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GREENWOOD Dist.–A month after a Tulsa County District Judge blocked Jon Adams from reopening his famous ancestor’s estate on Black Wall Street, attorneys for Adams have filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Adams, the great-great nephew of Dr. A.C. Jackson, was granted approval to reopen his ancestor’s estate. The favorable ruling by Tulsa County District Judge Richard Hathcoat on January 9 came over a century after the nationally renowned surgeon was gunned down at point-blank range by a white mob during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Today, the Greenwood Rising Museum sits on the land where Dr. Jackson’s medical practice once stood. In March, the Hille Foundation, which donated the land used for the museum, took Adams to court to block him from reopening the estate. Attorneys for the massacre descendant were shocked when a different judge sided with the white-owned foundation over a descendant of a massacre victim.

John Adams, the great-great nephew of Dr. A.C. Jackson, a famous Black doctor who was murdered during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The Greenwood Rising Museum, backed by the Hille Foundation, seeks to remove Adams as special administrator of his ancestor’s estate. (Photo courtesy of Justice for Greenwood)

On April 14, Judge Kurt Glassco vacated the Jan. 9 order from Judge Hathcoat. In his order, Judge Glassco claimed Adams did not sufficiently prove evidence of new claims to the estate and that the Hille Foundation is a qualified “interested” party.

Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, a national civil rights attorney who founded the Justice for Greenwood Foundation, represents Adams in his fight to reopen his ancestor Dr. A.C. Jackson’s estate.

“It shouldn’t sit right with anyone that one district court judge would retract the order of a fellow judge based on erroneous conclusions of law,” Solomon-Simmons stated. “Reopening the estate is the only chance Jon Adams and his family have to protect their family history and property from exploitation by powerful entities. 

Descendant of Dr. A.C. Jackson seeks a higher power

This isn’t the only case attorney Solomon-Simmons has taken to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He also represents the three last known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. After Tulsa County District Judge Caroline Wall dismissed their historic public nuisance case in July, Solomon-Simmons filed an appeal to Oklahoma’s highest court in August. They’ve agreed to hear the case.

Despite a major setback in Adams’ efforts to reopen his ancestor’s estate, the new appeal indicates Solomon-Simmons has no plans to let Tulsa’s district courts have the final say.

Notably, while the museum battles the family for control of the estate, it continues to profit from Dr. A.C. Jackson’s name, image and likeness, Solomon-Simmons argues. Birthed out of controversy, none of the profits earned by the $30 million museum go directly to any survivors or descendants of the Massacre.

For its part, the museum’s new director told The Black Wall St. Times it was forced to fight against reopening the family estate to defend itself against misinformation and misappropriation.

“Reopening the Jackson estate would have allowed the filing of a claim against Greenwood Rising that is baseless. We honor the stories of Dr. Jackson and many other victims of the Massacre,” Greenwood Rising Executive Director Dr. Raymond Doswell told The Black Wall St. Times.

“I am no lawyer, but it seems a perplexing strategy to suggest that a museum, with properly licensed access to images and information, is illegitimately benefiting from the display of a 12-inch, widely-published photo and bio among hundreds of other images.”

Court battle overshadows legacy of Dr. A.C. Jackson

As far as Jon Adams is concerned, the museum is standing in the way of justice and healing for his family.

“My family, myself, we take umbrage at the fact that folks who are not related to us are trying to prevent us from protecting the legacy of our great relative,” Adams told reporters in March.

Meanwhile, Director Dr. Doswell sees the museum’s role as providing education in a time of hostility toward Black history.

“The core of our mission and existence is education. In our present moment in the nation, where many are challenging the truth of history, Greenwood Rising stands among those pushing back against ignorance,” Dr. Doswell said.

Ultimately, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision will have a lasting impact on both the museum and one of the families its exhibits highlight.

Dr. Andrew Chesteen Jackson was an infectious disease specialist and surgeon. At 42 years old, as he raised his arms to surrender to the white mob on May 31, 1921, Dr. A.C. Jackson was shot dead in cold blood. Yet his legacy lives on.

He was the foremost colored physician in the southwest and was held in high regard not only by members of his own race, but also by many prominent whites,” The Tulsa Daily World wrote days after the massacre, according to archives shared with the National Institutes of Health.

The National Medical Association, which has represented African American physicians since the late 1800s, recognized the huge loss Dr. Jackson’s death represented to the community. The NMA established a Tulsa Doctor’s Relief Fund immediately after the massacre.

Pending Oklahoma Supreme Court decision will determine future of Dr. A.C. Jackson estate

Oklahoma’s highest court hasn’t yet announced whether it will hear the case or when. Yet attorneys for Jon Adams remain hopeful it will reverse the Tulsa court’s decision.

“We are requesting that the Oklahoma Supreme Court rectify the wrong committed when the family of Dr. Jackson was prevented from determining how his name, image, and likeness will be used.” — co-cousnel Cordal Cephas, Johnson Cephas Law, PLLC stated.

As white domestic terrorists in Jacksonville and elsewhere continue to attack Black communities, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has become the last hope for justice for survivors and descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

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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