LOCAL & STATE
The Oklahoma Eagle
The Oklahoma Eagle Staff
Illustration The Oklahoma Eagle
TULSA, OKLA. (October 9, 2023) – Centenarian and Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis passed away today, members of his family reported. He was 102 years old. A WWII veteran, Ellis was traveling with family in Denver, Colo.
He is survived by his sister, Viola Ford Fletcher, 109, also a survivor of the race massacre, and other family members. Ellis and Fletcher were two of three last-known survivors of the massacre. The third is Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108.
St. Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-73) said, “In the midst of Mr. Ellis’s death, there remains an undying sense of right and wrong. We assured him that we would remain steadfast. We celebrate the rare life of Mr. Hughes Van Ellis who inspires us still.”
Ellis, known as “Uncle Redd” by his loved ones, was a plaintiff with Fletcher and Randle in a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa et al. Together, they were seeking recompense for the loss of property and for the injustice of one of the most violent acts of terrorism in the country.
Oklahoma State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-73) said Ellis recently urged her to keep fighting for justice. His comments were in response to Goodwin sponsoring an interim study. The study focused on the “Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Race Riot of 1921” published in 2001. Fletcher and Randle attended the hearing in Oklahoma City. Ellis was not able to attend.
His sister and Randle provided testimony, among others. The testimony was in response to the violence that was inflicted upon hundreds of Blacks living in the Greenwood area in the summer of 1921. Known as Black Wall Street, the district was ground zero to the loss of hundreds of lives and livelihoods and the devastation and ruin of residences, business, schools, and churches.
The survivors are currently engaged in an appeal of the lawsuit against the city that is now before the state Supreme Court for review. It was dismissed by a Tulsa County judge in July. The state court has yet to rule whether it will hear the case.
Services are pending for Ellis.