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Tulsa honors late 1921 Massacre researcher with commemorative sign

Mayor G.T. Bynu
Ben Abrams
Mayor G.T. Bynum (second from right) poses for a photograph with Don Ross (third from right), Ed Ross (left) and others.

The city is honoring with a commemorative street sign a man who devoted decades of his life to researching the Tulsa Race Massacre.

At a press conference Friday morning, Mayor G.T. Bynum celebrated the life of James Kavin Ross, who died in May at the age of 60. Among other roles, Ross served on the Public Oversight Committee searching for graves from the 1921 massacre. He was also the founder/editor of the Greenwood Tribune.

"Much of the research that goes on even today after his passing is drawn from the research that Kavin did," Bynum said. "After Kavin’s tragic passing, I was talking with his family about how we could honor him appropriately and they brought forward the idea of naming this road, right in front of Oaklawn Cemetery, after Kavin."

Bynum was joined by local radio host Bobby Eaton and Ross’ brother Edward, who was emotional when honoring his family’s work.

"We are fortunate that my dad started his work with the Race Massacre in 1969," Ross said, "he commissioned a study to understand exactly what happened. He did that for 20+ years. When Kavin returned to Tulsa, he just picked up the mantle and started carrying it, and here we are today. As a result, there are exhibits at the African American History Museum in Washington, D.C."

Kavin and Edward are the children of former state representative Don Ross, who founded the Tulsa Race Riot Commission and was in attendance.

Bynum and Ross’ family unveiled a commemorative sign at the corner of 11th Street and Peoria Avenue.

After the press conference and sign unveiling, Edward Ross shared his thoughts with Public Radio Tulsa on how the city can honor the massacre victims.

"Knock that expressway down," he said, referring to Interstate 244, which cuts through Greenwood. "That overpass sits on top of my great-grandfather's restaurant. Put it somewhere else."

In addition, Ross said he wants to see some kind of compensation, monetary or not, be given to surviving massacre victims and their descendants.

"Figure out how you compensate not only the people who are still alive from the city, but their descendants as well. It doesn't have to be money. Money would be great, but they need something that has a lasting legacy that [would] just keep on reproducing itself," he said. "For a long, long time, Tulsa turned a blind eye to the massacre."

Corrected: August 18, 2023 at 5:52 PM CDT
An on-air version of this story stated that J. Kavin Ross died in April of this year. He died in May.
Ben Abrams is a news reporter and All Things Considered host for KWGS.
Check out all of Ben's links and contact info here.
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