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Clara Luper's children share memories of their mother

Luper considered everything that was good as a reason to celebrate
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: June 16, 2011

Clara Luper, notebook in hand, would sit on the front row to listen to her children deliver a speech.

If at any point, the child filled the air with “uh,” her pencil whisked a checkmark.

Once home, daughter Marilyn Hildreth recalls, “You would go before the board of education, and become well-educated.”

And your tongue better be the only thing in your mouth when talking in public. Son Harold Green returned one time from speaking in Tulsa, to “What about that gum you had?”

“That was a board of education call,” he said.

The “Clara Luper board of education” was the reason son Calvin Luper didn't get in trouble at school. If he had, the teacher would call his mother and “I knew the board was there, and I didn't want it to be in the ready position when I got home.”

Chelle Luper Wilson, the youngest of Clara Luper's children, was good and didn't have to go before the board very often. Nonetheless she would hide it. “It seems like when I did, someone at the high school woodshop would make her one bigger than the one I'd hid.”

Wednesday, Hildreth, of Oklahoma City sat on L-shaped couch in her mother's home with her brothers Calvin Luper, of Oklahoma City, and Harold Green, of San Diego, as well as her sister Chelle Luper Wilson, of Crossroads, Texas, to her left.

They spoke of a mother who disciplined only to train. They spoke of a mother of compassion. They spoke of a mother of celebration.

While the nation remembers Clara Luper, the civil rights leader who died June 8, they lovingly remembered “mama.”

The purpose

Luper instilled the importance of self-respect. Besides proper enunciation, the NAACP's Youth Council that met at Luper's home made sure that each participant of the sit-ins wore clean clothes that were ironed.

These were signs of confidence.

Hildreth said if proof is needed that her mother's way worked, consider those planning to attend the funeral Friday.

There will be 12 of the 13 original participants of the 1958 sit-in at the Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City.

There will be the woman who owns four fast-food franchises, a woman who works for a U.S. senator, and a man who practices international law in Saipan.

“As a result of being disciplined, she was able to train young people to do almost anything,” Marilyn said. “She would tell us, anything that you can dream, you can achieve.”

Always a teacher

Every circumstance was an opportunity to teach, as Marilyn, Calvin and Harold learned at the dinner table one evening.

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Luper to lie in repose

The body of Oklahoma City civil rights leader and educator Clara Luper will lie in repose Thursday at the state Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd. The public may pay their respects from noon to 4 p.m.

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