Oklahoma City neighborhoods: A brief history of … JFK neighborhood

History runs deep in Oklahoma City's John F. Kennedy neighborhood.
BY JOEY STIPEK jstipek@opubco.com Published: August 4, 2013

The John F. Kennedy neighborhood — once segregated, historically black — is an offshoot of Deep Deuce, said Bruce Fisher, administrative programs officer for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the first laws passed were Jim Crow laws designed to segregate every facet of life for Oklahomans. These laws confined black people to living in certain neighborhoods, such as Deep Deuce.

Many people are unaware that Gov. William H. Murray (1931-1935) employed the National Guard to keep black people from moving into white neighborhoods, Fisher said.

JFK was home to Oklahoma City's black-owned businesses, including Jay-Kola, started by Percy James. Success led James to open a string of shops along NE 4 Street.

Among them was the Jewel Theater. It remains, though it closed decades ago.

The former Page-Woodson High School still stands in the neighborhood. Famous alumni include swing and jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, novelist Ralph Ellison and former Langston University President Inman Page, for whom the school is named.

Aside from some houses rebuilt after they were leveled by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority in the 1970s and 1980s, the neighborhood contained few newly constructed homes until recently, Fisher said.

JFK adopted its name in 1966, deriving it from the John F. Kennedy Public School, named for the 35th president, who was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963. Bounded by NE 1 and NE 23 streets between Interstates 235 and 35, the JFK has seen an upswing in construction with the Oklahoma Health Center and Toby Keith's OK Kids Korral for families of pediatric cancer patients.

Plans call for a $25 million Embassy Suites hotel at NE 8 Street and Phillips Avenue.