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Capitol Honors Clara Luper

Filed by Michael Cross in Feature, Local News, News.
June 17, 2011

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Oklahomans are honoring civil rights activist Clara Luper with a memorial service this morning at the Cox Convention Center.

On Thursday, visitors at the State Capitol got a chance to say goodbye as she lay in repose.

The first floor rotunda fills with people while the coffin holding Clara Luper’s body rests at the base of the state seal flanked by two Oklahoma Highway Patrolmen.

W.C. Bradley, the pastor at Spencer Church of God in Christ, stands with his wife Rose.

He says he knew Luper for many years.

“She was a true humanitarian. She fought for the rights of all people and that’s why this honor is laid upon her today and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

Luther Sims of California only met Clara Luper once, but says he also had to come out to say goodbye and is glad to see her body lying in repose.

“It’s really an honor. Few people get the privilege of having their body here and I think it’s a credit to the type of leadership that you have here and I’m happy to see what they’re doing.”

Young and old meander around the first floor rotunda including Mildred Young-Patterson who brought five of her grandchildren ranging from 8 to 14.

She says she wanted to pay homage to the woman who helped open doors through the sit-ins in downtown Oklahoma City.

“That was in 1958, and a short time after that I was employed across the street from that building.”

64-year-old Lorse Long was a student of Clara Luper’s from seventh to 12th grade and she still remembers what she would tell her.

“If you sit down for nothing you can stand up for nothing. So we had to stand up and we had to be hears. She always told us never look down always look a man in his face. Look him in the eye.”

Lorse Long’s 20-year-old son, Seth Davis, stands next to her as she tells him about all that has changed over the past six decades.

He says Clara Luper made his future possible.

“She has opened the door and all we’re able to do now is walk through it. She’s created extraordinary scholarship funds throughout the community. She has done a lot of extraordinary things for the state of Oklahoma.”

Pastor Bradley looks on at the brown wooden casket and is struck by one thought.

“She never wore no title other than being a school teacher and she’s getting this honor. That means your titles doesn’t profit you nothing if you don’t have some work to back them up.”

Luper was 88 when she passed away last week.

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