THE OKLAHOMA EAGLE IS A TULSA, OKLAHOMA-BASED MEDIA COMPANY THAT PUBLISHES NEWS AND INFORMATION, A STOUT ADVOCATE FOR THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY AND THOSE WHO CHAMPION EQUITY FOR 101 YEARS. WE HAVE ENDURED, WITH FAITH AND THE SUPPORT OF OUR COMMUNITIES, A CENTURY-LONG JOURNEY OF SHARED STRUGGLES AND TRIUMPHS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, CIVIC EQUALITY, ECONOMIC ENFRANCHISEMENT AND JUDICIAL REFORM.
Our mission, “To amplify our core value of equity, through journalism and editorial” is the cornerstone of our continued success.
The Oklahoma Eagle serves a print subscriber base throughout six Northeastern Oklahoma counties, statewide and in 36 U.S. states and territories and abroad. Proudly, we are the 10th oldest Black-owned newspaper in the United States still publishing today.
One of the first newspapers that published in the Historic Greenwood District was the Tulsa Guide edited by attorney G. W. Hutchins of Warwick, Oklahoma, in 1906, a year before Oklahoma’s statehood. Two years earlier, Hutchins, who was a former jail guard and barber, was the editor and publisher of the Fallis Blade in Lincoln County in Central Oklahoma, which had a large Black population. About five years later, a second newspaper, the Weekly Planet edited by Professor J. H. Hill, was operating in Greenwood.
Our legacy publication is tied to two other historic newspapers, The Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun. The Star was originally founded by publisher and editor Andrew Jackson Smitherman – who was also a justice of the peace and an attorney – as a daily newspaper, The Muskogee Star, in 1912. He was the first African American newspaper editor and publisher to produce a long-running daily in the state of Oklahoma. A year later, Smitherman moved to Tulsa and established the Tulsa Star. Smitherman hired businessman James Henri Goodwin, a Mississippi native with a fourth-grade education who migrated to Tulsa, as his business manager in 1916. Theodore Baughman, a pioneer in journalism in Kansas and Texas and a longtime advocate for racial equality, served as the Star’s managing editor.
With a desire to run his own newspaper, Baughman left the Star, and he and his wife, Rosalie, established the competing Oklahoma Sun on June 20, 1920.
On May 31, 1921, a race massacre – ignited on a wave of false sexual assault rumors after a Black shoeshiner Dick Rowland, 19, jostled accidentally against a white woman, Sarah Page, 21, in an elevator inside the Drexel Building – plunged Tulsa into a week-long act of unprovoked violence against the city’s African American citizenry, economic, political and faith-based institutions. The 18-hour deadly barbarian attack, which spanned every aspect of life within Tulsa, is recognized as one of the most heinous acts of domestic terrorism within the United States.
After losing the Star and his home in the massacre, Smitherman left Tulsa, first for the Boston, Massachusetts, neighborhood of Roxbury, before he and his wife Ollie, eventually settling with their five children in Buffalo, New York.
Baughman remained in Tulsa, salvaged the Star’s equipment and launched a new newspaper, The Oklahoma Eagle, opening our first office at 117 North Greenwood Avenue, in the fall of 1922. Nick Chiles, the editor and founder of the Black-owned Topeka Plaindealer – which printed the Baughmans’ newspaper in Kansas – predicted the Eagle would “soar over the Southwest.”
In 1933, James H. Goodwin’s son, Edward L. Goodwin, Sr., became interested in buying the newspaper, but was repeatedly rebuffed by Baughman, who was described by historian Lorenzo J. Greene, a protégé of famed historian Carter G. Woodson, as “a big jovial man of German extraction. Looks to be wholly white.”
By this time, the younger Goodwin had established himself as an enterprising businessman and property owner in the Greenwood community. He had owned the Greenwood Haberdashery in the Goodwin Building that was two doors down from the Eagle. After the Depression, Goodwin became one of the main operators of the policy game – what is considered today’s lottery system but at the time deemed illegal. Prior to Prohibition ending in 1933, he also was involved in bootlegging.
In 1936, he opened the Goodie Goodie Club, a night club that became a staple venue stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit where some of the country’s top Black musicians, entertainers and comedians would perform.
That same year, the younger Goodwin revisited Baughman, now 64, with another offer either to buy the Eagle altogether or an interest in it. At the time, the Baughmans, whose daughter Eunice had joined her parents to help, used a worn Linotype machine and a Lee Press to churn out 700 copies of a four-page broadsheet that took two days to print.
The Baughmans had been struggling to keep the newspaper profitable and supplementing their income with other services – operating a sub-post office, selling almanacs and out-of-state Black-owned newspapers – were not enough.
“I’m in position to get you the proper equipment so you can put out a sheet, ” Goodwin recalled in a 1971 interview with researcher Henry La Brie.
The Eagle was viewed as a “clean paper… (with) No scandal headlines.” Given the younger Goodwin’s business interest – both legal and illegal – Baughman scoffed at his proposal. “Well hell, I wouldn’t sell it to a racketeer,” the publisher told Goodwin.
After being rebuffed, Goodwin fronted money to his friend, Charles Roberts, to purchase half an interest in the Eagle in May 1937. Baughman made the deal with Roberts unaware of Goodwin’s involvement. After Baughman’s unexpected death two months later, Goodwin and Roberts were legally challenged by then-Eagle assistant manager O.B. Graham, who sought to take full ownership of the newspaper.
By the end of 1937, Goodwin was finally awarded full ownership of the Eagle, which he relocated to the building owned by his family at 123 North Greenwood Avenue in early 1938. That same year, Goodwin became a founding member of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
Edward Goodwin said he purchased the Eagle, because he was tired of being vilified by the white Tulsa “metropolitan press” that disparagingly labeling him as “the Black mayor of the City of Tulsa… because of the fact that I had become involved in all of these illegal operations. … So, the metropolitan press was so strong in their accusations against me, I said, ‘Well, I guess this is a good thing for me to do. I’m going to buy one of these papers.’”
Goodwin said he was initially motivated to use the Eagle to help restore and reshape his reputation as a successful businessman. Goodwin said he also discovered that his mission was far more consequential as a newspaper owner. “… I began to realize how important a newspaper could be… I decided that I would dedicate the rest of my life fighting for the things that I knew that Black people needed and never had in order to elevate them to a higher social level, a higher economic level, than that they’d been accustomed to.”
He stamped this mission below the masthead, “We Make America Better When We Aid Our People.”
In 1966, the Tulsa Urban Renewal Authority declared plans to build the Crosstown Expressway by bulldozing our land and displacing dozens of Black-owned businesses and properties. We refused to move and built across the street a new, modern building at 122 North Greenwood. (Today, the site is occupied by ONEOK Field that is home to the Tulsa Drillers’ Double A minor league baseball team). We remained in Greenwood until the 1980s, when we were forced to move – including to three different locations – before settling at our current headquarters, 624 East Archer Street, formerly home to Mabrie’s Garage and Storage.
We are the last survivor of the original Black-owned businesses still operating within the historic Black Wall Street footprint.
Since then, we have maintained our mission through journalism and advocacy, which has led us to be nationally recognized as an award-winning newspaper. Through our existence, we have also published sister editions, The Okmulgee Observer, The Muskogee Independent (in the 1940s and later renamed as Eagle newspapers), The (Lawton, Oklahoma) New Community Guide, The Wichita (Kansas) Observer and an Oklahoma City Eagle edition.
Every member of the Goodwin family – including nine children and their children – has worked for us. Edward Goodwin’s wife, Jeanne, served as an editor, proofreader and wrote a weekly column “Scoopin’ the Scoop” for nearly 60 years.
Many notable alumni – from a Pulitzer Prize winner, to university professors and administrators, a White House official, daily newspaper editors, authors, civil rights activists, lawyers and judges, broadcasters, television executives, actors, professional athletes, ministers, legislators, CEOs, entrepreneurs and many more professionals – have launched their careers from working with us as journalists, advertising representatives, clerks, deliverers, janitors, paperboys and papergirls, press operators, photographers, designers, managers and other newspaper positions.
Today, James O, Goodwin, who was named our president and legal counsel in early 1970s, has served as a co-publisher since 1980 with his brothers, Robert Kerr Goodwin and Edward Lawrence Goodwin, Jr., before becoming our sole publisher in 2014. His daughter, Jeanne M., was most recently our editor.
The elder Goodwin and his three sons – Edward Jr., James and Robert – each have been inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, one of many where the family has been honored.
Our motto, “To Make America Better When We Aid Our People,” remains our charge to serve and to be a voice of all the people.
We would like to introduce you to the greatest publishing team beneath the sun.
Publisher: James O. Goodwin Sr.
Principal: M. David Goodwin
Principal: Ross D. Johnson
Managing Editor: Gary Lee
Website and Social Media: Fred Jones Jr.
Senior Contributor: Ray Pearcey
Graphics/Page Designer: Samantha Levrault
Office Manager/Subscriptions: Kirstein Lynn
Mailroom: Howard Goff Jr.
Advertising: Marsh Media Services
Legal: David W. Cole