Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

CHICKASHA, Okla. — Some years ago, a portion of Idaho Ave. was named "Ada Sipuel Ave." in dedication to one of Chickasha's own Civil Rights heros. 

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher crossed barriers in the 1940s when she became the first African American female to attend the University of Oklahoma. 

The Chickasha native's admission to the school was hard won, involving the intervention of the Supreme Court. Even then, she was subject to a desk marked "colored" and a segregated dining area, according to the African American Registry. 

Chickasha City Council held a work session on Monday to discuss renaming the rest of Idaho Ave., to the west of US81 (4th St.), "Ada Sipuel Ave." 

No action is taken at work sessions. They are intended for discussion and are open to the public. 

"OU has a memorial garden for her. We don't. We have half a street," Dr. R.P. Ashanti-Alexander, council member, said. 

He said it was not unusual for streets named after African American historical figures to be set apart, in neighborhoods that are occupied mostly by African American residents. 

The portion of the street that is named after Fisher, where she grew up, is also in a predominately African American neighborhood.

"It speaks to division," he said.

Several residents, business and property owners on Idaho Ave., to the west of US81, oppose renaming their street. According to one figure cited by these residents, there could be as many as 97 commercial and residential addresses. 

Some of the issues these residents referenced included potential problems with their mail and personal costs, such as altering deeds and other paperwork. A business owner said there would need to be many costly changes to business cards, invoices, etc. 

Zachary Grayson, council member, said he was initially in favor of changing the rest of Idaho Ave. to Ada Sipuel Ave., but not if it involved out of pocket expenses for residents and property owners. 

Residents in favor of the change asked why, if the street name was changed before, it could not be changed again. According to a resident living on Ada Sipuel Ave., no one asked their permission then, and they were able to adjust to the change. 

Those who opposed the change agreed that Fisher needs to be honored in Chickasha. Moreover, many said that a street was not enough, as it did not draw attention to Fisher's accomplishments. Some questioned whether the street name, which may cause resentment, was the best way to honor her.

They were receptive to other avenues of memorializing Fisher. 

Some of the ideas shared by the council members and residents included a monument erected with a plaque telling Fisher's story, renaming Centennial Park, the Washita Valley Bridge or Chickasha's portion of the upcoming bypass. 

Kimmy Loggins, council member, said a memorial in the downtown area of Chickasha, where city growth is focused, might be more accessible to visitors than some of the other options. John Noblitt, Chickasha City Manager, said the city has discussed a Chickasha "hall of fame" memorial, which could also include Fisher. 

Both sides of the street asked why Idao Ave. was not renamed Ada Sipuel Ave. back during the initial change. 

Ashanti-Alexander said he has tried to initiate ways to further honor Fisher over the years during his city council post. He acknowledged that the street name may never be changed, but having an open discussion was at least on the right path. 

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