Clara Luper, a longtime Oklahoma civil rights leader, has died. She was 88.

Luper died Wednesday night in Oklahoma City after a long illness, family members confirmed.

Luper has been the face of the Oklahoma civil rights movement since 1958, when she led a sit-in protest inside Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City, where the owners had refused to serve black customers.

Roosevelt Milton, 66, president emeritus of the NAACP’s Oklahoma City and Oklahoma chapters, said she was a primary groundbreaker in the movement.

“I think that Clara was the last great civil rights icon in Oklahoma,” Milton said. “She was a very passionate and fearless person when it came to the NAACP mission.”

Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, called Luper a civil rights giant.

“Throughout her life, Ms. Luper adhered to the principle that actions speak louder than words,” Steele said. “Through her actions, she helped lead Oklahoma and the nation forward by showing courage and courtesy simultaneously, often in the face of unpleasant opposition. A road near the Capitol is now deservedly named in her honor, but perhaps the most fitting tribute to give Ms. Luper is fulfilling her vision that all Oklahomans and Americans are equal, our histories and futures intrinsically linked. She will be greatly missed, but her legacy will never be forgotten.”

Clara Luper Photo Gallery at

For more, see the entire tribute over at