard him speaking on the floor of the House, or in public, you felt his passion, his pain. You felt the Edmund Pettus Bridge experience. You felt the lynchings. You felt the bombing of the churches. … He made that kind of history come alive for you.”
State Rep. Monroe Nichols of Tulsa might not be in office today, he said, if it wasn’t for an encounter with Lewis many years ago.
“At the time I really had no idea who he was,” said Nichols, who was about 13 when he met Lewis and heard him speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Waco, Texas.
“But it was the words that he spoke and the road that he traveled that in large part inspired me to pursue a career in public service.”
“John Lewis was a titan,” Nichols said. “As a Black man and elected official, I legitimately owe my life and every freedom I have to John.”
Nichols’ fellow state legislator from Tulsa, Rep. Regina Goodwin, echoed those sentiments, noting that Lewis, who “went from soldier to the soul of the civil rights movement,” was an inspiring figure.
“He courageously chose to protest nonviolently … and embodied the principle of ‘Give till you can give no more,’ ” she said.
However, Goodwin believes, the momentum of the movement that Lewis helped achieve in the 1960s has since been lost. And he, of all people, recognized that.
“I think he died, at 80 years old, still asking some of the same questions,” she said. “Because we’re dealing with the same things. Racism still exists in America.”
“John Lewis once asked ‘If not now, when?’ — and I think his question still echoes,” she added.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C, in 2016, was a longtime dream of Lewis’.
Watts is proud to have played a part in helping Lewis get it done.
After the bill was blocked again and again over the years, “John approached me and said ‘hey, this is what I’m trying to do. Would you assist me?’”
“I thought it was a great idea,” said Watts, who got fellow Republicans on board, while also using his influence to secure the initial funding.
Watts said that although he experienced racism growing up, “my life was a Sunday school picnic compared to John. I didn’t get spit on. I didn’t get kicked. I didn’t get beat up.”
And a big reason why, he added, were the sacrifices previously made by Lewis, King and others.
“They were the people in the gap,” Watts said. “They raised the conscience of the nation to the inequities, the systemic racism and injustices that America was allowing to be executed on African Americans.”
“John was the right guy at the right time in history,” Watts added. “And he leaves behind some serious shoes to fill.”
Nichols said he’s disappointed that his son won’t have the same chance to meet Lewis as he once did.
“I’m deeply sad to see him go, but if there was ever a life well lived, it was his,” Nichols said. “He was one of our greatest fighters for justice, our compassionate hero.”
Bruce Plante cartoon: In tribute to Rep. John Lewis
Prosecutors have filed murder charges in unrelated cases against three individuals in Tulsa federal court, all as a result of a recent landmark Supreme Court ruling dealing with criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.
The three cases represent as many murder filings as Tulsa federal prosecutors have logged in the Northern District of Oklahoma in the past 20 years, according to a Tulsa World search of past cases.
All three of the recently filed cases are the result of a July 9 Supreme Court ruling that determined that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation historical reservation was never disestablished by Congress, meaning that since statehood major crime cases involving American Indians filed in state court that occurred in Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation boundaries should have been filed in federal court. The reservation includes much of the city of Tulsa, including all of south Tulsa County and all or portions of 10 other counties.
Despite the few murder filings in Tulsa federal court, several assistant U.S. attorneys there have other experience with homicide cases in state and other federal courts, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Tulsa said.
Federal prosecutors in Tulsa also have handled other violent criminal cases, too, said Lennea Montandon, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa.
For local state prosecutors, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jimcy McGirt has meant reviewing criminal cases for potential dismissal so they can be filed in federal court.
That’s what happened in the cases of Lance Dylan Gatzman, 22, and Anthony Drake Ahaisee, 30.
Both were originally charged with first-degree murder in Tulsa County District Court.
A criminal complaint filed Thursday in Tulsa federal court accuses Gatzman in connection with the Oct. 24 stabbing death of Christian Isaiah Jones, 21.
Gatzman allegedly told investigators that Jones had stolen his bike the day prior.
Jones was killed in the 1000 block of East Third Street, near Youth Services of Tulsa in what is now considered by the McGirt ruling to be Indian Country for purposes of federal enforcement of major crimes.
The case became a federal crime because Gatzman is reportedly an enrolled member of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation. He is being held on a complaint but has not been officially charged or indicted publicly.
The second 2019 murder case is related to the March 28, 2019, stabbing death of Gregory Collins, 24.
Prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint filed Monday that Anthony Drake Ahaisse, a member of the Seminole Nation, stabbed Collins at a residence in the 4800 block of South Elwood Avenue. Ahaisse is also being held on a complaint and has not been officially charged or publicly indicted.
The third murder case was filed in federal court one day after the McGirt ruling.
In that case, prosecutors alleged James Michael Landry, 29, fatally shot his girlfriend at Philpott Park, 1114 W. 37th Place.
Crystal Bradley, 45, was a member of the Cherokee Nation, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.
Prior to the McGirt ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma had seen three murder cases since 2000, records show.
In one case, Jeremy Keith Reece awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the 2015 Osage County killing of Rick Holt, 46. The case is being prosecuted by federal officials after investigators determined the crime occurred on land owned by the Osage Nation.
Two other most recent murder prosecutions in Tulsa federal court prior to the McGirt ruling occurred in 2011 and 2015.
In one of those cases, federal prosecutors ended up dismissing murder charges against Thomas Mongrain Eaves after a judge determined his arrest by investigators was illegal. Misdemeanor charges were subsequently filed in Osage Nation tribal court.
In 2011, federal prosecutors charged Steven Thompson Keeling with murder in Indian Country. Keeling pleaded guilty to second degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting death of Edward W. “Butch” Brown on a restricted Indian allotment in south Tulsa County, according to Tulsa World archives.
COVID-19 basics everyone needs to know as the pandemic continues
Shelly Brady’s apartment in Paris was not all that big to begin with.
But earlier this year, when the city was on full lockdown due to COVID-19, it came to feel smaller than ever.
“We could only go out for an hour a day,” she said. “To the pharmacist, the grocery store. Or we could exercise outside.”
A longtime Tulsan who lives in France for much of the year, Brady was grateful, though, for authorities’ efforts.
“They were trying to save lives,” she said. “We had 27 people from one nursing home die in one day. Hospitals ran out of beds; they were putting people on trains and shipping them to other cities. It was bad.”
The situation is not as critical in Oklahoma, she knows. But having seen the pandemic at its worst, Brady, who’s been back in Tulsa recently, is hoping to help her home state avoid that scenario.
An entrepreneur, inventor and organ donation advocate, Brady has started what she’s dubbed the “Mask Up Initiative.”
The goal of the effort, she said, is to encourage the public to wear masks by focusing on the safety of first responders and health care workers.
“First responders are doing everything they can during this pandemic to save us if we are sick, all while knowing it puts their own lives at risk,” Brady said. “They need our help now more than ever.”
“We are hoping that if people won’t mask up for themselves or others, then they’ll do it for our first responders,” she added.
If that appeal doesn’t work, Brady is making a special request. For those who decline to wear a mask, if they later test positive, she’s asking them to voluntarily refuse medical assistance so first responders and health care workers aren’t put at risk.
A “Do Not Assist” card that can be signed and dated is available for printing from her website.
“This is not about shaming anybody or hurting any feelings,” Brady said. “I just want to make an impression.”
The back of the card reads:
“I do not agree to wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of my refusal to wear a mask in public, I agree that if I test positive for COVID-19, I wish to be left at home to recuperate or pass away without medical attention to keep healthcare workers safe.”
Brady said, “When there’s an opportunity to open someone’s mind, I feel like it’s a responsibility and an obligation and an honor to do that.”
Brady hopes her previous experience with opening minds gives some weight to her words.
As a passionate organ donation proponent, she sees parallels between that cause and the current situation.
Early on with organ donation, Brady, founder of the Circle of Life program, met many people who were “turned off” by the idea, she said. They thought it sounded “gross.”
“So I would ask ‘if your son or daughter or your wife needed a transplant, would you put them on the transplant list?’ And they said ‘yes’ — every one of them. Then I said, ‘Well, how can we just be a taker? Because somebody else might need us for their family to exist.’”
Brady said when she helped people think more “personally” about organ donation they began to change their minds.
“That’s what I want to do with masks,” she said.
For the initiative, Brady has found an enthusiastic partner. Her niece, Sydney Turner, was motivated to help in part, she said, because she has friends in health care who are on the front lines.
“One is an ICU nurse who works with COVID patients all the time,” Turner said. “She posts on Facebook asking people to please wear masks. Some tell her they won’t, that masks don’t work.”
“It’s sad to me,” she added. “Because she’s only asking this one thing.”
Turner said the Do Not Assist cards are not intended to sound “mean or divisive, just to provoke deep thought.”
“If we all pull together we can save lives,” she added.
Brady said for years during World War II, citizens rationed and made other sacrifices.
“They gave up a lot,” she said. “The only thing we are being asked to give up is the freedom to not wear a mask.”
“If we do that for four to six months we can curb this thing,” Brady added. “We need to pull together as Americans. It’s not a Trump or Biden thing, it’s not red or blue. It’s a red, white and blue thing.”
Although she’d welcome a statewide mask mandate, Brady is not necessarily asking for one.
What she’d rather see is Oklahomans doing it voluntarily.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we didn’t have to make it a mandate because everybody believed in it — because we are all for saving our state?
COVID-19 basics everyone needs to know as the pandemic continues