It is remembered as the Tulsa Race Massacre: a notorious 48 hours of fire and death that leveled “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa and left as many as 300 black people dead. When it erupted on May 31, 1921, Olivia Hooker was just 6 years old. Hooker — one of the last known survivors of the massacre — called it “The Catastrophe.”

On Nov. 21, at 103, Hooker died at her home in White Plains, N.Y., according to her goddaughter. In addition to being one of the enduring witnesses to what is regarded as the deadliest episode of racial violence in American history, Dr. Hooker was among the first black women to serve in the Coast Guard, and retired as an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University in New York.

Living through the catastrophe

Olivia Juliet Hooker was born in Muskogee, Okla., on Feb. 12, 1915, and was one of five children.

The Tulsa Race Massacre erupted on May 31, 1921, when a white lynch mob descended on the courthouse where a black teenager was being held. A group of black war veterans tried to protect the teen, and in the ensuing violence, thousands saw their homes and livelihoods destroyed by torch. Some people were burned alive, and 40 square blocks of business and residential property — valued then at more than $1 million — were destroyed.

In interviews, Hooker recalled the details of the rampage through a young girl’s frightened eyes. Her father had been an owner of a department store in the community of Greenwood, a center of commerce known as Black Wall Street. When the mob marched on Greenwood, burning houses and shooting people in the street, her mother hid her and her siblings under a big oak dining-room table as their home was being ransacked.

“We could see what they were doing,” she told The Washington Post in June. “They took everything they thought was valuable. They smashed everything they couldn’t take. My mother had [opera singer Enrico] Caruso records she loved. They smashed the Caruso records.”

They also poured oil over her grandmother’s bed but didn’t light it because members of the white mob were still in the house.

“It took me a long time to get over my nightmares,” she told The Post. “I was keeping my family awake screaming.”

Olivia Hooker, 6 years old. (Courtesy of Olivia Hooker)
Olivia Hooker, 6 years old. (Courtesy of Olivia Hooker)

As a little girl, her most searing memory of the massacre was what the mob did to her doll. “My grandmother had made some beautiful clothes for my doll. It was the first ethnic doll we had ever seen. ... She washed them and put them on the line. When the marauders came, the first thing they did was set fire to my doll’s clothes. I thought that was dreadful.”

Her family survived the massacre. Her father temporarily relocated the family — including her mother and their five children — to Topeka, Kan., while he remained in Oklahoma attempting to rebuild his business. He later went on a speaking tour to black Methodist churches to bear witness to the murder and incineration in Tulsa.

Dr. Hooker returned to Tulsa to attend Booker T. Washington High School. “The teachers were scholars, and they were determined every child would do his best, every child would be taught the King’s English,” she recalled to The Post.

Distinguished service to the Coast Guard

Later, during World War II, she was part of Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s efforts to integrate the Navy. She told The Post that she applied to the Navy, which had started accepting women. “They wrote back and said there is a complication. They wouldn’t tell me what the complication was.”

Instead, she enlisted in the Coast Guard in early 1945, three years after Congress passed a law approving the creation of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve to help fill jobs vacated by men who went abroad to fight in the war. Dr. Hooker became one of the first African American women to join the women’s reserve, known as SPARs.

She was stationed in Boston and performed administrative duties before the SPARs program was disbanded in 1946. She was discharged as a petty officer 2nd class, according to a Coast Guard report, and then went on to complete her doctorate. She became a senior clinical lecturer at Fordham in 1963 and retired from the university in 1985.

Thirty years later, the Coast Guard named a building on Staten Island after her, breaking a tradition of ship- and building-christening in honor of only those who have died. The service said it was making an exception because of her “distinguished service to the Coast Guard and her wonderful efforts in serving and helping others.”

A ‘tireless voice for justice and equality’

In 2003, more than 100 survivors and about 300 descendants of those who lost property or were killed in the massacre filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma, seeking compensation for the damages that occurred as a direct result of the government’s involvement in the massacre. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit without comment.

Survivors were crestfallen.

“I was glad so many of us were still there, still in the world trying to do good,” Dr. Hooker told The Post in June. “There are a lot of answers I was never able to figure out.”

As she sat in the front row at a Coast Guard ceremony in 2015, she watched as President Barack Obama honored her, recounting her life story. He described her as a “tireless voice for justice and equality.”

Dr. Hooker’s goddaughter, Janis Porter, did not provide an immediate cause of death. Hooker had no immediate survivors.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, an iconic leader of the Russian human rights movement, dies at 91

She was a forceful opponent of the Kremlin for half a century

‘Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom’s hand again’: Scenes from George H.W. Bush’s funeral

Mourners gathered in the nation’s capital to remember the former president

‘Giant of a man’: George H.W. Bush’s grieving family celebrates a ‘remarkable’ life

Former president George H.W. Bush died Friday at the age of 94