The Essential Guide to Tate Brady

by This Land

When This Land published Lee Roy Chapman’s “The Nightmare of Dreamland: Tate Brady and the Battle for Greenwood” in September of 2011, the truth behind one of Tulsa’s founding fathers, W. Tate Brady, was exposed. The findings outlined in the article sparked a debate that eventually drew the world’s attention as Tulsa struggled to decide whether to remove Brady’s name from street and area signage.

“[The article] unveils the racist past of W. Tate Brady, who was not only one of Tulsa’s founding fathers and major landowners,” The Huffington Post wrote about the story, “but also a prominent Klansman and orchestrator of the Tulsa Race Riot.”

Major findings from the article include:

  • Brady was revealed as one of the major organizers behind the Tulsa Outrage of 1917, in which members of the Industrial Workers of the World were tarred and feathered by the black-robed Knights of Liberty, a short-lived secret faction of the Ku Klux Klan. All 17 members of the IWW identified Tate Brady as the man who applied the tar and feathers.
  • On November 6, 1917, Brady physically assaulted the owner of the Hotel Fox, E.L. Fox in broad daylight.
  • In 1918, Brady and other notable Tulsans served as a chairmen of the committee to bring the Sons of Confederate Veterans reunion to Tulsa. The reunion’s figurehead, Nathan Bedford Forrest III, served as the KKK’s Grand Dragon of Georgia and an “Imperial Klokann” for the national Klan. The Klan actively recruited its members from the SCV.
  • Brady participated in the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 as a night watchman. The article stated: “Tate Brady, proprietor of the Brady hotel, who was a member of white men on guard duty along North Main street all night, said he counted the bodies of five negroes. One negro was dragged behind an automobile, with a rope about his neck, throughout the business district.”
  • After the riot, Brady was appointed to the Tulsa Real Estate Exchange, which tried to prevent blacks from rebuilding their destroyed properties in the Greenwood District.
  • In 1923, the Klan, established as the Tulsa Benevolent Society, paid $200,000 for the construction of a large “Klavern” or gathering hall that could seat 3,000 members. Beno Hall, as it was known, was located at 503 N. Main St. According to Tulsa County land records, that parcel of land was then owned by Rachel Brady, Tate Brady’s wife.
  • During a 1923 military tribunal, Brady admitted that he, like his father before him, was a member of the Klan. He stated that he had quit the Klan because he was a Democrat and would not be told how to vote.
  • Current Greenwood area residents are still struggling for historic registry of the district.

Today, Tate Brady’s name is emblazoned on numerous downtown Tulsa buildings, an historic residential neighborhood, and a popular downtown district.

W. Tate Brady committed suicide in 1925, but his legacy remains in the form of the large district that bears his name. The Brady Arts District enjoys a place on the national registry of historic places while Greenwood—the area nearly destroyed as part of the 1921 Riot—has yet to achieve the same designation.

On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, This Land Press hosted “Revisiting Brady: The Man, The City, and The Riot.” The event was one the first public discussions following the article where local leaders were invited to offer their opinions about how Tulsa should respond to the findings. Now, as the city council hosts a public forum for the discussion of the future of the Brady name on its arts district, This Land offers this compilation of research on the man.

[READ] The Nightmare of Dreamland
The seminal article that details the involvement of Tulsa founder Tate Brady in the Ku Klux Klan and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. By Lee Roy Chapman.
Date: 04.18.12

[NEWS ANALYSIS] Dealing With Brady’s Legacy
An analysis of the news surrounding the debate to change the name of the Brady District.
Date: 05.23.13

[VIDEO] Public Secrets: Tate Brady
From the former site of the Brady Hotel (home of Tulsa’s first baths) to the Brady Mansion (a replica of Robert E. Lee’s Arlington) to Archer and Boulder, the site of Brady Theater, one of the places blacks were interred at the end of the riot, to Oaklawn Cemetery, the final resting place of Brady himself and perhaps the site of a mass grave the resulted from the riot.

Date: 09.07.11

[READ] Tate Brady, the Magic City, and the Dreamland
“Tate Brady, as Lee Roy Chapman points out, did a lot of good for Tulsa, but the positives came with lots of negatives. It is the tragedy of this story that building the city of Tulsa involved violence.” By Alfred L. Brophy, a Tulsa Race Riot historian.
Date: 09.16.11

[READ] A Conspiracy of Silence
Tulsa quietly commemorated the worst civil unrest on American soil since the Civil War with a candlelight vigil. A program titled ‘Greenwood Burned,’ located in the historic district, was poorly attended. The three-day conference of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Symposium included no riot survivors.” By Kavin Ross.
Date: 09.06.11

[READ] Tulsa’s Den of Terror
In January of 1922, the Tulsa Benevolent Association of Tulsa, Oklahoma was officially formed as a holding company for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Incorporated. They provided the financing and leadership to begin building the Tulsa Klan temple, or Klavern, known as Beno Hall. By Steve Gerkin.
Date: 9.03.11

[READ] Our Town
“Our town typically names streets, schools, sometimes-entire neighborhoods and commercial districts after people who are supposedly models of what Tulsa is all about and where we are headed.” By James Goodwin.
Date: 9.02.11

[AUDIO] W.T. Brady Court Transcript
In the early 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan had been so active in Tulsa, Oklahoma–doing everything from holding parades to organizing lynch mobs–that the Governor of the state declared martial law in August of 1923. A month later, the National Guard launched an investigation into the Klan’s activities and more than 700 people testified. Tate Brady, a prominent business in Tulsa at the time, was called to the stand to discuss his role in the Klan. This Land Press presents a reading of Brady’s testimony in those hearings, starring Anthony Florig as Tate Brady and Michael Mason as the interrogator.
Date: 09.01.11

[NEWS] Group Calls for the Renaming of Tulsa’s Brady District
A group of Tulsans calls for the removal of the name “Brady” from a popular downtown business and arts district.
Date: 05.06.13

[NEWS] Brady: A Discussion of History, Healing, and the Significance of a Name
Members of the Coalition for Social Justice asked the Tulsa City Council to change—or call for the changing of—the name of downtown’s Brady Arts District.
Date: 05.17.13

[NEWS] A New Name for Brady Street
The Tulsa City Council formed a task force, composed of citizens from each of the nine city districts, as well as stakeholders in the Brady Arts District, who will decide whether to change the name of the district.
Date: 05.24.13

[NEWS] Tulsa Brady Street Controversy Goes Global
Bloomberg Businessweek, NBC News, the New York Daily News, and the Boston Globe are among the many national news sources to publish an Associated Press story on Tulsa’s struggle to reconcile its past and present, now a global debate.
Date: 07.26.13