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Members of Oklahoma’s Black Legislative Caucus pose for a photo. Mauree Turner, the newest member, is not pictured here. (Public Radio Tulsa)
Members of Oklahoma’s Black Legislative Caucus pose for a photo. Mauree Turner, the newest member, is not pictured here. (Public Radio Tulsa)

The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus hosted the biennial 23rd A.C. Hamlin Award Gala virtually this year. Oklahoma business owners and community leaders were honored for their contributions to Oklahoma’s Black community.

The gala is named for the late state Representative A.C. Hamlin, the first African-American elected to state office in Oklahoma. Only 27 years old, Hamlin was a young lawmaker who earned a reputation for his ability to garner support for his legislative agenda. His bid for reelection in 1910 was shot down by a racist constitutional amendment which stripped voting rights away from many Black Oklahomans. 

CNN attends gala

The gala featured four special guests: CNN anchor Abby Phillip, CNN Correspondent Sara Sidner, Fair Count Vice-President Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean, and National Black Caucus of State Legislators President State Rep. Billy Mitchell of Georgia

There are 8 Black lawmakers in the Oklahoma legislature – an all-time high (no, really). Each senator and representative chose an honoree. Minority Caucus Vice-Chair Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) chose the family of Smiley Elmore. Elmore founded the financial firm Smiley Elmore & Associates in 1974. SE&A is one of the oldest Black-owned financial firms still operating in the United States. 

Nichols said choosing the Elmore Family as his honorees was an easy choice. “It’s great to know that 100 years after the massacre, we have strong Black-owned businesses in all sectors, but especially in the financial management industry,” Nichols said. “Smiley Elmore & Associates is a great example of the importance of Black entrepreneurship. The Black-White wealth gap is a product of institutionalized racism at every level of wealth building. Smiley Elmore was a true resource for the Black community and helped countless families and individuals build their own financial upward mobility.”

Historic Oklahoma families

Other Oklahoma families selected as honorees include: 

  • The Goodwin Family
  • The Henderson Family
  • The Ivory Family 
  • The Jones-Kemp Family
  • The Ousley Family
  • The Temple Family 
  • The Williams Family

The gala also serves as an opportunity for the Legislative Black Caucus to honor the work and memory of former Black Oklahoma lawmakers. 

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