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Tulsa Race Massacre: Key figures in 1921

Tulsa Race Massacre: Key figures in 1921

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Police Commissioner J.M. Adkison: Insurance salesman with no previous law enforcement experience until elected to the city commission in April 1920. Business dealings with city put him at odds with City Auditor Mary Seaman and Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Van Leuven.

General Charles Barrett: Adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard.

Sheriff’s Deputy Barney Cleaver: Generally considered Tulsa’s first black lawman and one of its most respected citizens of any race. Fired by Police Chief John Gustafson in early 1921 and soon hired by Sheriff W.M. McCullough.

Mayor T.D. Evans: Elected in April 1920, he was described as a compromise candidate. A title attorney by profession and a former municipal judge.

O.W. Gurley: Early Greenwood resident, political leader and businessman who in 1921 owned a hotel and other property in the district.

Police Chief John Gustafson: Hired in April 1920 despite a previous dismissal from the force and a checkered background. He and the department were subjects of state attorney general investigation at the time of the race massacre.

Tulsa County Sheriff W.M. McCullough: Charged with protecting Dick Rowland. Served as sheriff twice previously and was elected again when voters turned out James Woolley in 1920 over the Belton lynching.

Sarah Page: White elevator operator involved in the “elevator incident” with Dick Rowland.

Gov. J.B.A. Robertson: Governor of Oklahoma. Outraged by Belton and Chandler lynchers, told African American leaders: “A lyncher is a worse menace to a democratic form of government than a bolshevik who goes about waving a red flag and throwing bombs.”

Dick Rowland: African American youth arrested May 31 following incident the previous day on a downtown elevator. Publicity surrounding his alleged attempted assault elicited a death threat and sent crowds to the Tulsa County Courthouse, where Rowland was being held in the jail on the top floor.

City Auditor Mary Seaman: First woman elected to city office in Tulsa, and a constant thorn in the sides of the four male city commissioners.

A.J. Smitherman: Editor and publisher of the Tulsa Star, which catered to a black readership and encouraged African Americans to fight discrimination and injustice.

Sheriff’s Deputy John Smitherman: A.J.’s younger brother and an important figure in the events of May 31, 1921.

J.B. Stradford: Prominent Greenwood businessman and leader. Moved to Tulsa around 1906, unsuccessfully challenged state’s segregated rail car law in 1912.

Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel


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