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Freedom Center board will seek to take activist's name off civil rights landmark

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Control of Oklahoma City civil rights landmark in dispute

Controversy continues over control of Oklahoma City's Freedom Center. The building, 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave., is a local civil rights landmark. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]

Controversy continues over control of Oklahoma City's Freedom Center. The building, 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave., is a local civil rights landmark. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]

One of the last remaining board members for a nonprofit group that owns an Oklahoma City civil rights memorial says he will seek to have the property taken out of a local activist's name.

Anthony R. Douglas, president of the Oklahoma NAACP, said he is one of the last surviving board members of Freedom Center Inc., which owns the historic Freedom Center at 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave.

Community activist Michael Washington says he now controls the civil rights memorial and said he wants to raise money to have the property restored.

Douglas said Washington called him a few months ago and asked to become a board member for Freedom Center Inc., but was turned down.

"Then he called me out of the blue saying he owns the Freedom Center," Douglas said. "He does not own the Freedom Center. ... Nobody knew this had happened."

On Dec. 1, Washington filled out a form with the Oklahoma Secretary of State to become the registered agent of the nonprofit Freedom Center Inc.

The designation means Washington is authorized to receive the nonprofit's mail, tax forms and legal documents.

Washington filled out a legal form and paid $25 to have himself designated as Freedom Center Inc.'s new registered agent, according to Secretary of State staff.

The Secretary of State's office does not verify the information on the form, but it is a legally binding document, staff there said.

The three people who incorporated the Freedom Center Inc. in 1969 are now all dead.

Douglas said he has personally paid to keep the utilities on at the Freedom Center over the years.

Freedom Center Inc. hasn't been able to do much with the building over the past few years because most of the board members have died or are in nursing homes, Douglas said.

There are plans forthcoming to preserve the historic property, but Washington is in no way involved, Douglas said.

The building was the headquarters of the NAACP Youth Council, led by the late civil rights activist Clara Luper. The group led the 1958 sit-in at Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City.

Today, the Freedom Center is in dire need of repairs. The roof leaks and one exterior brick wall is cracked and about to collapse.

Washington still claims he controls the property. He says he does not believe a board for Freedom Center Inc. exists.

"What insignificant board do they have to allow this Freedom Center get into this decrepit state?" Washington said. "I hope we can come to some understanding and not have to go to court over it."

Related coverage

Control of Oklahoma City civil rights landmark in dispute

Related Photos
<p>Activist Michael Washington says he will raise money to restore Oklahoma City’s Freedom Center, but others say Washington has no legal right to do anything with the property. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]</p>

Activist Michael Washington says he will raise money to restore Oklahoma City’s Freedom Center, but others say Washington has no legal right to do anything with the property. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-bed22bd5179d3705906574e603b95371.jpg" alt="Photo - Activist Michael Washington says he will raise money to restore Oklahoma City’s Freedom Center, but others say Washington has no legal right to do anything with the property. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] " title=" Activist Michael Washington says he will raise money to restore Oklahoma City’s Freedom Center, but others say Washington has no legal right to do anything with the property. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Activist Michael Washington says he will raise money to restore Oklahoma City’s Freedom Center, but others say Washington has no legal right to do anything with the property. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-83905b08acd1d1f53e4b897573e931ca.jpg" alt="Photo - Controversy continues over control of Oklahoma City's Freedom Center. The building, 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave., is a local civil rights landmark. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] " title=" Controversy continues over control of Oklahoma City's Freedom Center. The building, 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave., is a local civil rights landmark. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Controversy continues over control of Oklahoma City's Freedom Center. The building, 2609 N Martin Luther King Ave., is a local civil rights landmark. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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