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The Day Clara Luper and Mrs. John A. Brown Met - Podcast

Two of Oklahoma’s greatest women, residing in the same city, yet living in different worlds. After years of conflict, their long-awaited showdown changed the history of the state. Relive “The Day Clara Luper and Mrs. John A. Brown Met.”

Join John and KTOK/iHeartRadio star Gwin Faulconer-Lippert and peek into the inner sanctuary of momentous Oklahoma History, through the eyes of the people who made it, two of the greatest women Oklahoma has ever produced—and the very WORDS of one of them. It’s the 73rd episode of our original OKLAHOMA GOLD! radio program and podcast. Go HERE to listen to them all! Future episodes explore more great heroes, events, and movements of Oklahoma History.

Members of the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council, under the direction of Clara Luper, sit in at the main John A. Brown Department Store location lunch counter in downtown in Oklahoma City in the early 1960s. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

I was ready for Mrs. John A. Brown. All of the frustrations building within me for the last four years were going to come out “right in her white face.”

When the secretary opened the door, I walked into an office. I was overcome with history because that office was Mr. John A. Brown’s former office. The furniture, the pictures, the papers and in spite of the improvements and re-furnishings that had happened at John A. Brown’s, that office was just as it was when Mr. Brown died years ago. This was a woman who was clearly still very much in love with her husband. My frustrations began to diminish and when Mrs. Brown opened the door, we both stood speechless before each other and with tears in our eyes, we embraced each other as if we had been friends for years. Oh, I know this couldn’t be, but it was, and now we were talking. Two women, one black and one white. One rich and one poor.

Led by Mrs. John A. Brown for nearly thirty years, Browns Department Stores coupled imagination, innovation, customer service, and daring to grow into one of the largest employers in Oklahoma and one of the great commercial dynasties of the Southwest. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.
Clara Luper during one of her twenty-six arrests. (Courtesy of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP)
Clara Luper coaches up people in 1964 before they head out to test their reception in OKC restaurants following the passage of both local and federal civil rights equal access laws. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Company and Oklahoma Historical Society.
The Brown-Dunkin Department Store Building, 4th and Main in Tulsa. A separate entity from John A. Brown Stores but also owned by Della Brown. Courtesy Tulsa City County Libraries Beryl Ford Collection.
Della Dunkin Brown, second from left (and inset), shortly before her death in 1967. She remains one of the great philanthropists in the history of the state, though largely anonymous, partly due to terrifying kidnapping threats. Oklahoma City Mayor Jim Norick, father of future OKC Mayor Ron Norick, speaks. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

Many thanks to Atwoods Stores, a farm and ranch supply company based in Enid, Oklahoma, for their support of the Red River Institute of History and OKLAHOMA GOLD! Please support them as you are able! Wherever you are, you can order online from thousands of quality products on their terrific website HERE. Atwoods also has 66 stores in 5 states: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. In addition to farm and ranch supplies, Atwoods stores sell clothing, lawn and garden items, tools, hardware, automotive supplies, sporting goods, pet supplies, firearms, and seasonal items.

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