The LONGVIEW RACE RIOT refers to a series of violent incidents in
The riot is notable for local and state officials taking actions to
impose military authority and quell further violence. After ignoring
early rumors of planned unrest, local officials appealed to the
governor for forces to quell the violence. In a short time, the Texas
National Guard and
* 1 Background * 2 Causes
* 3 Riot
* 3.1 Beating of Samuel L. Jones * 3.2 Murder of Marion Bush
* 4 Reinforcements and martial law * 5 Investigation and arrests * 6 Aftermath * 7 See also * 8 References
Longview is located approximately 125 miles east of Dallas in
northeast Texas. In 1919 it had a population of 5,700, of which 1,790,
or thirty-one percent, was African American. It was an area of
historic cotton cultivation, which had depended on slave labor before
American Civil War
Thousands of blacks had already left the South in the Great Migration
, settling in northern and midwestern cities. They had sometimes been
hired as strikebreakers and competed with working-class whites for
jobs. That summer riots took place in many cities across the country,
where ethnic whites clashed with blacks in postwar social tensions
brought on by fierce competition for jobs and housing. In Longview,
racial tensions had deep roots. Most blacks in
Following service by many blacks in the military in the Great War,
African Americans aspired to better treatment in the United States.
In June, local man Lemuel Walters of Longview had been whipped by two white men from Kilgore , allegedly for making "indecent advances" toward their sister. (One account said he was found in her bedroom.) Under Jim Crow, white men strictly monitored and discouraged relations between black men and white women, but not the reverse. Walters was arrested and put in jail in Longview. A lynch mob of ten men abducted him on June 17 and killed him that night by gunshots, leaving him near the railroad tracks. Dr. Davis, Jones and some other respectable black men went to Judge Bramlette in town, asking him to investigate the lynching. He asked for the names of people Jones had talked to at the jail. When no investigation was undertaken, the men returned to Judge Bramlette but became convinced he did not intend to pursue the case.
On July 5, 1919, The Chicago Defender published an article about Walters' death. It said that "Walters' only crime was that he was loved by a white woman," and it quoted her (unnamed) as saying that she "would have married him if they had lived in the North." The article described her as "so distraught over his death that she required a physician's care." It said that the sheriff guarding Walters had let the lynch mob take him, without offering resistance. While the article did not identify the woman, in those small towns many readers knew who she was. Some were offended at the suggestion that she had loved Walters, saying it was damaging to the young woman's reputation.
BEATING OF SAMUEL L. JONES
As Samuel L. Jones was known to be a local correspondent for the Defender, whites believed he wrote the article. He denied writing it. The young woman's brothers attacked Jones on Thursday, July 10, 1919, giving him a severe beating across from the courthouse. Dr. Calvin P. Davis arrived in his car soon after and took Jones to his office to treat him. Meanwhile, "tension and anger" spread across town as whites learned of the article, and as blacks gathered at Melvin Street learned about the beating.
After being warned that Jones was at risk for trouble that night, Davis appealed to the mayor for protection. Bodenheim sent a messenger to Jones at supper time, advising him and Davis to leave town that night. Davis later learned that Mayor Bodenheim and other officials were holding a meeting on the situation. He appeared there, appealing for protection and repeating that neither had written the article. They advised him to leave town but he and Jones did not want to run. The mayor and Judge Bramlette, and a local attorney, Ras Young, had talked to local whites and urged them to leave Jones alone. But, "gangs" of both whites and blacks roamed the streets that night, ready for the next events.
At about midnight on July 10, a group of between twelve and fifteen white men gathered at Bodie Park, located at the corner of Tyler and Fredonia streets. They went to Jones' house by car, reaching his place at Harrison and College streets south of the railroad tracks about 1:00 AM, July 11, 1919. Davis and Jones had gathered about 25 friends to defend the house; Davis warned them against shooting before he gave the word. When the whites approached the house, Jones and his friends opened fire on them with small arms . Some of the whites were also armed, and they returned fire as they retreated to cover. In all, over 100 rounds were expended during the skirmish. Three of the whites were slightly wounded by birdshot . A fourth who hid under a nearby house was captured by the blacks and beaten badly.
The remaining whites fled back to the center of Longview. Most went to the fire station next to Bodie Park, where a crowd gradually grew. Some of the large crowd broke into the Welch Hardware Store to take more guns and ammunition. At this point, the mob feared that their companion who had been captured was dead, so they raised the alarm for reinforcements. Davis reported that the fire bell was ringing and nearly 1,000 whites gathered near it. (Other accounts say the group numbered 100.) Near daybreak, about 4:00 AM, the mob returned to Jones' house. Finding it empty, they set it on fire. They also burned a neighboring house.
From there, the mob moved south to the Quick Hall, an African-American dance hall owned by Charlie Medlock; they set it on fire, as there were rumors it held stored ammunition. A cache of ammunition began exploding "throughout the building." The mob next went to Dr. Davis' deserted house, located at the southeast corner of the Harrison and Nelson streets and burned it, too. They first allowed his wife and children to get out without harm. They burned a car on the street, and burned down his office. Going east on Nelson Street, the mob reached the homes of Ben Sanders and Charlie Medlock. They set both on fire, attacking Medlock and Belle Sanders, Ben's wife, when they protested.
With sunrise, the mob dispersed.
Sheriff D.S. Meredith and Judge
Bramlette called Governor
William P. Hobby to ask for military
support. Hobby responded by placing the National Guard units in
Dallas, Terrell , and Nacogdoches , on high alert, but he sent only
MURDER OF MARION BUSH
Marion Bush was a 60-year-old black man who had worked with the local
Kelly Plow Company for thirty years. He was father-in-law of Calvin P.
Davis, the physician. On the night of July 12,
Sheriff Meredith and
Ike Killingsworth went to Bush's house, located on the west side of
Court Street, one block south of the
There are differing accounts as to what happened next. From interviews in 1978 and a contemporary Dallas newspaper, Durham says the sheriff called farmer Jim Stephens and asked him to stop Bush. He found him and ordered him to stop, but Bush ran into a cornfield. Stephens followed, shooting and killing him. According to the same Dallas Morning News of July 13 and 14, "armed white citizens" hunted down Bush, killing the 60-year-old man in a cornfield south of town.
REINFORCEMENTS AND MARTIAL LAW
When local officials heard of Bush's killing, they feared a new wave
of civil unrest. They called Governor Hobby again for aid, and he sent
about 160 more soldiers and
General McDill asked the town officials to organize a committee
consisting of local citizens, to work with him and the military during
the emergency. They identified only white businessmen and other
leaders. The committee met on Monday, July 14, at Judge Bramlette's
office and elected the attorney Ras Young as chairman; it also
authorized Judge Bramlette,
Sheriff Bodenheim and Young to communicate
with the military. The committee drafted a list of concerns. They
"expressed disapproval" of Jones' newspaper article, and the armed
defense of his former home. Their resolution said, we will not "permit
the negroes of this community and county to in any way interfere with
our social affairs or to write or circulate articles about the white
people of our city or county...." The committee stated their
opposition to the burning of African-American property, and took steps
to prevent any more losses. The members commended Governor Hobby for
quickly sending the National Guard and the
INVESTIGATION AND ARRESTS
The Rangers learned the identity of the "ringleader" of the riot, who gave them names of sixteen other men involved in the first attack on Jones' house. All were arrested for attempted murder on July 14, but quickly released on $ 1,000 bonds. The Rangers learned the name of nine other suspects, arresting them for arson; they were also released on $1,000 bonds.
Captain Hanson also questioned black residents, ultimately arresting twenty-one black men for assault and attempted murder. He temporarily placed them in the county jail, removing them to Austin for safety. Neither Jones nor Davis were arrested, as they had secretly left town. Davis dressed as a soldier and went out by train.
General McDill organized an assembly at the courthouse and informed
the public of the arrests, the presence of National Guard troops and
Eventually, McDill asked the citizens' committee when they thought
martial law should be ended. They said he should wait until all of the
blacks who had been arrested were sent out of the county, because
there were rumors that certain whites would kill some of these men as
soon as they reclaimed their guns. The twenty-one blacks were taken to
Austin by the
The governor lifted martial law at noon on Friday, July 18. Residents were allowed to begin picking up their guns on the next day. Town officials tried to promote "harmonious relations" between the races. None of the blacks nor the whites was ever tried. Durham suggests that Gregg County officials chose to avoid trials in order to defuse the tension, perhaps believing that at trial by the all-white juries of this time period, that the whites were likely to be acquitted and the blacks convicted. No documentation relates to the decisions about not pursuing prosecution.
Dr. Davis and Samuel Jones both reached
By that date, racial conflicts had erupted in numerous large and
small cities across the country, including Chicago, which had a week
of violence ending in early August that resulted in a total of 38
deaths and more than 500 people injured, as well as extensive property
damage. Violence of whites against blacks continued into the fall,
with a riot in
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S Kenneth R. Durham, Jr.
(1980). "THE LONGVIEW RACE RIOT OF 1919" (PDF). East