By Randy Hopkins –
J.M. Adkinson from a campaign advertisement courtesy of the author.
On Tuesday afternoon, May 31, 1921, a newspaper article titled “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator” hit the streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. Located on the front page of the Tulsa Tribune, it was promoted by the outcries of newsboys - “negro assaults a white girl!”[i] In modern parlance, “Nab Negro” was fake news. Its deceit married hatred and bred hysteria. One hundred years later, the outcome is called the Tulsa Race Massacre.[ii]
Part 1 - Cleaning up Tulsa
The trail to “Nab Negro” began in April 1920, when the Tulsa Republican Party’s “Bigger and Better” ticket won a narrow, upset victory in city elections.[iii] The win, which ousted incumbent mayor Charles H. Hubbard and three Democrat Party city commissioners, was a bipartisan affair. During the primary election three weeks earlier, almost five thousand voters had cast ballots for Democrat mayoral candidates versus barely two thousand Republican votes.[iv] A dissident “law and order” faction of the Democrats, however, led by defeated primary mayoral candidate Charles F. Hopkins and his supporters Tate Brady, Stephen R. “Buck” Lewis, and Lina Walker Hull switched sides and put the Republicans over the top.[v]
The monstrous consequences of the election were revealed in June 1921, when Greenwood lay in ruins. Hubbard had actively campaigned for Greenwood votes and his energetic supporters there included Andrew J. Smitherman, publisher of the Tulsa Star, and J. B. Stradford.[vi] Odds are high that a re-elected Hubbard administration would have never countenanced Tulsa’s race war.[vii] Under the new administration, Tulsa’s city government caused it.
Thaddeus D. Evans, a lawyer and farm loan agent, became the mayor, but the dominant force of the new regime was commissioner James Munroe Adkison. Born in Ohio and raised in Texas, the forty-one-year-old Adkison ran an insurance and loan company and had served as city treasurer during the prior Republican administration from 1916-18.[viii] Adkison tallied more votes than any other candidate, crushin