Julius Pegues has never held elected office. He didn’t have to.
As someone said after Pegues died on Tuesday at the age of 86, Pegues was one of those leaders other leaders look to for advice, including Mayor GT Bynum.
“I just thought I should call him for advice when I found out he had passed away,” Bynum said Wednesday. “All Tulsans benefit from the life he led, and I will miss his wise counsel.”
Pegues had been battling cancer for several years. Arrangements are pending.
A Tulsa public school graduate and one of Booker T. Washington High School’s proudest alumni, Pegues turned a talent for basketball into an engineering degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a career in engineering. aerospace industry. He was Pitt’s first black player and a pioneering figure in several projects.
In recent decades, Pegues was best known for his work to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and the history and culture of Black Tulsans through the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, which hosts an annual dinner for Tulsans citywide and sponsors a national symposium. on reconciliation and understanding on the anniversary of the massacre.
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It was largely through Pegues’ work that John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park came into being, and his efforts laid the foundation for the Greenwood Rising History Center at Archer Street and Greenwood Avenue.
Phil Armstrong, director of the Race Massacre Centennial Commission and now acting director of Greenwood Rising, said Pegues would “come into my office almost weekly to share his vision and story of Greenwood’s legacy, particularly as it relates to concerns the academic might of Booker T. Washington and the many Black Tulsans who successfully pursued the athletic and academic pursuits of his generation. He left a mark on me that I will never forget.
“Excellence only comes through hard work and dedication. He exuded both of those qualities.”
But Pegues’ involvement in the city is much broader and deeper.
“Julius Pegues was a historic figure in Tulsa history,” Bynum said. “His longtime leadership of the Tulsa Development Authority and the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation has been focused on revitalizing Tulsa – both in the built environment and in the spirit of our community.”
Pegues’ great-uncle, JC Latimer, was an architect and builder from Tulsa in 1921 and encouraged Pegues’ family to move to the South Carolina town following the massacre.
Pegues took his family heritage seriously. Beginning in the early 1960s, he held leadership positions in areas such as housing, neighborhood development and education. He played a key role in shaping Tulsa’s public schools during its true integration in the 1970s and in saving northern neighborhood schools, including Carver Middle School and BTW – although he strongly disagrees with the decisions that sent students from these neighborhoods to distant campuses.
As a longtime member of the Tulsa Development Authority, Pegues has been involved in the revitalization of North Tulsa and downtown. Again at times disagreeing with final decisions, he nonetheless proved a persistent and effective voice for North Tulsa.
He was also chairman of the Tulsa Airport Authority and was among those who saved the 100 block of North Greenwood Avenue from the wrecking ball.
“He literally put the ‘p’ in ‘community pillar,'” said state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa. “I don’t know what happened in Tulsa that he wasn’t a part of. He was brilliant…and he knew everyone.
“Major changes in Tulsa, Mr. Pegues was in the middle of them,” Goodwin said.
“He was an icon in our community. A leader,” said State Senator Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa. “The people he coached. The people he inspired. The people he supported and encouraged. Those in power asked for his advice.
“In basketball, Julius Pegues was a star,” said state Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. “In the game of life, he was a legend.
“Julius’ skills could have landed him anywhere in the world, but he came home,” Nichols said. “He served our community until the day he died, measuring success only by the success of the people he worked to help every day.”
Dwain Midget, who worked with Pegues for decades on development projects and considered Pegues a mentor, said: “Julius Pegues cannot be replaced. He just can’t.
Pegues’ family said it wasn’t just North Tulsa he was interested in.
“One of the main things about him was his love for Tulsa,” said his wife of over 60, Wennette Pegues. “He wanted to make Tulsa a better place.”
Pegues is also survived by three children – Mary Pegues, Michael Pegues and Angela Guillory – and their families.