SIMON BERRY

ESTABLISHED THE FIRST BLACK BUS SERVICE AND PARK

Simon Berry, an extraordinary visionary, arrived in Tulsa in 1915. He organized the first transportation system, "Berry's Jitney Service," for North Tulsa. His long-standing Lansing and Greenwood city bus routes were renamed after urban renewal demolitions in the 1970s that relocated neighborhoods. The Black Wall Street entrepreneur operated the jitney service with pickup and drop points in well-populated locations throughout the black community. He ran a first-class operation, purchasing new Mormon and Ford convertibles. An astute businessman, he later included buses and gained an exclusive city franchise to operate the routes downtown.

An experienced pilot, partnering with J.L. Northington, a leading building contractor, Berry owned what may have been the first and only black airline service in the nation a charter service used primarily by wealthy oil barons to visit their leases in surrounding counties. He was Tulsa's largest employer of blacks with a full maintenance crew operating his bus and airplane garage.

Berry sold his franchise to the City of Tulsa in the early 1950s, with the condition that they must retain his drivers and mechanics as part of the agreement. This provided Tulsa's first black bus drivers in a segregated system. The uniformed drivers became symbols of racial progress. He and other business leaders opened the Regal Theater on Lansing Avenue, joining four other movie houses in North Tulsa.

He purchased 13 acres and established "Berry's Park" at Madison and Virgin Streets with a swimming pool, ballpark and picnic grounds. The park was sold to the city and renamed Lincoln Park. Many years later, it was again renamed for Ed Lacy, a popular Booker T. Washington High School coach. While the names have changed, the swimming pool he built at Berry's Park is the same today. Simon Berry was among the post-riot generation who exemplified earlier entrepreneurial pillars that re-established the fame and lure of The Black Wall Street of America. During dedication of the Black Wall Street Memorial in 1996, Tulsa businessman George Charlton enshrined Simon Berry with a plaque and tree in his memory.

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BLACK WALL STREET PIONEERS