Oklahoma’s first African American State Senator and civil rights leader, E. Melvin Porter, was recognized on Wednesday afternoon in the Senate chamber with a resolution authored by Sens. Anastasia Pittman, David Holt and Kevin Matthews. Senate Resolution 36 was presented on the Senate floor to Porter, who was accompanied by his family.
Porter was a member of the first class at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee to include African American students in 1956 and he continued as a civil rights leader following graduation in 1959. In 1961, he was elected president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People where he provided legal services and participated in sit-ins and boycotts with Clara Luper and other NAACP members. Soon after in 1964, Porter was elected to represent the newly-created Senate District 48 as the first African American Oklahoma State Senator and served in that seat until 1986.
“It’s a tremendous honor to recognize Senator Porter for his contributions and accomplishments in Oklahoma’s African American history,” said Pittman, D- Oklahoma City. “As a current state legislator, I see and appreciate the footprint of his contributions every day on the history of this great state.”
While in office, Porter introduced Oklahoma’s Anti-Discrimination Act and was also instrumental in supporting legislation that represented his constituency, including a bill that required the inclusion of black history in Oklahoma’s textbooks. Since Porter’s election to office, nine more African American Oklahomans have been elected to the Oklahoma Senate.
“When Oklahoma redistricted based on population for the first time in 1964, many injustices were finally addressed. The greatest of these was the lack of African American representation in our Oklahoma Senate,” said Holt, R- Oklahoma City. “Senator Porter’s election fifty years ago was a major milestone, and one that I am glad we took the time to recognize. I hope all Oklahomans will take a moment to consider what his election meant to our state.”
Wednesday’s presentation marked the 50th anniversary of Porter’s election to the State Senate and commended his accomplishments as a legislator and civil rights leader.
“I am proud we are recognizing the trailblazer that paved the way for a person like me to be honored with this responsibility,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa.