Sen. Kevin Matthews, chairman of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus, said members are creating a $10,000 endowed scholarship at Langston University to honor the life and work of E. Melvin Porter, Oklahoma’s first black member of the state Senate. Porter died July 26 at the age of 86. Matthews will formally announce the creation of the scholarship at a memorial service for Porter to be held this Saturday, August 6 at 11:00 a.m., at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
“Oklahoma became a state in 1907 but until 1964 no black citizens had ever been elected to the Senate. E. Melvin Porter broke that barrier and was an important figure in Oklahoma’s civil rights movement,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa. “It is the hope of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus that this scholarship will ensure his lifelong work will always be remembered.”
Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered all American and Oklahoma flags on state property to be flown at half-staff from 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 5 through 8:00 a.m. Monday, August 8 to honor Porter, who was born in 1930 in Okmulgee. He was a member of the first class at Vanderbilt University Law School to include black students. Elected in 1961 as president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Porter participated in sit-ins and boycotts with fellow Oklahoma civil rights leader, Clara Luper.
He ran unsuccessfully for a House seat as a Republican in 1962, but was successful as a Democrat two years later in his bid for the Senate, where he remained for 22 years. While in office, Porter introduced the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, Oklahoma’s equivalent of the federal Civil Rights Act. The Senate honored Porter during the 2015 session, 50 years after he began his first term in the upper chamber.