BTW Athletic Museum

La’Mar Burks’ passion captures Hornets’ excellence in school’s athletic collection.



La’Mar Burks, founder and curator of the Booker T. Washington High School Athletic Museum, stands in the museum’s football room.

Twenty or so U.S. high schools are named for American educator and author Booker T. Washington, according to La’Mar Burks, founder and curator of the BTW Athletic Museum.

He should know. He has visited many of them.

But thanks to Burks’ passion and hard work, none has a collection of sports artifacts to match that of the Tulsa school.

Burks, a former Hornet football player who was an All-Conference center on the school’s 1973 state championship team, has led the efforts to record and preserve the athletic legacies of arguably the most decorated school in Oklahoma history. Burks graduated in 1974.

An art teacher for 32 years and a coach for 25 years in Tulsa Public Schools, Burks has combined both disciplines in his creation and continued expansion of the athletic museum. It is housed in the BTW Historical Building, which was formerly the school’s main entrance.

Eventually, the Historical Building also will house similar collections that chronicle the school’s past academically and in music and the arts. 

Burks contemplated the athletic museum after he and two former Hornet football buddies, Gerald Hicks and Rodney Clark, produced a DVD on BTW football successes called “Hornet Football Excellence.”

Burks jumped into the memorabilia project full speed in the summer of 2010 after receiving what he calls the “orange light go-ahead” from BTW Assistant Principal Mike Mims.

“Whenever I take a vacation, I usually go visit other Booker T. Washington schools and have visited about 10,” Burks says. “Many of them have sports museums, but none can even touch ours.”

He also has visited other sports halls of fame to gain insight as to the best practices of sports museums.

Burks’ first order of business in establishing the museum was furnishing the BTW Football Hall of Fame, which he began in the summer of 2010.

With 15 state championships in football, finding appropriate memorabilia was never a problem. Jerseys, helmets, shoes, pads, footballs and various other mementos line the shelves.

The players whose framed jerseys hang on the walls all played in the NFL and could almost comprise their own All-Star team.

Established NFL players such as Reuben Gant, Jonathon Brown, Kevin Lockett, R.W. McQuarters, Demond Parker, Aaron Lockett, Mark Anderson, Felix Jones and Robert Meacham are among those enshrined.

The museum would not be complete without a tribute to longtime BTW Coach Seymour E. Williams, whose name graces the school’s football stadium. Williams’ coaching resume is impeccable:

  • Wins: 290; losses: 23; ties: 11.
  • Won 17 Oklahoma Interscholastic Athletic Association Black Football Championships and 29 Oklahoma Interscholastic Athletic Association Black Basketball Championships.
  • Won five National Basketball Championships.
  • Never lost a track meet.
  • Won six national track meets.

Burks started work on the BTW Basketball/Wrestling Hall of Fame in the summer of 2011. While it may still be a work in progress, two of the honorees are BTW’s best-known and most successful athletes: Kenny Monday (wrestling) and Wayman Tisdale (basketball).

Monday is a three-time Olympic wrestler with gold and silver Olympic medals to his credit. And an entire corner is devoted to the late Tisdale, who many consider to be the greatest Hornet of all time.

The 1942 Black National Championship game ball shows all the teams BTW defeated to win the title. Tisdale was a three-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma; 1984 Olympic gold medalist; No. 2 overall draft pick in the 1985 NBA draft; had a 12-year NBA career; and was a renowned jazz bass recording artist with eight albums to his credit and a No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart.

Etched on the wall is a handwritten testament to the fame of No. 23 for the Hornets, in which Tisdale’s college coach, Billy Tubbs, tells the story of eating with him in a Norman café.

“Wayman goes to the restroom, and a female takes the straw from his soda (and) runs out of the cafe shouting, ‘I got Wayman Tisdale’s straw! I got his straw!’”

In addition to the mementos from Tisdale’s playing days, jerseys of former Hornets Richard Dumas, Ryan Humphrey and Etan Thomas, all of whom played in the NBA, grace the walls along with collages of newspaper clippings.

The Track/Baseball/Softball Hall of Fame is in the start-up phase in what was the school’s former library.

Most of Burks’ work on the museum takes place during the summer.

“When I come in here, I hate to leave because I can easily get lost in thought of all these great people,” he says.

It’s easy to tell Burks loves his hobby.

“Lots of times in the summer when I come in the morning, I’ll raise the blinds, just stand there and simply look out the window at the football field and take it all in,” he says. “It’s comforting.”

Why does Burks think the athletic museum is important to the BTW community?

“The reason the museum is important is that it gives both young and old alumni the opportunity to witness what they have seen or heard about BTW athletics,” he explains. “It gives a person the opportunity to add to the rich BTW legacy and to pass that legacy on to future generations.”

Burks says two people in particular have helped make the museum possible.

The first is the late Hicks (Class of 1975), who Burks says was instrumental in making the idea a reality.

“The other is my father, the late Sam Burks, a former BTW Stadium/S.E. Williams Stadium supervisor,” the historian says. “Having had the opportunity to work many ballgames during my early childhood gave me a firsthand insight as to the history of BTW — meeting players, watching championship ball teams and being around role models of Hornet players, teachers and coaches.”

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Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405-236-3100
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Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Remembering Our Fallen is a photographic war memorial that honors our country’s military Fallen from The War on Terror. Because 9/11 was such a defining moment, this memorial includes our...

Cost: Free

Where:
Muskogee War Memorial Park
3500 Batfish Rd
Muskogee, OK  74403
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Sponsor: Muskogee War Memorial Park
Telephone: 918-682-6294
Contact Name: Brent Trout
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 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
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Telephone: 918-495-6000
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Legion LIVE! 2018 is a day-long event filled with live music on two stages, broadcast live to troops around the world! FREE and open to the public, the event raises much-needed funds for the...

Cost: FREE

Where:
American Legion Post 1
1120 E 8th Street
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Sponsor: American Legion Post 1
Telephone: 918-809-3745
Contact Name: Kasey Rideout

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This annual FREE new home showcase is presented by the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa and sponsored by Samsung Electronics.  This year’s event will feature more than 150...

Cost: FREE

Where:
, OK


Sponsor: Samsung
Contact Name: Nathan Carter

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Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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Opera in the Ozarks, the nationally acclaimed summer music festival and training program for top emerging opera professionals, celebrates its 2018 Season from June 22 to July 20 with nearly...

Cost: $25

Where:
Inspiration Point
16311 Hwy. 62 West
Eureka Springs, AR  72632
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Still I Rise is a dramatic dance-theatre presentation incorporating all elements of Bharatanatyam, some elements of yoga, theatre, spoken word and music. The performance exemplifies the example of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: South Asian Performing Arts Foundation
Telephone: (918) 625 6037
Contact Name: Mohan Kelkar
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Shades of White is a play written by Ilan Kozlowski and directed by Rebecca Ungerman.  For mature audiences.

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
John H. Williams Theatre, Tulsa PAC
110 E. Second St.
Tulsa, OK  74103
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TULtalk


“Sovereignty” comes to Tulsa for a reading

Monday, June 18, see a staged reading of the buzzed-about new play by Oklahoma native Mary Kathryn Nagle.

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QUIZ: Which Tulsa Mural Fits Your Personality?

Tulsa has a plethora of colorful, vibrant murals! But which one should be the backdrop for your next selfie?

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Video: BA Ninja Warrior

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The Fabulous Mid-Life Crisis

The popular cover band is scheduled to bring the good times (and huge crowds) to Summer's Fifth Night in Utica Square on June 7.

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When you’re 4, everything is super

From the editor: Here's to a super-duper June, Tulsa!

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