[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 157 (2011), Part 7]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages 9387-9390]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 15, 2011

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, today, we honor Clara Mae Shepard Luper and 
her lifelong work towards achieving equality for all in the state of 
Oklahoma. She has been the face of the Oklahoma Civil Rights movement 
since 1958 and to many she is a treasure to the United States and an 
icon for the struggle for equality.
  In the face of segregation and wide-spread discrimination, Clara 
Luper decided that enough was enough. Mrs. Luper's courage, 
determination, and integrity cultivated her strong leadership to 
organize a sit-in protest at the Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma 
City, a business that refused to serve black customers. Mrs. Luper was 
fearless when she organized civil disobedience demonstrations and she 
unapologetically used these demonstrations to challenge the state of 
Oklahoma's allowance for discrimination against blacks.
  I recall Mrs. Luper spoke about her mother witnessing a Black man who 
had been hung by a White mob in Texas. Regardless of her experience, 
however, her mother instilled in her a belief of ``loving people, no 
matter what their color.''
  Mrs. Luper's mother believed that freedom and equality were 
guarantees of the Constitution and Mrs. Luper was bound to make sure 
the state of Oklahoma made good on that promise. Thus, she continued to 
influence others with the beliefs her parents taught her by including 
young people in the struggle for civil rights and immersing herself in 
demonstrations for equality across the country.
  Mrs. Luper participated in the march in Selma against segregation in 
1965. She was arrested then and many other times for protesting against 
social injustice. She was even beaten by demonstrators protesting 
against the movement in Selma. However, she courageously continued.
  For over 40 years Mrs. Luper traveled with groups of young people 
from Oklahoma to conventions across the United States that rallied to 
end segregation in America. During these conventions, some students 
witnessed desegregated public bathrooms and restaurants for the first 
time in their lives. However, I most admire her journey with these 
young people to the March on Washington in 1963 and her leadership to 
hundreds of youth in the National Association for the Advancement of 
Colored People, NAACP, Youth Council in Oklahoma.
  As an educator for over 40 years, Mrs. Luper taught American history 
to Oklahoma youth. Although she retired in 1991, many of her students 
still credit her for instilling in them a sense of worth and confidence 
that they could go out and change society for the better. Some of them 
considered her more than an educator, with many to this day still 
referring to her as ``Mom.''
  She also had an interest in public service. In 1972, Mrs. Luper threw 
her hat into the political ring and ran for the U.S. Senate. She stated 
``as a teacher, I was interested in getting some practical experience 
in the political realm. And I sure did that.'' Although she did not win 
the nomination from the Democratic Party, many current politicians in 
Oklahoma and abroad have benefited from her courage and significant 
involvement in Oklahoma politics.
  In the years following, Mrs. Luper founded the Miss Black Oklahoma 
Scholarship Pageant. Attending and affording college and a deep 
knowledge of American and civil rights history are the foundations of 
the scholarship pageant program. Young black Oklahoma women have 
benefited Mrs. Luper's vision to provide educational opportunities and 
scholarships to rising young leaders in the state and I am grateful for 
her efforts and investment in America's youth.
  53 years ago, civil rights leader and icon Clara Luper displayed the 
inspiring courage to better this country for all of its citizens. I 
know that this Congress and the people of this Nation can work to 
further the ideals of Mrs. Luper and the Civil Rights Movement.

                [From the New York Times, Jun. 11, 2011]

       Clara Luper, a Leader of Civil Rights Sit-Ins, Dies at 88

                           (By Dennis Hevesi)

       Her name does not resonate like that of Rosa Parks, and she 
     did not garner the kind of national attention that a group of 
     black students did when they took seats at a Woolworth's 
     lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., in February 1960. But 
     Clara Luper was a seminal figure in the sit-ins of the civil 
     rights movement.
       Ms. Luper, who led one of the first sit-ins--at a drugstore 
     in Oklahoma City 18 months before the Greensboro action--died 
     Wednesday at her home in Oklahoma City, her daughter Marilyn 
     Hildreth said. She was 88.
       Ms. Luper was a history teacher at Dunjee High School in 
     1957 when she agreed to become adviser to the Oklahoma City 
     N.A.A.C.P.'s youth council. The youngsters asked what they 
     could do to help the movement.
       On Aug. 19, 1958, Ms. Luper led three other adult chaperons 
     and 14 members of the youth council into the Katz Drug Store 
     in Oklahoma City, where they took seats at the counter and 
     asked for Coca-Colas. Denied service, they refused to leave 
     until closing time. They returned on Saturday mornings for 
     several weeks.
       The sit-ins received local press coverage. Eventually the 
     Katz chain agreed to integrate lunch counters at its 38 
     stores in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Over the next 
     six years, the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter held sit-ins that led 
     to the desegregation of almost every eating establishment in 
     Oklahoma City.
       ``The actions that Ms. Luper and those youngsters took at 
     the Katz Drug Store inspired the rank and file of the 
     N.A.A.C.P. and activists on college campuses across the 
     country,'' Roslyn M. Brock, the group's national chairwoman, 
     said Friday.
       Ms. Luper's activism extended beyond the sit-ins. A week 
     after that first protest, 17 white churches in Oklahoma City 
     let members of her youth group attend services. At another 
     church, a pastor asked two youngsters to leave, The 
     Associated Press reported at the time. ``God did not intend 
     Negroes and whites to worship together,'' he told them.
       Ms. Luper was arrested 26 times at civil rights protests. 
     Now a street is named after her in Oklahoma City, and flags 
     flew Friday at half-staff in her honor.
       Born Clara Mae Shepard on May 3, 1923, to Ezell and Isabel 
     Shepard, Ms. Luper grew up near Hoffman, Okla. Her father was 
     a brick

[[Page 9388]]

     worker, and her mother was a maid. ``When she was a child, 
     her brother got sick and they wouldn't treat him at the 
     hospital,'' Ms. Hildreth said. ``That really triggered her.''
       Ms. Luper is also survived by another daughter, Chelle 
     Wilson; a son, Calvin; a sister, Oneita Brown; five 
     grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-
     great-grandchild. Her husband, Bert Luper, died before her.
       Ms. Luper graduated from Langston University in 1944. In 
     1951 she earned a master's degree in history from the 
     University of Oklahoma, where she was the first black student 
     admitted to a graduate history program. She taught at 
     Oklahoma City high schools until she retired in 1991.
       On the blog Stories in America, she said her father ``had 
     never been able to sit down and eat a meal in a decent 
       ``He used to tell us that someday he would take us to 
     dinner and to parks and zoos,'' she said. ``And when I asked 
     him when was someday, he would always say, `Someday will be 
     real soon,' as tears ran down his cheeks.''

                    [From NewsOK.com, Jun. 9, 2011]

                Civil Rights Leader Clara Luper Has Died

                  (By Robert Medley and Bryan Painter)

       Clara Luper, a civil rights pioneer whose lunch counter 
     sit-ins helped end discrimination in public restaurants, has 
     died. She was 88.
       Luper died Wednesday night in Oklahoma City after a long 
     illness, family members confirmed.
       Luper has been the face of the Oklahoma civil rights 
     movement since 1958, when she led a sit-in protest inside 
     Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City, where the owners 
     had refused to serve black customers.
       Roosevelt Milton, 66, president emeritus of the NAACP's 
     Oklahoma City and Oklahoma chapters, said she was a primary 
     groundbreaker in the movement.
       ``I think that Clara was the last great civil rights icon 
     in Oklahoma,'' Milton said. ``She was a very passionate and 
     fearless person when it came to the NAACP mission.''
       Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, called Luper 
     a civil rights giant.
       ``Throughout her life, Ms. Luper adhered to the principle 
     that actions speak louder than words,'' Steele said. 
     ``Through her actions, she helped lead Oklahoma and the 
     nation forward by showing courage and courtesy 
     simultaneously, often in the face of unpleasant opposition. A 
     road near the Capitol is now deservedly named in her honor, 
     but perhaps the most fitting tribute to give Ms. Luper is 
     fulfilling her vision that all Oklahomans and Americans are 
     equal, our histories and futures intrinsically linked. She 
     will be greatly missed, but her legacy will never be 

                            Historic sit-in

       In 1958, she chaperoned a group of black students to New 
     York City. The trip eastward was through the northern states; 
     many of the students experienced, for the first time, 
     treatment equal to whites in public places. On their return 
     through Southern states, they re-entered familiar, segregated 
     territory. That brief taste of equality would help change 
     American history.
       In August 1958, a youth council group met in Luper's home 
     and decided to force the issue at downtown eating places that 
     refused to serve blacks. They decided to sit down and sit 
     there until they were served.
       With 13 young people, ages 6 to 13, including her two 
     oldest children, Calvin and Marilyn, Luper directed a protest 
     at Katz Drug on Main Street. She taught them courage and 
     self-respect and the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther 
     King Jr. She made certain that every day their clothes were 
     clean and ironed, so they would look confident.
       The youth endured curses and threats from other customers, 
     were covered with ketchup, hot grease and spit and were 
     kicked and punched. Luper was with them constantly. One black 
     child was served a hamburger at the Katz lunch counter, and 
     the breakthrough opened Oklahoma City restaurants to blacks. 
     Luper and the children demonstrated for better treatment for 
     blacks at John A. Brown's luncheonette, Anna Maude Cafeteria, 
     the Skirvin Hotel and Wedgewood Amusement Park.


       Luper helped establish the Youth Council of the Oklahoma 
     City Chapter of the National Association of the Advancement 
     of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1950s and served as its 
     adviser for 50 years. She is credited with directing a new 
     type of nonviolent protest, the sit-in, and for staging the 
     first such publicized event in the nation.
       Luper taught American history for 41 years, beginning at 
     Dunjee High School and working at other Oklahoma City 
     schools; she retired from John Marshall in 1989.
       Clara Shepard Luper was born May 3, 1923, in Okmulgee 
     County, the middle of five children of Ezell and Isabell 
     Shepherd. She attended Langston University, then became the 
     first black student to enroll in the history department at 
     the University of Oklahoma, where she earned a master's 
       She marched with Martin Luther King Jr., whom she knew 
     personally. In Selma, Ala., she was injured by a hit to the 
     knee with a club. Luper was arrested 26 times during sit-ins 
     and other nonviolent protests.
       Her book, ``Behold the Walls,'' published in 1979, detailed 
     her work in the civil rights movement, much of which drew 
     national attention.
       Luper made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, became 
     the first black vice president for the Oklahoma County 
     Teachers Association and served as a consultant and adviser 
     on school desegregation in Oklahoma City.
       In 2000, a 2.7-mile section of NE 23, where she had led 
     young people in walks and marches many times, was renamed the 
     Clara Luper Corridor. In 2002, Edward L. Gaylord, then 
     president of The Oklahoma Publishing Co., initiated a 
     scholarship fund in her name, honoring her life work of 
     giving youngsters self-respect and hope, along with a start 
     on their education.
       In later years, Luper directed celebrations of the 
     anniversaries of civil rights landmarks, and produced the 
     Miss Black Oklahoma pageant, which she used as a medium to 
     teach young women social skills. She opened the Freedom 
     Center, the northeast Oklahoma City headquarters for NAACP 
     youth programs and frequently served as a calming, practical 
     influence for cooperation in race relations.

                           Remembering Luper

       As a 16-year-old, Joyce Henderson, a soon-to-be senior at 
     Dunjee High School, heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 
     present his ``I Have a Dream'' speech Aug. 28, 1963. With a 
     little cash in her purse and a change of clothes in a small 
     suitcase, Henderson boarded one of two charter buses with 
     fellow students active in the NAACP Youth Council. One of her 
     teachers, Clara Luper, invited her to make the trip to 
       Last Friday and again Monday, Henderson went by to see 
     Luper. On Friday, ``I said, `Mother Luper, this is Joyce.' 
     She nodded her head; she knew who I was.''
       Henderson, though not in on the initial sit-in, became 
     involved in the movement. She said Luper's students at Dunjee 
     would call her ``Ms. Luper.''
       ``As we've grown older many of us began calling her Mother 
     Luper,'' she said. ``She was truly that. For whatever reason 
     she made each of us feel special, like she was our mother.''
       Henderson always felt a sense of security knowing of 
     Luper's presence in the world, she said. That made Thursday a 
     sad day for Henderson, who retired in 2006 after 36 years as 
     an educator and administrator.
       ``You've got to admit that Oklahoma and this world is a 
     better place because of Mother Luper,'' she said.
       Bruce Fisher, administrative program officer for the 
     Oklahoma History Center, was emotionally shaken Thursday when 
     he heard the news.
       Fisher played a major role in designing an exhibit at the 
     museum featuring a replica of the Katz Drug Store lunch 
     counter. He said Luper's efforts are an important part of 
     Oklahoma history and important to the national civil rights 
     movement as well.
       ``I wanted to make sure that we never forget that, and what 
     an important role she played in ensuring the rights and 
     freedoms that so many of us now take for granted,'' Fisher 
       Valerie Thompson, president and chief executive officer of 
     the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, said Oklahoma has 
     lost an innovative educator and pioneer for change.
       ``Clara Luper served as a beacon for civil rights and 
     equality,'' Thompson said. ``Her pioneering spirit, tireless 
     commitment to education and advocacy for equal opportunity 
     will never be forgotten.''
       Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Luper was a great 
     Oklahoman and a great American.
       ``Her peaceful, resolute sit-in protest at the Katz Drug 
     Store, where the owners at the time refused to serve African-
     Americans, paved the way for equal rights in Oklahoma City,'' 
     Cornett said. ``If that was the extent of her contribution to 
     Oklahoma and the Nation, it would have been accomplishment 
     enough, but that act came early on, and Clara dedicated the 
     rest of her long and wonderful life to such basic human needs 
     as dignity, honor and respect.''
       Cornett requested that flags on city property be flown at 
     half-staff in honor of Luper through sunset Friday.
       Gov. Mary Fallin described Luper as a tremendous civil 
     rights activist and a devoted mother.
       U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said, ``The 
     courage of Clara Luper and her children provided the turning 
     point in Oklahoma's race relations, through their dignified 
     and principled stand against discrimination in 1958. A 
     lifetime later, our culture has made great strides, but we 
     still have much work to do to remove barriers that keep 
     Americans from achieving their fullest potential. Today's 
     generation can thank Clara Luper for many of the freedoms 
     they experience today.''

                   [From paregien.net, Aug. 6, 2008]

      Clara Luper: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma

                         (By Stan Paregien Sr.)

       Most people would probably try to hide the fact that they 
     had been arrested not just one

[[Page 9389]]

     or twice but 26 times. But there is only one Clara Luper, and 
     she wears those arrests like battle decorations. And so they 
     were. Only the battle was not against an enemy nation but 
     against the ignorance and intolerance that fostered racial 
     problems right here in the good ol' USA.
       Clara Shepard was born on May 3, 1923 in Okfuskee County, 
     Oklahoma. Her parents were dirt-poor share croppers with a 
     total of five children. She attended a segregated (all Black) 
     elementary school in Hoffman, Oklahoma. She graduated from 
     Grayson High School in 1942.
       ``One of my little brothers got very sick. So my parents 
     took him to the only doctor in Henryetta, Oklahoma. But the 
     doctor refused to examine him because he was Black. And he 
     died shortly after that.''
       Clara married Bert Luper at Durant, Oklahoma. Clara and 
     Bert had three children-- Calvin, Marilyn, and Chelle. After 
     his death, she married Mr. Wilkerson.
       She graduated from a segregated Black college, Langston 
     University (Langston, Oklahoma) with the B.A. degree in math 
     and education.

                         A Teacher for 41 Years

       Her first job after graduation was teaching at a Black 
     school for orphans, deaf and blind students. That was at 
     Taft, Oklahoma. She also taught school in Pawnee, Oklahoma. 
     But her longest tenure and greatest impact was at the 
     segregated Dunjee High School in Oklahoma City and, later, at 
     John Marshall High School. She taught history, Human 
     Relations, math and social studies. And, just as important, 
     she instilled in them a sense of worth and a confidence that 
     they could go out and change society for the better. She 
     retired in 1991, after 41 years as an educator and motivator 
     of Black students.
       Luper said, ``My students had dreams about what they could 
     become. I looked at them like you'd look at a caterpillar 
     long before it changes to a butterfly. I knew they had skills 
     and abilities down deep that they could not yet see. So I 
     did-my best to develop those gifts, to polish those diamonds 
     in the rough. That is what teaching is really all about.''

                         Oklahoma Prior to 1950

       By way of a short history lesson, many promoters convinced 
     Blacks from both the South and the North that the new state 
     of Oklahoma (admitted to the Union in 1907) was a Promised 
     Land for them. And many hundreds of Blacks moved West and 
     developed small, all-Black towns in Oklahoma.
       Along with the Black towns came Black-owned newspapapers. 
     And in 1914 one Black newspaper man founded his own 
     newspaper, The Black Dispatch, in the Black area of Oklahoma 
     City. He was outspoken in his calls for Blacks to fight the 
     forced segregation as practiced in most of the nation at the 
     time. And he argued that Blacks should become involved in 
     politics to make sure their voices were heard.
       The tensions between the races rose even higher following 
     the tragic race riot in Tulsa in 1921. It was triggered by an 
     incident in which a Black man allegedly made unwelcome 
     advances on a White woman. The end result was that most of 
     the Black business district on the north side of Tulsa was 
     burned to the ground and some 300 people killed.
       Clara Luper's own parents had different approaches to 
     dealing with racial segregation and other injustices. ``My 
     dear mother believed in loving people, no matter what their 
     color. She was always a bit afraid of the power of White 
     people. She had actually seen a Black man hung by a White mob 
     in Texas. So she was never eager to step out and challenge 
     the status quo.
       ``My father, Ezell Shepard, served in the U.S. Army while 
     it was still highly segregated and suffered many injustices. 
     And there he saw new and better relations between the races, 
     where people were judged more by what they could do than by 
     the color of their skin. So he was more willing to challenge 
     the system. He was just a man of great optimism who did not 
     dwell on negative things but looked for the good things.
       ``One time we all got on a bus, headed somewhere or other. 
     And I asked my parents, `Why do we have to sit here in the 
     back of the bus?' My mother whispered in my face, `You just 
     shut up, girl.' But my father laughed and said, `Oh, that's 
     alright. Don't you worry about it Clara. Times will get 
     better some day.' That is how it was in our family. He was a 
     `some day' man.''
       On Dec. 5, 1955, a young Black girl named Rosa Parks in 
     Montgomery, Alabama set off a furor when she refused to give 
     up her seat on a bus to a White woman. Dr. Martin Luther 
     King, Jr., followed up with a call for a boycott of the bus 
     system until they agreed to end their racist seating rules. 
     That boycott lasted until December of 1956, when the city 
     finally agreed to eliminate their descriminitory rules.
       ``Oh, I got great strength of courage by seeing the new 
     coverage of those Black people taking action to better their 
     lives,'' Clara Luper said with a wave of her arm. `` And it 
     also filled me with anger that they had to walk to work and 
     elsewhere just to fight for the same seating rights as White 

                           The Freedom Center

       I interviewed her as we sat in her modest office at the 
     Freedom Center she helped establish at 2609 N. Martin Luther 
     King Avenue in Oklahoma City. That was on August 6, 2006. Her 
     speech was strong and animated, her pronunciation so distinct 
     and precise as to be almost theatrical. It was obvious that 
     her talent in public speaking had been honed by years of 
     teaching and motivating others. And I could imagine how, 
     fifty years ago, many lesser educated Whites and Blacks could 
     feel intimidated or even threatened by her self-confident 
       ``This building has been a blessing to our people,'' she 
     said. ``The National Association for the Advancement of 
     Colored People, NAACP, started meeting in my house at 1818 NE 
     Park Place in 1957. We soon needed a bigger place to meet and 
     we bought and converted what had been an old Mobil gas 
     service station to our Freedom Center. We were able to rally 
     a large number of people, particularly young people, to 
     participate in our motivational activities. And a lot of 
     White folks didn't like that one bit.
       ``So one night someone threw a torch or a bomb into the 
     building. All my personal correspondence with people like 
     Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers was lost in the fire. But 
     we turned right around and rebuilt the building. The kids at 
     Northwest Classen High School, where I was teaching, helped 
     raise some of the money. No one was ever arrested for the 

                      the sit-in in oklahoma city

       On August 18, 1958, Clara Luper led her students into a 
     Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City. The drug store 
     also had a lunch counter and soda fountain, but only served 
     White people. So Luper and her young people walked in and 
     placed their orders and, when promptly refused, they sat down 
     and refused to leave. This was a peaceful and orderly and 
     non-violent demonstration to gain the right to eat there. But 
     the police were summoned and escorted the group from the 
     building. But Luper and the students returned time and time 
     again until the store finally gave in and agreed to serve 
     Blacks just as they did everyone else.

                         Influence of Religion

       She said that she came from a very religious family. ``My 
     Christian faith has always been extremely important to me, 
     both in my personal and professional life and in my 
     experiences in the Civil Rights Movement. It all goes back to 
     my parents and grandparents who taught us to believe for the 
     rain when it didn't fall, to believe for the sun when it 
     didn't shine and to pray to the God we had never seen.
       ``And I was heavily influenced by the ministers in the 
     Black community. They were largely uneducated or self-taught. 
     But despite their lack of a formal education, they were often 
     the best role models for our children. And most of them did 
     all they could to help our young people.
       ``You see,'' she said with a big smile, ``those ministers 
     were not dependent on White employers for their incomes, 
     unlike most Black folks. So they could be more vocal on 
     social issues.''
       Clara Luper is a long-time member of the Fifth Street 
     Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

                          March on Washington

       In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a march on 
     Washington, D.C., to demand passage of the Civil Rights Bill. 
     About a hundred people, including Clara Luper, loaded onto 
     two buses for the trip to Washington and were present on that 
     historic day, August 28, 1963. Some 250,000 people crowded 
     together to hear the speakers. And all of the U.S. TV 
     networks, as well as many foreign networks, carried to 
     messages to millions of people around the world.
       ``We had a great time on those buses. We sang freedom songs 
     and talked about what a great gathering it would be. And it 
     was better than we could ever have imagined. There were rows 
     and rows of buses as far as the eye could see, with hundreds 
     of thousands of people gathered together. The highlight was 
     when Dr. King gave his ``I Have a Dream'' speech. That was so 
     simple and yet so powerful. My son, Calvin, got to shake 
     hands with Dr. King and with President John Kennedy.
       ``We had come to Washington. Then we got back on the bus 
     and it was silent for a long time. Then someone broke out 
     singing `We Shall Overcome' and we all started singing. It 
     was an enchanting, heavenly feeling that I shall never 
     forget. Yes, yes.''
       ``You know something?'' she asked, rhetorically and then 
     firmly stated, ``It is hard to love your enemies, those who 
     would walk up to you and spit in your face. But Dr. Martin 
     Luther King said you've got to. And, of course, he got that 
     from the Bible.''
       Unfortunately, President Kennedy was assassinated just 
     three months later. But his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, 
     signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. The 
     bill gave the federal government absolute power to enforce 
     school desegregation. It even prohibited segregation in 
     public places. And, just as important for the long haul, the 
     Civil Rights Act established a Commission on Equal Employment 
       ``The Civil Rights Bill of 1964,'' Luper noted, ``was also 
     a big help to women. For the most part, and particularly in 
     the Black community, women were taught to be subservient to 
     men. Women had been indoctrinated to believe they were dumb 
     and that

[[Page 9390]]

     whatever men said was the end of the discussion. But that 
     Bill said you cannot discriminate on the basis of race, 
     creed, color or sex. So that was something to really be proud 
       Times were changing for the better, to be sure. Just like 
     Clara's father had predicted.

                             March on Selma

       In 1965, Clara Luper and Eddie Stamps and others drove in 
     vans to Selma, Alabama to march against segregation.
       ``In Selma it was just like a war. The Civil Rights 
     protesters were on one end of the town and the police and 
     their supporters (``posse men'') were on the other end. Even 
     the highway patrol pointed guns at us as we drove into town.
       ``When we started our march, one of the `posse men' as they 
     called themselves, hit me on the leg. My leg started bleeding 
     and the girls, white girls, that were with me started crying 
     and saying, `Oh, mamma, mamma, you're hurt.' And those posse 
     men or Klu Klux Clan came up and said to the white girls, `Is 
     she your mamma?' and the white girls said, `Yes, that's our 
       ``So those men came back to me and asked me who the father 
     of those girls were, since they were calling me mamma. So I 
     told them God was their father. And those men began to cuss 
     and say `Screw them niggers'. So I knew they were ignorant 
     and it didn't matter what I said to them,'' Luper said.
       ``About that time Dr. Martin Luther King came up and got us 
     all to walk toward the bridge in an effort to get the local 
     Blacks registered to vote. It was a long, hard day.
       ``That night we all fanned out to be in different homes to 
     listen to President Lyndon Johnson speak on TV to the Nation. 
     I wound up in a pretty run-down house. We all watched TV as 
     President Johnson said that the very next day he was going up 
     to speak to the Congress and to ask them to pass a voters 
     rights bill. We all just went wild.''

                          Political Candidate

       In 1972, Luper threw her hat into the political ring. She 
     ran for the U.S. Senate against fellow Democrat Mike Turpen 
     and Republican Dewey Bartlett.
       ``As a teacher, I was interested in getting some practical 
     experience in the political realm. And I sure did that. I had 
     debates with both Turpen and Bartlett, so it gave me a great 
     platform to express my views. But, of course, Dewey Bartlett 
     won the election. It was still a great educational experience 
     for me and for my students. I really enjoyed that experience 
     more than anything else I have ever done.
       ``I remember one incident down somewhere in southeast 
     Oklahoma, down there in `Little Dixie'. I was speaking at a 
     political rally when a White man stood up and asked me what I 
     thought about interracial marriage. I said, `I'm so happy you 
     asked me that. You see as an educator and a student of 
     history, I have never seen an ant having intercourse with an 
     elephant. What that basically means, sir, is that anything 
     that God did not want to have mate with another of his 
     creations He made it physically impossible. That man got mad 
     and walked out,' she said with a hardy laugh.''
       When asked what her typical day is like today, Clara Luper 
     said: ``There really is no `typical day,' because I am 
     involved in so much and traveling a lot. But when I am home, 
     I usually get up at 6 a.m. I shower, read the newspapers and 
     listen to the news on either the TV or the radio. Then I go 
     down to the little lake behind my house and, every other day, 
     I feed the fish. And then I usually phone my children and 
     talk with my sister. And on Mondays, I try to spend several 
     hours at my office at the Freedom Center.''
       She says she also relaxes by playing the word game Scrabble 
     with anyone who is available. And she likes listening to 
     spiritual music and to the blues.

                     Honors to Whom Honors Are Due

       At the time of my interview with her, Clara Luper was 83 
     years old. Yet she still maintained a heavy speaking schedule 
     all across the country. That is because she is known as a 
     freedom fighter, a true Civil Rights hero, across the nation 
     and not just in Oklahoma.
       The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed HB 2715 
     honored her by naming a portion of NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma 
     City as ``Clara Luper Corridor''. She has been inundated with 
     over 500 other honors as well. And of them she says, ``Every 
     award has been a recognition of the people who worked with 
     me. So all those awards are special. It just shows what 
     people working together for a common cause can do.''
       Devon Energy Corporation joined hands with Oklahoma Gas & 
     Electric Company to establish a ``Clara Luper Scholarship'' 
     program at Oklahoma City University. It was set up to help 
     minority students and to honor Luper for her contributions to 
     education in Oklahoma and to the Civil Rights movement here 
     and throughout the Nation. And on May 5, 2007, the first 22 
     Clara Luper scholars received their diplomas from OCU. They 
     had completed, as a group, some 13,000 hours of community 
     service during their four years at the University.
       Clara Luper wrote a 346 page book, Behold the Walls, which 
     is her account of development of the Civil Rights movement 
     during her lifetime. It was published in 1979, and Oklahoma 
     City University reprinted the book in January, 2007.
       ``Looking back after all these years,'' Luper said. ``I see 
     how the progress we made took the coordinated efforts of so 
     many people. It was not just the work of Clara Luper. It was 
     the work of every person who helped in any way to advance the 
     movement. Some marched and some participated in sit-in's, 
     while others were behind the scenes in prayer and providing 
     food and money for those of us who were out front.
       ``I have seen in my lifetime the fulfillment of my father's 
     dream that `Someday it will be alright'. I have seen us get 
     the right to eat in any restaurant or to use any restroom, to 
     stay in any hotel in the country. I am grateful that we are 
     now able to take our family to the zoo on any day, not just 
     on one day a week that was formerly designated for coloreds. 
     But we still have a long way to go.''