Black Entrepreneur: Capp Jefferson (1877-1946)
This lionhearted Oklahoma pioneer came across Red River to Oklahoma City a decade before statehood. An African American, he toiled and persevered his way to a successful real estate and oil career in a city where Jim Crow still ruled in everything from segregated neighborhoods to trying on clothes in department stores. In doing so, he overcame the opposition of jealous blacks and those who called him an Uncle Tom, even as he risked reprisals from whites angry over his public calls for racial tolerance.
When no whites would buy or even lease a vacant, dilapidated home he had purchased and restored to sell in a whites-only neighborhood, Capp leased it to his daughter Dolly and her husband. The empty house was dynamited the night before the new tenants moved in. Many of Jefferson's erstwhile black enemies came to support and even revere him as they, their children, and their friends benefitted from the various projects he championed for the “Negro” community, often from his own pocket. These included a Boy Scout camp for black children, a library for the Junior College adjacent to Oklahoma City’s all-black Douglass High School, and his two runs for United States Congress, as a Republican, against fields of well-financed white Democrats.
Capp Jefferson had six children and served faithfully for 45 years as a layman at the iconic Calvary Baptist Church, 300 N. Walnut, in Oklahoma City. Perhaps this lionhearted builder of Oklahoma left an appropriate epitaph for himself, as quoted in a 1936 Oklahoman newspaper article. It concerned an upcoming debate over the expansion of zoning for oil drilling in OKC:
“There'll be three kinds of people there. One kind will be the (commercial) interests; another kind will be the folks that don't want oil extension, whatsoever; the last kind will be the folks with the public welfare at heart. That'll be me.”