U.S. Inquiry in Tulsa Riots Ordered

The New York Tribune/June 4, 1921

Daugherty to Learn if Federal Laws Were Violated; Investigations by State and County Under Way

City to Atone For Harm

Raises Fund to Rebuild for Victims; Radicals Among Negroes Called Plotters.

WASHINGTON, June 3.—A general inquiry into the race riots at Tulsa, Okla., has been ordered by Attorney General Daugherty, it was announced today at the Department of Justice.

The purpose of the investigation, officials said, is to determine whether the disorders were in violation of Federal laws. Preliminary reports, it was added, show that the situation is purely local.

The inquiry ordered is informal and will be made by the department’s agents in the field.

Officials indicated that it was not probable that a special investigation would be ordered. They expressed the belief that the situation would work itself out without the intervention of the Federal government.

State Inquiry Ordered

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., June 3.—A thorough investigation of the Tulsa race conflict by Attorney General Freeling was ordered by Governor Robertson today. Mr. Freeling was authorized to proceed to Tulsa at once and preserve all evidence, which will be submitted to a grand jury when it meets.

TULSA, Okla., June 4.—Search for a number of alleged ringleaders of the race riots of Tuesday night and Wednesday, which cost thirty lives and the loss of $1,500,000 in property, the lifting of martial law and progress on plans for rebuilding a negro “zone” were developments in Tulsa today.

Adjutant General Barrett, in charge of the state troops here, announced this afternoon he had the names of a number of persons suspected of being ringleaders in the trouble and that these persons when apprehended would be turned over to the civil authorities.

General Barrett told the Chamber of Commerce it was unnecessary to keep the state troops after today and this afternoon issued the Governor’s order restoring civil law.

Bar Association to Aid Jury

The Committee of Seven at a conference discussed the request of Governor Robertson for a searching inquiry and decided the best plan would be to handle the investigation through the grand jury. A special committee from the Bar Association, it was announced, will be appointed to cooperate with the County Attorney’s staff.

The Committee of Seven also considered the rebuilding plans and steps are to be taken to provide a well built negro section, this to be done in part as an atonement for the harm done, and also as an example for other cities.

The committee expects no difficulty in obtaining the $500,000 it has been decided is necessary to rebuild homes owner by negroes.

An order was issued from military headquarters early today demanding the arrest of any one offering for recording deeds to or transfers of any property in the burned district.
General Barrett asserted that irresponsible persons were seeking to obtain the property at much less than value.

Radical Agitators Blamed

Agitation by a few irresponsible negroes was blamed for the part of the negroes in the race war here in statements by several prominent negroes and by Police Commissioner J.M. Adkinson.

According to Commissioner Adkinson the police were aware that negro radicals had been at work for some time. He said negro citizens had been warned several months ago that responsibility for any trouble would rest upon the negroes.

As the race war excitement flickered out, the fear which kept negro leaders silent was dispelled, and they told the negro story. Barney Cleaver, a veteran negro police officers and former deputy sheriff, who enjoys the confidence of both whites and blacks, named an alleged negro narcotics peddler as one of the principal leaders in the disturbance Tuesday night which precipitated the shooting and burning.

O.W. Gurley, probably the wealthiest negro in the city, told the story of what happened in the negro section and declared the belligerent negroes established headquarters at the plant of a negro newspaper early Tuesday evening.

Leaders Jeered at Warning

Cleaver said he warned negroes then that they would cause the negro section to be burned if they did not disperse and disarm. “They only laughed at me and threatened to shoot me,” Cleaver said.

Gurley said on the night of the riots be went to the newspaper office about 9 o’clock and found activities far advanced. “Men were coming in singly and in little groups,” he said, “In answer to the call to arms, and guns and ammunition were being collected from every available source.

“Many of the men,” he continued, “were making open threats and talking in a most turbulent manner.

“When I saw what was going on, I tried to talk them out of the idea of arming themselves to prevent what they believed was a threatened lynching, but they were in such a dangerous mood that I almost got in trouble myself.

“There were not more than forty or fifty men in the crowd of armed negroes who marched upon the courthouse. They were nearly all dope users or ‘jake’ driners with police records. However, a few more intelligent ones were in the lead.”