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This is a contributing entry for Ralph Ellison and African American History in Oklahoma City and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

Ralph Ellison's mentor, J. D. Randolph, was a highly-educated and successful businessman but later in life he took a job as custodian of the state capitol so he could have unlimited access to the state library. On weekends and other slow periods he would bring Ralph along so that he could be exposed to other careers like the law and politics.

Oklahoma State Capitol

Sky, Cloud, Building, Window

Oklahoma State Capitol

Sky, Plant, Cloud, Building

“When I was a young boy I often went out to the Oklahoma State Capitol, where I assisted Mr. J. D. Randolph with his duties as custodian of the State Law Library. I was about eleven years old at the time, quite impressionable, and very, very curious about the mysterious legal goings-on of the legislators. All the more so because while I was never able to observe the legislature in session it was not at all unusual for me to look up form pushing a broom or dusting a desk to see one of the legislators dash into the library to ask Jeff–Mr. Randolph was always addressed by his first name–his opinion regarding some point of law. In fact, I soon came to look forward to such moments because I was amazed by the frequency with which Mr. Randolph managed to come up with satisfactory answers, even without consulting the heavy volumes which ranged the walls…I only knew that Mr. Randolph appeared to possess a surer grasp of law than certain of the legislators, and my youthful sense of justice led me to see his exclusion from the profession [of law] as an act of injustice."

Ellison, Ralph. Going to the Territory. New York City, New York. Vintage, 1986.

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