Ellis Walker Woods Memorial Unveiled in Tulsa

Aug 16, 2019

The product of a decades-long vision to honor Booker T. Washington’s founding principal was revealed Friday.

The Ellis Walker Woods Memorial is at OSU Tulsa, near the high school’s original location.

Ellis Walker Woods walked 500 miles from Memphis to Oklahoma to answer a call for more black teachers. Woods was principal at Booker T. Washington High School from 1913 to 1948. He sheltered children and people looking for refuge in the school during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and let the Red Cross treat injured people there.

Vernon AME Church Rev. Dr. R. A. Turner said amid the destruction of Greenwood, Woods’ school and his church survived.

"And I think there’s something to be said about who he is, who he was as a man, that everything associated with him, even the rioters did not touch," Turner said.

The outdoor memorial is made up of several granite pillars with words from Woods and names and pictures of notable Booker T. Washington alumni on them. A bust of Woods and an eternal flame sit atop taller columns in the center of the memorial.

Longtime Tulsa educator Dr. La Verne Ford Wimbley said there’s more to the memorial than meets the eye.

"While it has been erected to honor a man of distinction who had such a widespread influence on the students at Booker T. Washington High School, it represents the importance of education and a commitment to the future," Wimbley said.

E.W. Woods Memorial Committee Chair Captola Dunn, one of Woods' former students, said plans for the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial started 30 years ago.

"The Woods Memorial Committee presents this memorial to you, Tulsa. It’s yours to learn from. It’s yours to use. Enjoy it. Protect it. It’s a place of beauty," Dunn said.

OSU Tulsa will maintain the memorial.