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Jun  2014 09
Community Leader and Civil Rights Activist Lena Bennett Dies at 90

Tulsa community leader and civil rights activist Lena D. Bennett died on Wednesday, May 28. She was 90 years old.

Bennett was known for helping both lead and found several of Tulsa’s leading religious and social organizations. Phillips Theological Seminary honored Bennett with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2007.

Read the citation presented to Bennett by Phillips here.

Bennett was raised by her grandparents in Little Rock, Ark. After earning degrees in Business Administration and Sociology from Clark College in Atlanta, she moved to Tulsa in 1953. She later earned a Master’s Degree in Family Relations and Child Development from Oklahoma State University.

Bennett’s accomplishments have had a significant impact on the Tulsa community. She was the first black woman to be elected to the Board of Directors for the Tulsa Technology Center and was the first black woman to be appointed to the Oklahoma Crime Commission. She served in various leadership roles with Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry and helped TMM bring The Plowshares Project, first developed in South Africa, to Tulsa. She also helped found organizations such as the Margaret Hudson Program for pregnant and parenting teens, Youth Services of Tulsa and Life Senior Services.

One of the best-known examples of her work occurred when she volunteered to go undercover and be incarcerated in a state prison in order to gain first-hand experience of the treatment of women. Her report to the Oklahoma Crime Commission led to the opening of the Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility for Women.

Bennett’s work garnered her several awards and recognitions, including the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Community Service Council, the Aaronson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and the Ron McDaniel Recognition from the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.

Services for Bennett were held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, at the First Lutheran Church in Tulsa.

 

 


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