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As the city of Tulsa continues to defend itself against a lawsuit seeking restitution for the century-old crime, Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis turned 102 years old on Wednesday, January 11.

‘Uncle Red’ Hughes Van Ellis is the youngest of a trio of survivors who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa. The other two plaintiffs include survivor “Mother” Viola Ford Fletcher and “Mother” Lessie Benningfield Randle, both of whom turned 108 years old in 2022.

Justice for Greenwood, spearheaded by civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, represents the plaintiffs.

“We’re dealing with the same entities that bombed Greenwood 100+ years ago, that lied about bombing Greenwood for 80+ years and will allow people to die instead of just saying we’re in the wrong, we want to make this right,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons told The Black Wall Street Times immediately after a court hearing on October 18, 2022.

City of Tulsa seeks dismissal of lawsuit as Hughes Van Ellis turns 102

The city of Tulsa has filed multiple motions to dismiss the lawsuit, which uses Oklahoma’s public nuisance law to argue the city is responsible for the harm caused by the 1921 race massacre, a crime Solomon-Simmons argues has yet to be abated.

“The Judge needs to move our case forward. My Birthday Cake is sweet but Justice would be sweeter,” Van Ellis said in a statement shared by Public Radio Tulsa last year.

Most recently, Judge Caroline Wall allowed the Justice for Greenwood legal team to move forward with depositions, despite the city’s efforts to completely dismiss the case.

According to the American Bar Association, the discovery phase is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial.

Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented. It includes depositions—statements recorded outside of court given under oath by any person involved in the case. 

Michael Swartz, a partner at Schulte, Roth and Zabel, said the team expects to be able to conduct discovery of individuals including, if necessary, the depositions of Gov. Kevin Stitt and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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