Feature Story: Clara Luper was my teacher

Stormy Nickerson

*Seventh in a series of hopefully many stories about the most influential women in our lives as a part of March being Women’s History Month.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK: Stormy Nickerson of Marshall, Texas remembers when she was in high school as being “painfully shy.”

But she also remembers her teacher at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, Clara Luper, “pushing me to have confidence when speaking publicly.”

Stormy continued, “Mrs. Luper was my ninth grade history teacher. In her classroom, students were eager to perform and receive her praise.”

“I have carried those skills in my professional and volunteer life,” she added. “As a woman, I believe we need to teach young ladies the importance of eye contact, a firm handshake and proper greetings in professional situations.”

And Stormy credits Clara Luper with helping her develop those standards, hence offering Mrs. Luper as her mentor and woman who had a lot of influence on her life.

The name Clara Luper will sound familiar to man. “She was a civil rights’ leader, and marched with Dr. King,” Stormy said.

Born Clara Mae Shepard, Mrs. Luper was best known for her leadership roles in the 1958 Oklahoma City sit-in-movement. According to news reports, Mrs. Luper, along with her son and daughter, and members of the NAACP Youth Council “conducted non-violent sit-in protests of lunch-counters in downtown drugstores which helped overturn the stores’ polices of segregation.”

Mrs. Luper went to an all-black high school, and attended college at Langston University, where she received her bachelor of art in mathematics with a minor in history. She made her initial mark in American history when she was the first black student in the graduate history program at the University of Oklahoma – she received her master of art in history education in 1951.

Clara Luper

In 1963, she was a participant in the ‘March on Washington’ where Dr. King gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, and was one of the participants in the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, who was injured when 600 civil rights’ marchers where attacked by state and local police with tear gas and billy clubs.

Stormy said, “Mrs. Luper was firm, but every student wanted to be top in the class. At age 48, students still comment on Facebook about her. She has a memorial in Oklahoma City named after her.”

“She taught for 41 years in Oklahoma City and I feel fortunate that she retired the year I graduated from high school,” she stated. “Mrs. Luper was a remarkable woman.” Mrs. Luper died at age 88 in 2011.

Stormy concluded, “Even years after I graduated high school, Mrs. Luper would tell my Mom that I was ‘a diamond.’ Teachers have such power to make an everlasting impact on our lives.”

Find us on Facebook and Instagram at @themurphygazette and on Twitter @tmurphygazette. Email story ideas to becky@murphygazette.com

Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.

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