OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill introduced by Congresswoman Kendra Horn to rename Oklahoma City’s downtown United States Post Office location after civil rights hero Clara Luper passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday.
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in September, receiving support from Oklahoma’s full congressional delegation. The bill now moves to the White House to be signed into law, according to a news release issued from Horn’s office.
Luper and the NAACP Youth Council led a civil rights sit-in at Oklahoma City’s Katz Drug Store on Aug. 19, 1958. It was the first civil rights lunch counter sit-in in America and the first event in a “series of successful nonviolent protests that led to the desegregation of Oklahoma City establishments,” according to the news release.
The sit-ins led to more counter protests across the South, occurring years before the historic Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C., the news release states.
Luper went on to serve as the the spokesperson for striking sanitation workers in Oklahoma City in 1969.
“Clara Luper and the sit-inners are true civil rights heroes who never stopped fighting for justice and opportunity for all Oklahomans,” Horn said. “This bill honors their legacy, giving Clara Luper’s name a permanent place in downtown Oklahoma City just blocks from where she led the first sit-in and from the epicenter of the sanitation workers’ strike. Today, the story of Clara Luper and the NAACP Youth Council are inspiring a new generation of Oklahomans to take action. I hope the Clara Luper Post Office can stand as a testament to her enduring legacy, her courage, and her historic fight for justice.”
Luper was born Clara Mae Shepard on May 3, 1923, in Okfuskee County, Okla. In addition to her pioneering civil rights leadership, she was a teacher and lifelong community activist. She died at age 88 on June 8, 2011, in Oklahoma City.
Senator Jim Inhofe and Senator James Lankford also lauded Luper, her legacy and the latest effort to honor her.
“Designating the Clara Luper Post Office is long overdue recognition of a remarkable Oklahoman, and I am pleased we passed this legislation today to establish it,” Inhofe said. “Clara Luper had a profound impact on the civil rights movement not just in Oklahoma – but across the country. I am proud that Oklahoma can honor her and her accomplishments permanently in this way, and applaud Sen. Lankford for his years of work to acknowledge, celebrate and affirm the legacy of Oklahomans like Clara Luper.”
“Naming a post office in Oklahoma City—in the heart of Ms. Luper’s professional, social, and political life— is a meaningful way to honor Clara Luper’s tireless work toward helping our nation form a more perfect union,” Lankford said. “In the years ahead, when kids see Clara Luper‘s name on the building, parents can tell the next generation of Oklahomans about her legacy and work for equality in Oklahoma City and around the country.”
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