City and State motions are denied

Federal Judge gives green light for Greenwood survivors

TULSA RACE RIOT SURVIVORS and their descendants gathered Sunday night at the Church of the Restoration on North Greenwood. The plaintiffs were advised on what to expect in the coming weeks of preparation for the court battle between the riot survivors, the City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma. (Photojournalist J. Kavin Ross/Oklahoma Eagle)

By J. Kavin Ross
The Oklahoma Eagle
Serving Metropolitan Tulsa since 1921 - Volume 82 - Number 42 - 12 Pages - Thurday, October 2, 2003 Edition - Front Page

The discovery phase of the Tulsa Race Riot lawsuit, which dealt with the statute of limitations, and the state's immunity from being sued in federal court, were underway Monday at the Old Federal Building located in the heart of downtown Tulsa.

The state stated that it was protected under the 11th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The city's claim was that the statues of limitations and ended more that 80 years ago.

However, after the court proceedings riot survivor John Alexander stated, "I am pleased with the judge's ruling. There is no statue of limitations on murder." Alexander was a child when a white mob under the color of law invaded the African American community of Tulsa known as Greenwood.

Greenwood was widely known for its accumulation of wealth. Educator Booker T. Washington is credited with coining the phrase "The Negro Wall Street of America." During the turbulent civil rights era, the historic section became known as the Black Wall Street of America.

U.S. District Judge James Ellison permitted the extension of an initial discovery phase of the federal lawsuit against the city and the state of Oklahoma.

The plaintiffs and their dream team of attorneys have until Nov. 3 for depositions and respond to the numerous inquiries from the city of Tulsa. The judge permitted a standard set of answers for all riot survivors.

Judge Ellison ordered the plaintiffs' attorneys to contact each of their clients for responses but allowed for the possibility of "composite answers" to some questions.

Mrs. Eddie Faye Gates, a member of the 1921 Race Riot Commission, stated that seven suriviors have died since the filing of the suit. They are J.D. Bell, Simeon Neal, Bessie Mae Vestor, Clarence Brunner, Ernestine Gibbs, Willie Bell Jackson, and Ruth Dean Nash.

The lawsuit was filed in late February by a team of attorneys that includes Charles Ogltree, Dennis Sweet, Willie Gary and Johnnie Cochran.

On May 31 and June 1,1921 a deputized white mob destroyed the black community in Tulsa. Thousands of lives were forever changed when 35 square blocks were burned to the ground