Credible Evidence of Mass Grave Presented to Race Riot Commission

Monday, November 22nd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A state commission investigating the Tulsa Race Riot believes they have credible evidence of a mass grave at Oaklawn cemetery. An archeologist testifying before the commission Monday afternoon called it "compelling evidence."

This has been the most confident statement in the commission’s publicly-held hearings on the presence of a mass grave containing riot victims. Last summer, researchers went to a corner of Oaklawn cemetery located near downtown Tulsa. They scanned an area roughly the size of a football field using ground penetrating radar. The researchers were guided to the location by an eyewitness to the burial. The corner of Oaklawn they were searching was where Tulsa paupers were buried in the early part of this century.

Investigators say the radar found a large pit six feet deep and fifteen feet square. "We can only fully confirm that any given location is actually a place where victims of the riot were buried by physically examining that location," said archeologist Bob Brooks.

The race riot commission will ask the city for permission to dig in a small area of the cemetery. If archeologists confirm the presence of skeletal remains, they will stop their work and return to the race riot commission for further instructions.

The city doesn't have the request for excavation yet, but the mayor’s office is already looking into the many legal implications of archeological digs in a cemetery. That’s a question the City of Tulsa has never had to address before Monday’s commission meeting.