Hughes Van Ellis was a Tulsa Race Massacre survivor and a WWII veteran who passed away at 102 on October 9, 2023. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 and witnessed the destruction of the Black Wall Street by a white mob when he was four months old. He served in the U.S. Army and fought for freedom and equality. He also sued for reparations and testified before Congress for the recognition of the massacre. He was a devout Christian and a loving stepfather. He married Martha Henderson in 1991 and lived in Denver, Colorado. He died of cancer at a veterans’ facility.
Hughes Van Ellis Biography Profile
|Name||Hughes Van Ellis|
|Nick Name||Uncle Redd|
|Date of Birth||January 11, 1921|
|Birth Place||Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA|
|Age (as of 2023)||102 years old (deceased)|
|Profession||Farmer and activist|
|Home Town/State||Denver, Colorado|
|Hobbies||Farming, fishing, golfing|
|Marital Status||Married twice|
|Wife||Martha Henderson (m. 1991 – d. 2023)|
|Children||None (stepfather to four children)|
Hughes Van Ellis Early Life and Education
Hughes Van Ellis was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to John Wesley Ellis and Louvenia Ellis. He was the youngest of six children and had three brothers and two sisters. He was four months old when he and his family survived the Tulsa Race Massacre, which occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921. The massacre was a violent attack by a white mob on the prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. The mob killed hundreds of Black residents, burned down thousands of homes and businesses, and left thousands more homeless. Van Ellis and his family escaped the carnage and fled to a nearby town. They later returned to Tulsa and rebuilt their lives in Greenwood.
Van Ellis did not receive much formal education as a child. He worked on his family’s farm and helped his father with various odd jobs. He also learned how to fish and hunt from his older brothers. He developed a strong work ethic and a sense of resilience from his early experiences.
Hughes Van Ellis Family Details
|Father Name||John Wesley Ellis|
|Mother Name||Louvenia Ellis|
|Brother(s)||Three brothers: John Jr., James, and Robert Ellis|
|Sister(s)||Two sisters: Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle|
|Wife/Husband||Martha Henderson (m. 1991 – d. 2023)|
|Children||None (stepfather to four children)|
Hughes Van Ellis Career Highlight
Hughes Van Ellis was a farmer and an activist who fought for justice and reparations for the survivors and descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. He was assigned to the 477th Bombardment Group, an all-Black unit that faced racial discrimination and segregation in the military. He participated in the Freeman Field Mutiny, a protest against the unequal treatment of Black soldiers at an air base in Indiana in 1945. He received an honorable discharge after the war and returned to Tulsa.
Van Ellis continued to work as a farmer for most of his life. He also became involved in various social causes and movements, such as civil rights, voting rights, environmental justice, and anti-war activism. He joined the NAACP and supported the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and other leaders. He also advocated for reparations for the Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and descendants, who never received any compensation or acknowledgment from the city or state authorities for the loss of lives and property caused by the massacre.
Van Ellis was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2020 against the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, and the state of Oklahoma for their role in the massacre and its cover-up. The lawsuit sought monetary damages, a public apology, a scholarship fund, a hospital for Greenwood residents, and other forms of restitution. Van Ellis also testified before Congress in May 2021, along with his sister Viola Fletcher and fellow survivor Lessie Benningfield Randle, to demand justice and recognition for the massacre. He said: “Please do not let me leave this earth without justice like all the other massacre survivors.”
Van Ellis died on October 9, 2023 at the age of 102 due to cancer at a veterans’ facility in Denver, Colorado. He was survived by his wife Martha Henderson, whom he married in 1991; his four stepchildren; his sister Viola Fletcher; his nine nieces and nephews; his nine grandnieces and grandnephews; and his seven great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews. He was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver with full military honors.
Physical Stats and More
|Height (Aprox.)||in centimeters- 170 cm|
|Weight (Aprox.)||in Kilograms- 70 kg|
|Hair Color||Black (graying)|
|Favorite Colour||Green, black, red (African flag colors)|
|Favorite Actor||Denzel Washington|
|Favorite Actress||Viola Davis|
|Favorite Movies||Glory, Hidden Figures|
|Favorite Singers||Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles|
|Favorite Food||Soul food|
|Favorite Books||The Autobiography of Malcolm X, |
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
|Favorite Wear||Casual and comfortable|
|Favorite Things to Do||Farming, fishing, golfing|
|Favorite Sports||Golf, baseball|
|Favorite Sports Person||Tiger Woods, Jackie Robinson|
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