J. B. Stradford (1861-1935)
Born into Kentucky slavery, this lionhearted entrepreneur, Republican ward chairman, and co-founder of Greenwood grew wealthy from his rental houses, brick apartment building, and then the Hotel Stradford, his piz de resistance and the gleaming jewel of black Tulsa enterprise. In all of it, he exhibited the bold audacity he did as an advocate for black social and political rights, as well as the belief in American free enterprise that made him a patriot and spurred him to deem blacks who failed to participate in its opportunities “moral cowards.”
Determined to prevent any lynching attempt on Dick Rowland, he participated in the first Greenwood “delegation’s” trip downtown. Before retiring to bed for the night, however, he warned his colleagues to stand down. Unfortunately, they failed to heed his advice.
All his properties razed, he was wrongly accused of helping foment the race war. Avoiding extradition forced him to live out his days in Chicago, where, a somewhat broken man, he failed to recapture his earlier business magic. Seventy-five years after the Tulsa Race War, Stradford descendants’ efforts to vindicate his name resulted in Tulsa County District Attorney Bob LaFortune dismissing the charges against him. Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating granted him a posthumous executive pardon.