Effort underway to change name of lake named for Tulsa Klansman

State officials first investigated changing the name of Lake Hudson after The Frontier reported on its namesake's ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

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Set on the Grand River in Mayes County, Lake Hudson is known as one of the best spots for bass fishing in the state. It’s also named for one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma.
An effort is underway to change the name of Lake Hudson in Mayes County after The Frontier reported the reservoir is named for a founding member of the Tulsa Ku Klux Klan chapter.

Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, has authored a bill that would change the name of the reservoir to Lake Markham in honor of a family that helped settle the area around the Grand River in the 1840s.

The Markhams ran general store and opened a ferry service on the Grand River at what is now the southwest end of Lake Hudson.

The Grand River Dam Authority, the state-owned electric utility that manages Lake Hudson, met with lawmakers from the area to explore the possibility of changing the name of the lake, said agency spokesman John Wiscaver.

“We take a lot of pride in being inclusive for everyone who enjoys our water and resources,” Wiscaver said. “We support the senator in doing just that and moving forward with the bill.”

Bergstrom could not be reached for an interview on Tuesday.

Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair

The GRDA said in August that it would investigate the possibility of renaming Lake Hudson after The Frontier inquired about about its namesake’s ties to the Tulsa Ku Klux Klan.

The name of the lake has been codified in state law since the 1960s.

The lake is named for the late Wash E. Hudson, an early board member of the Grand River Dam Authority, prominent Tulsa attorney and state lawmaker. Hudson was also a leading member of the Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa in the 1920s.

Wash Hudson COURTESY

Hudson, a prominent Tulsa attorney and Democrat state legislator in the first half of the 20th century, was one of the incorporators of the Tulsa Benevolent Association in 1922, which established the Ku Klux Klan in the city. He also founded the Tulsa Law School in 1923. Hudson was a member of the GRDA board of directors from 1955 until his death in 1964.

The GRDA is as of yet unaware of any opposition to the name change, Wiscaver said.

The GRDA dam that created Lake Hudson in 1964 was originally known as the Markham Ferry Project and is still listed that way on some federal documents.

FURTHER READING:

State officials investigate lake named for Tulsa Klansman

The White Knight Vigilantes: Exposing the founders of Tulsa’s KKK

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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