The City of Tulsa recognized the many contributions of former Rep. Don Ross, who served the Greenwood community for 20 years, by placing his name on an expressway on Wednesday.
Joined by Ross’ children and current Tulsa representatives, Mayor G.T. Bynum revealed the section between North Lewis Avenue and the L.L. Tisdale Parkway with signage that read “Don Ross Expressway.”
“Naming this section of the Gilcrease Expressway in honor of Don Ross is a small way that we can show our appreciation for his decades of public service to our city, state and nation,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said.
Graduating from Booker T. Washington and becoming a U.S. Air Force veteran, Ross is a Tulsa native who represented the Greenwood community from 1983 to 2003 in the Oklahoma State Legislature.
Don Ross’ accomplishments
One of his most well-known accomplishments included working with the late Oklahoma state Senator Maxine Horner to sponsor a resolution which formed the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. The Commission released a report in 2001 which represented the first official investigation of the Tulsa Race Massacre from a state entity and called for reparations. To this day, neither the City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, nor the State of Oklahoma have adopted those recommendations.
Rep. Don Ross also helped orchestrate a $32 million construction of the Gilcrease Expressway, between U.S. Highway 75 and the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
In an interview with Tulsa People in 2018, Rep. Don Ross was asked what place in Tulsa he misses the most.
“Greenwood Avenue and the Black Wall Street of America that I knew as a teenager,” Ross told Tulsa People in 2018. “Black businesses lined the mile-long avenue with hundreds of people parading up and down. Men and women working for rich white folks had Thursdays off, and they dressed in their best to shop the businesses. The smell of barbecue pushed through the air, and restaurants competed for the best soul food in town.”
Besides being a civil rights leader and state representative, Ross also served as a journalist before migrating to politics. He wrote for the Oklahoma Eagle in the 60’s and was tapped as assistant managing editor of a newspaper in Gary, Indiana from 1972 to 1977—the Gary Post-Tribune. At the time, he was recognized as one of the first Black news editors of a major metropolitan newspaper.
His community-centered spirit has also been passed down to his sons. J Kavin Ross is chairman of the 1921 Graves Public Oversight Committee. Another son, Edward Ross, is a member of the board of directors of the Greenwood Cultural Center. Both spoke at Wednesday’s dedication.