Ellis Walker Woods Memorial Unveiled at OSU-Tulsa
Booker T. Washington’s founding principal is memorialized at the site of the original high school.
A memorial to Ellis Walker Woods, the first principal at the city’s iconic Booker T. Washington High School, was unveiled on Aug. 16, 2019 at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, near the site of the original high school.
Woods was born in eastern Mississippi, where he worked as a farmhand to fund his college education. He came to Tulsa as a young man after learning the city was in need of black teachers and made his career at Booker T. Washington, where he was principal for 35 years.
His influence in Tulsa was far-reaching. Woods sheltered children at the school during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and allowed the American Red Cross to use the building to treat the injured and provide temporary refuge. Although the school survived the Race Massacre, the building was inadequate for the needs of its students, and Woods was instrumental in the effort to build a new Booker T. Washington High School at its current location on Zion Street.
“Woods was more than a principal,” said Captola Dunn, E.W. Woods Memorial Committee chair. “He answered a calling when he came to Tulsa. He was shelter in the darkest of times and he provided hope to his students because he genuinely believed in their goodness, their strength and their abilities.”
The outdoor memorial comprises a bust of Woods with biographical information, an eternal flame and granite columns engraved with names and images of notable Booker T. Washington alumni. Inspirational words attributed to Woods appear throughout the memorial.
The committee, made up of school alumni and supporters and co-chaired by Dunn and her son Malcolm, began plans for the memorial some 30 years ago and broke ground in October of last year. Dunn’s late husband, Albert Edgar Dunn, and classmate Richard Gipson were the project’s founders.
During the ceremony, the committee dedicated the memorial to the community and entrusted its care and maintenance to OSU-Tulsa.
“We are committed to serving our community and being good stewards of this memorial and the legacy it represents,” OSU-Tulsa President Dr. Pamela Fry said. “Ellis Walker Woods undertook his journey to meet educational needs in Tulsa. This memorial will forever serve as a reminder to that calling and an inspiration to our community and visitors from around the world.”
The Ellis Walker Woods Memorial is located at the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and John Hope Franklin Boulevard on the OSU-Tulsa campus, 700 N. Greenwood Avenue. It is open to the public, and visitors are asked to park in Lot A or Lot B. For more information about the memorial, visit ewwoods.org.
Watch the live stream of the unveiling
Ellis Walker Woods Memorial photo gallery
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