“The second-largest city in Oklahoma is embroiled in controversy over whether to change the name of a large section of downtown that is currently named after an early town leader who was a prominent member of white supremacy group the Ku Klux Klan.”
Yesterday, when I read that Tulsa is considering removing the name of founder Wyatt Tate Brady from public view, I was astonished by the ignorance of those who think we can rewrite the ugly chapters of our past. History is about truth, even when it is repulsive and difficult to understand.
On the one hand I understand the “oops, we made a mistake” factor if the city honored Mr. Brady without fully researching his past or understanding his role in KKK activities. But on the other hand, he WAS one of the founding pioneers of the city, an entrepreneur, a politician, and a very active Tulsa booster. Can the current city government erase the dark side of his past, and theirs, by taking his name off a sign? I think not.
Our ancestors were not saints. They were flawed human beings who lived complex lives. You can start with the signers of the Declaration of Independence and follow a trail of lies, money scams, sex scandals, racism, violence, and drug/alcohol abuse that leads right up to the White House front door today. Do you think for a minute that Brady’s name was the only one on the KKK membership list? The KKK was once believed to be group of citizens who were simply upholding the sanctity of marriage, respect for womanhood, and the safety of the community. Many people joined before the group was associated with senseless violence. Here are two substantiating items from the Caddo Herald, 1922. I have many more in my files.
Ku Klux Visit the Nazarene Meeting
Sunday night fourteen robed members of the Ku Klux Klan visited the Nazarene meeting, giving the Hudsons $15 in money and a letter to read, asking to be dismissed with prayer. In the letter several significant statements were made, these being the most prominent:
“The day has passed when the husband whips his wife; or the alley rats make unkind remarks about our wives, mothers, sisters and friends; the bootlegger must go; and you who make a habit of disturbing public worship, beware; our eyes are upon you.”
If Klansmen were not good men they could not subscribe to such good principles.
K.K.K. Visit Freeny
Rev. Roy J. Jacobs held services at Freeny Chapel Sunday, Oct. 23rd.
He reports that during the night service, seventeen robed members of the order of Ku Klux Klan visited the church and presented as a contribution to the church, $15.
He and the church heartily thanks the Klan for the money and the visit.
Caddo boasted 80 Klan members during that time period and I have a hunch that a couple of those members have their names on our streets. A simple Google search will give you the names of governors, senators, and other officials who were not only candid about their membership in the KKK, but were re-elected to their offices. Some of them were horrible racists and did terrible things while in office. I hope there are NOT streets named after them, but again, that may have been a difficult decision for those in charge at the time.
Here is another example of a famous person with an infamous past. Anyone who lives in Bryan County should at least recognize the last name. Many people in Caddo will realize they are related to him. In newspapers across the county his obituary was titled “Famous Killer Dead”.
1908-“Turner Turnbull is dead at his home east of Caddo, in the Choctaw Nation and the man who made his Winchester the law, and scattered graves of horse thieves all along the valley of the Blue and Boggy rivers in what he believed to be a righteous war of extermination, went to his final rest an honored man in his community. For many years, dating back into the early 70s, the name of Turnbull was interwoven with the history of the Choctaw Nation, a terror to outlaws and thieves who claimed the country as their own.”
Turner sounds like a law-abiding citizen doing everyone a favor by ridding the Territory of horse thieves. However, you have to read carefully; he did what he did because he “believed” he was in the right. He and his group of self-appointed rangers had no legal authority and usually killed people on the spot, without a trial. He shot or hung horse thieves, but during one manhunt also beat a young boy senseless, and at another time mistakenly killed a man who was NOT doing anything wrong.
“When Turner Turnbull died he was a man of wealth, whose word was as good as his money; a director in the Bokchito National Bank, a Mason, and a respected citizen. If he ever regretted the bloody part he took in the outlaw warfare of the lawless days, he never made it known.”
Few men die without any regrets.
Another problem with this idea of whitewashing the past is that there can’t be an end to it. If we are going to remove the names of famous people who behaved badly then we had better get ready to include the names of any and all political figures involved in sexual scandal or financial deceit. Oops! There go all of the Franklin, Jefferson, Kennedy, Clinton and Weiner memorials!