Barney S. Cleaver, Tulsa's First African-American Policeman

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Barney S. Cleaver, the first African-American policeman in Tulsa, was born in Newbern, VA in 1865. In Newbern, he attended public school until he was fifteen. He then moved to Charleston, WV where he initially worked on a steamer and later worked in the coal mines. As an Oklahoma & Gulf Coal Co. employee, he served as an immigrant agent, bringing more than four thousand employees from West Virginia to Oklahoma. 

While living in Coalgate, OK, he was appointed special deputy U.S. marshal under Captain Grady. He moved to Tulsa circa 1907, was first appointed city patrolman, and later became deputy sheriff under Sheriff McCullough. 

Deputy Sheriff Cleaver and his wife, Vernon Wren, lived at 508 North Greenwood (pictured left) in 1914 and owned interest in the building across the street from their home, the Cleaver-Cherry building. 


The Tulsa Star 19 Aug 1914 accessed from Library of Congress Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves by Art T. Burton


I live here in Tulsa my great grandfather owned the Zulu Lounge on Greenwood.

My name is William Kelman and I'm a screenwriter in Los Angeles. I lived in Tulsa from 1998-2013 and I'm writing a screenplay about the Tulsa Race Riot. I would love to connect with ANYONE who's had family who were involved. I particularly would like to connect with Olivia Hooker, who I believe is that last living survivor of the riot. Does anyone know where she lives now? I know her family moved to Topeka but that's all. There was an article written recently but the editor said that she has been ill and wasn't able to put me in touch with her family. Any help would GREATLY be appreciated as this is a story that needs to be told.

Thank you, Susan. We would like to add a copy of the newspaper clipping to our Tulsa and Oklahoma history vertical files. Please contact us at your convenience. 

My great grandfather, former Chief of Police Sam Walker was the first to hire a black officer within the department, this being Barney Cleaver. I have a copy of the Tulsa Tribune news clipping if you would like a copy!

LOL! It was my pleasure. Anyone who volunteers to transcribe those oral histories will benefit from learning aspects about Tulsa history that is not in the books or classroom. Who knew that William Skelly had club feet?

Rewind. Play. Rewind. Play. Thanks, Jason, for transcribing the difficult-to-transcribe Louis Kerbel oral history that mentions Sheriff McCullough! 

"...under Sheriff McCullough." Where have I heard that name before?

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