Rev. Cedric Alexander and filmmaker Reginald Turner
Robert D. Holloway, II
Robert D. Holloway, Race Riot Survivor, Passes On
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Contributing Writer
Robert D. Holloway II, one of the last survivors of the infamous Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, passed away April 13 in Los Angeles.
According to his nephew, Pastor Cedric V. Alexander of Walker Temple A.M.E. Church, “Uncle Bob was a great person who succeeded in life despite the devastating impact of the riot on him, my grandparents and my other aunts and uncles. He was intelligent, charismatic, witty and committed to leaving the world better than he found it.”
When Holloway was born in 1918, his father and grandmother owned businesses and properties on the “Black Wall Street,” a prosperous segregated neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood district.
All of the family’s holdings were burned or destroyed when armed white mobs attacked the community.
The 16-hour riot resulted in 300 deaths, 800 injuries, and millions in property damage, making it the worst race riot in U.S. history.
“As Greenwood burned on the day of the riot, my grandfather saved his children from the mobs by hiding them in bushes, then transporting them out of the city after dark,” said Rev. Alexander. “They all survived, but everything they owned was lost. This was a tragic event, psychologically and economically, on those who lived through it and those who followed.”
Fortunately, Holloway overcame this obstacle and went on to serve his country as a corporal in Hawaii and Japan during World War II. Upon discharge, he moved to New York City where he became a salesman and soon met and married Anita Scott. They were together 57 years and had five children.
In 1963, Holloway moved his family to Pasadena where he continued his sales career as well as worked a second job as a library custodian. His passions included his 1971 Volkswagen (still in his backyard) and TV talk shows, sports and good westerns. “If you could pry our father from his TV, you would find he loved to talk. He knew everything – politics, sports, any topic. And if he didn’t know, he would never admit it,” recalled Holloway’s children.
As the decades past, the Tulsa Race Riot faded from the nation’s memory, but in 2005, Hollway’s eye-witness to the horrible event was recognized by then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama who met with Holloway and other survivors in Washington, D.C. Also, famed attorney and Harvard professor, Charles Ogletree, has filed repeated lawsuits to compensate the victims and their families. Legendary Attorney Johnnie Cochran was part of that legal team before his death.
In addition, Reginald Turner, CEO of Mportant Films, and Ogletree, produced the movie “Before They Die” in 2008, a documentary chronicling the survivors’ stories and their quest for justice. Turner also founded The Tulsa Project, a nonprofit foundation to raise awareness and seek justice for its survivors.
In February 2010, Holloway was honored by the city of Pasadena with a commendation acknowledging his contributions, accomplishments and “living witness to the Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Riots.”
Holloway’s homegoing celebration was held April 22, at Scott United Methodist Church in Pasadena. Rev. Dr. James Stevenson Sr., officiated the service. Rev. Alexander delivered the eulogy for Holloway and Reginald Turner offered words of comfort along with other family members.
His legacy lives on in his wife, Anita; children Karen, Robert III, Susan, Anita Yvette and Mark; eight grandchildren, one great-granddaughter; four sisters; and many nephews and nieces.