Greenwood (North Tulsa)

From Moton to Morton and beyond, with Michael E. Smith’s help

Opinion | Orisabiyi Williams

Managing Editor | Liz Frank

After the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, the Red Cross opened the Maurice Willows Hospital to help care for the victims of the massacre. The City Of Tulsa replaced the hospital located on the corner of East Pine Street and North Greenwood Avenue in 1932.

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Robert R. Moton

In 1941 Tulsa transferred management to a board of directors who changed the name of it to Moton Hospital named for Robert Russa Moton. Moton served as President of the Tuskegee Institute from 1915-1935, preceded by Booker T. Washington.

In 1983 the name changed to Morton for a Moton doctor, W.A. Morton, M.D.

Morton has a deep history in the community. It was the only hospital in north Tulsa where African Americans were allowed to go for care.

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Moton Hospital

Morton is the beginning of my own family history. I have uncles and other family members who were also born there. Most people who live in north Tulsa have relatives who were born there. If you ask someone in the North Tulsa community about Morton, they will say “Moton’s?” As It is still lovingly referred to as “Moton’s” among the community it serves.

North Tulsa Native Michael E. Smith, President of Pine Place Development, remains an intricate part of the development and well-being for North Tulsa, despite currently living in Houston, Texas. He not only believes in North Tulsa, but he is also a fighter for North Tulsa.

Smith always makes himself available to the community, and it’s nothing for him to get in his car and head to Tulsa at the drop of a dime.

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Michael E. Smith

In February, Smith submitted a $32 million project for development on Greenwood Avenue: A seven-story office building named after the great B.C. Franklin, famed Tulsa attorney, who defended the survivors of the 1921 massacre.

I, along with many community members, hoped that this project would come to fruition because it would maintain the historical ideal of Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and it was named after the man who fought to keep Greenwood alive after the massacre in 1921.

Also in February, the Tulsa Development Authority voted to approve a proposal submitted by Ross Group, a white developer, which plans to transform the old Morton building into a three-story 12,000 square mixed-used space. Office, commercial, and residential building use have been approved for the Ross Group.

This news is especially insulting and concerning for Smith’s proposal because today the Greenwood District is visibly suffering from gentrification. Witnessing that vote was like seeing a piece of my soul being cut and sold away to the highest bidder.

Fortunately for Greenwood, Smith’s project was approved by The Authority in May.

I’m excited to watch the site of Morton’s become a new chapter for Greenwood and North Tulsa.