Ross, Graves get together on measure to create Tulsa riot medals

Tuesday, March 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(TULSA) - A measure to create a medal of distinction for survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot has brought together two lawmakers whose beliefs fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

State Reps. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, and Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City, have attached their names to House Concurrent Resolution 1014. The resolution would authorize the use of the design of the state seal in the medal of distinction, which would be given to the 118 living survivors of the deadly riot that destroyed the Greenwood area of Tulsa, Ross said.

As many as 300 people may have died in the violence, historians estimate.

``Bill Graves and I are so extreme that he sits on the far right of the House Chamber and I sit on the far left,'' Ross said.

Ross authored the bill that could lead to funding of a memorial to the riot. He also has advocated hate crime legislation, a bill outlawing racial profiling by law enforcement officers and other measures some view as ``liberal.''

Graves, on the other hand, has opposed all of the above and is considered ``conservative.'' He believes the federal government should keep its nose out of state business.

But Ross believed that asking Graves to be a co-author would fend off potential opposition to the measure from some of the House of Representatives' more conservative members.

Graves said he agreed to be a co-author because he agrees that what occurred 80 years ago in Tulsa was an injustice, a story from the Tulsa World's capitol bureau said.

``I think we should at least show them (the survivors) respect and pay homage to them in this way,'' Graves said.

The riot was an ``awful thing,'' Graves said. He continues to opposes state reparations for survivors ``because that would be an injustice to people who had nothing to do with (the riot) to have to pay it.''

Private funds would pay for the medals, Ross said. One side of which will display the state seal and a drawing of the once-vibrant ``Black Wall Street'' in the Greenwood area will be on the other side.

The youngest of the living survivors is now 85 years old, Ross said. Some of them will get the medals at a ceremony next month at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Others will receive the medal in a June ceremony in Tulsa, Ross said.