ORU History Professor Reenacts W.T. Brady

by Abby Wendle


You might say that Dr. Paul Vickery channels spirits.  Besides his long career as a history professor at Oral Roberts University, he also moonlights as an historic character impersonator. One of his characters is Tate Brady, the prominent  businessman, Tulsa Booster and Ku Klux Klan member. Listen as Vickery assumes Brady’s voice to celebrate the promise of Tulsa and respond to accusations that Brady was involved in The Tulsa Outrage, the beating, tarring and feathering of 17 members of the Industrial Workers of the World – a radical worker’s union active in Oklahoma in the early 20th century.


Dr. Paul Vickery: A lot of the new history seems to be trying to tear down our heroes.  They’re all slaveholders.  They’re all this, they’re all that and I don’t see that as – sure we can mention it, but I don’t think it detracts from what they did.

Hi, I’m Dr. Paul Vickery and I am a Professor of History at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and have been teaching there for just over 20 years.  In 1996, there was a Chautauqua performance here in Tulsa and I portrayed H.L. Mencken.  I do like acting.  I like public speaking and I got involved with it and I have done several characters since, Francis Asbury, Marquis James, Henry Ford, Sen. Joe McCarthy and Tate Brady.  Tate Brady, one of the founding fathers, if you will, of Tulsa and someone after whom of course the Brady District is named.  And he will be an interesting – he is an interesting character.

Abby Wendle: Do you want to introduce yourself as Brady?

PV: Sure.  Well, hello.  My name is Tate Brady and I’m glad that you asked me here today to talk about Tulsa and its history.  It’s one of those things that I’m an expert at.  I came here of course to make money.  I was a businessman and I came to the Tulsa area to sort of stake out a new claim for the shoes that I was selling.  And it was a place that I had—I saw had potential.  Indian, white, Jew, Protestant, Catholic, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, working together, that is the Tulsa spirit.

AW: As a businessman yourself and a supporter of business, how do you feel about the activity of the IWW?

PV: Well, I don’t think too much of those Wobblies.  The Wobblies to me are somebody that we can do without.  And I think if all of the business leaders got together we could get rid of them.

AW: And what do you say to those who think that you and other business leaders have gotten together to get rid of them?  Violently.

PV: Violently?  Well, I don’t think that that’s even an option.  I can’t imagine who would connect my name or the name of any other leader in this city with violence.  That’s not the way we do things here in Tulsa.  That’s not part of the Tulsa spirit.

AW: I want to ask you a question about some of this stuff.

PV: Okay.

AW: Do you feel that the character that you have portrayed is sort of the mainstream narrative of Brady?

PV: The part that we know about Brady would be the part that has been portrayed because those around him would have felt more or less the same that he felt and so they would only have portrayed his positive traits.  It’s only in the recent years where a little more light can be shed on activities that reflects perhaps his darker side as we might think of it today.

AW: Do you think that, you know that that new information is coming to light that it’s important for that part to be known?

PV: I think it’s the role of the scholar, of a historian to bring out hitherto unknown aspects of a person’s character.  Does this make Brady a bad man in my idea?  No.  Does it make him a flawed man, a person who was the product of his age, a person who reflected what we now look at as being odious character traits?  Yes.  But, does that destroy all the good works he did?  I don’t think so.