Fifty years after she began a peaceful fight against racial segregation, Clara Luper remains a beacon of light for Oklahoma City. The memory of her deeds still provides inspiration for people of all colors, here and across the state.
At an Oklahoma City Thunder game this week, the team and Devon Energy honored Luper with a "Community Hero” award. It was one of scores of community service awards she has received through the years. Many of those at the Ford Center weren’t born or were far too young to know of the courage it took to start the sit-ins at Katz Drug Store in the summer of 1958.
When the 50th anniversary was marked in August, teachers across the city reported that few of their students, including their black students, had ever heard of what Luper had done. Many of those same children couldn’t imagine a day when citizens couldn’t be served at a lunch counter solely because of their skin color.
The late 1950s also were a time when at least some teams in the NBA wouldn’t play more than a few black players at a time, so as not to upset the predominantly white crowd. Today, the crowds are still predominantly white, but blacks represent more than 80 percent of the league’s players.
Clara Luper played a role in breaking down all kinds of barriers — at a lunch counter here locally, and across the country in making institutions like pro basketball more color blind.
She’s an Oklahoma institution and deserves every honor she gets.