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SHERMAN RIOT OF 1930

VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 6

									An infamous month in a lovely city

              SHERMAN RIOT OF 1930
               As recorded in The Handbook Of Texas
       with recollections of an eight-year old boy who was there
    The Sherman riot of 1930          a shotgun, demanded his wages,        Arthur Vaughan and deputies
was one of the major incidents        and raped the woman. He shot at       stood on duty in the courtroom
of racial violence that occurred      unarmed pursuers and at the pa-       and corridors. Only those con-
in the United States at the onset     trol car of the deputy sheriff who    nected to the case were allowed
of the Great Depression, when         later arrived to investigate the      to attend the proceedings. Nev-
lynching and other lawless acts       disturbance.                          ertheless, a crowd from all over
increased with economic prob-              He then surrendered. On          the region gathered outside the
lems. The incident initiated a        Monday, May 5, Hughes was in-         building and filled the corridors
flurry of racial violence in Texas.   dicted for criminal assault by a      from the main entrance to the
White tenant farmers had exhib-       special meeting of the grand jury     courtroom doors. During the jury
ited hostility to blacks through-     in the Fifteenth District Court.      selection and beginning of the
out the county. As county seat,       County Attorney Joe P. Cox set        trial, the noise led officers to clear
Sherman was the county’s bank-        the trial date for Friday, May 9,     the stairway and corridor leading
ing, industrial, and educational      and promised a speedy trial.          to the courtroom.
center. The Southern Commis-               In the days preceding the             In the late morning the crowd
sion on the Study of Lynching         trial, rumors spread about the        began to stone the courthouse.
reported in 1931 that Sherman         case, among them that Hughes          An American flag was carried
had felt the onset of the depres-     had mutilated the woman’s throat      around the grounds to incite the
sion more keenly than represen-       and breasts and that she was not      men to action.
tative communities of similar         expected to live. Medical exami-           The jury was sworn in at
size in Texas. The prevalent ab-      nation of the woman and of            noon. Then Cox read the indict-
horrence of miscegenation, to-        Hughes showed the rumors to be        ment, to which Hughes pleaded
gether with the sensation sur-        false.                                guilty. The first witness had be-
rounding the rape of a white               Officers removed Hughes          gun testimony when the crowd
woman by a black man, provided        from the jail to an undisclosed lo-   forced the doors to the courtroom
the context of the violence.          cation as a precaution against        corridor, whereupon the rangers
    A black farm hand named           mob violence, but rumors per-         fired three warning shots. The
George Hughes, described by ac-       sisted that he was still there. A     jury was sent from the room, and
quaintances as “crazy,” was ac-       few people were taken through         Hughes was taken to the district
cused of raping a young woman,        the jail to show that he was not      court vault as the Rangers used
who was never publicly identi-        there, but an unconvinced mob         tear gas to disperse the mob. Fire-
fied. Hughes admitted that he had     gathered outside nightly.             men provided ladders for others
come to the farm five miles                In the early morning of Fri-     in the trial room.
southeast of Sherman on May 3,        day, May 9, Capt. Francis A.               A few minutes before one
1930, in search of the woman’s        (Frank) Hamer of the Texas            o’clock the mob started toward
husband, who owed him wages.          Rangers, assisted by two other        the courtroom again, and again
Hughes left when the woman            rangers and one police sergeant,      the rangers resorted to tear gas.
said that her husband was in          escorted Hughes to the county         Firemen again helped women
Sherman but soon returned with        courthouse. County Sheriff            and children escape the building
with the use of ladders. District      contact with our father by phone,       ment of militia went to the area and
Judge R. M. Carter went into                Smoke began to drift across        cut down Hughes’s charred body.
conference at about one o’clock        the city, and I walked toward           The owners of two black undertak-
and declared that he would likely      downtown as a curious 8-year-old        ing establishments that had been
order a change of venue, but at        would do. It was frightening. Not       destroyed were offered Hughes’s
two o’clock he had not decided         only was the fire creating a pall of    remains, but because they no longer
where to send the case. Captain        smoke over the city, but there was      had operable places of business,
Hamer told him that he did not         a sinister pall which cannot really     the remains were turned over to a
believe that the trial could be held   be described.                           white undertaker. Hughes’s remains
in Sherman without bloodshed.               The mob was cutting the fire       were buried on the morning of May
    About 2:30 P.M., two youths        hoses as fast as the firemen could      10 near the Grayson County Farm.
threw an open can of gasoline          lay them. Mob members were                  To walk between our bakery
into the county tax collector’s        offering my Dad $25 for butcher         and our home, I usually went west
office through a broken window.        knives with which to cut hoses.         on Houston Street, which would
A fire started and quickly spread      He, being a former Chief of the         take me past the county jail. Just
through the building. The offi-        Fire Department in Winnsboro,           across the street from the jail was
cials escaped on ladders. It was       Texas, refused. And you need to         the residence of Pete Hudgins
said that when the deputies            realize that in 1930 depression         whose       kids      were       my
guarding Hughes offered to es-         dollars, $25 was a huge sum of          schoolmates. On their front porch
cort him out, he chose to remain       money.                                  were National Guard soldiers
locked in the vault. Rangers at-            I got there in time to see a car   manning a tripod-mounted
tempted to rescue him but were         dragging George Hughes as it            machine gun. They remained
cut off by flames.                     moved north on Crockett Street in       there for several days. In days to
    More than 5,000 people filled      front of the bakery.                    come I regularly saw soldiers
the courthouse yard and lined an            Along with hundreds of other       walking two-by-two downtown.
adjacent street.                       “rubberneckers,” we followed the            At 4:30 A.M. on May 10,
    The militia had left.              mob into the northeast part of          Governor Moody announced that
    Hughes’s body was thrown           town near the railroad depot            he would not declare martial law
from the vault, then dragged be-       where nearly all of the black           in Sherman unless the Texas Na-
hind a car to the front of a drug-     businesses were located. The            tional Guard and local officers
store in the black business sec-       mob used furniture from the             were unable to quell the distur-
tion, where it was hanged from a       depot, a restaurant and other           bances. The same morning 225
tree. The store furnishings were       nearby businesses to fuel the fire      additional guardsmen from Dal-
used to fuel a fire under the hang-    under Hughes’ body hanging from         las and Fort Worth, under the di-
ing corpse. The mob also burned        a tree. One of the businesses was       rection of Col. Lawrence E.
down the drugstore and other           a theater. I don’t know whether he      McGee, arrived.
businesses in the area and pre-        was dead or alive when they hung            Two additional rangers also
vented firemen from saving the         him there, but when I saw him he        came to supplement the four al-
burning buildings.                     was lifeless.                           ready present. Officials arrested
    (NOTE: Otto M. (Buddy) Vehle            By daybreak of May 10, most        eleven men and released six by
was 8 years old at the time.           of the town’s black businesses,         evening.
Comments by him, based upon            as well as a residences, lay in             At the unanimous request of
his personal observations, will        ashes. Among the businesses             a group of fifty community lead-
appear in this typeface.)              burned were the offices of a den-       ers, however, Governor Moody
    My father had a bakery on the      tist, a doctor, and a civil rights      declared martial law at 10:30
West side of the Square, facing        lawyer, William J. Durham. Af-          P.M. on May 10.
the Court House. We had been in        ter the mob subsided, a detach-             Suspects were rounded up.
Martial law officials formed a mili-
tary court of inquiry with the power
to present information to a grand
jury in cases considered worthy of
further investigation.
      Under martial law, soldiers                  A
were ordered to shoot anyone at-
tempting to set fires or otherwise
damage property owned by
blacks in Sherman.
    Investigators searched for the
individuals responsible for post-
ing threatening placards in the                                                       B
                                                                                                              E
black section of Sherman and                                                                          D
                                                                                          C
later arrested a number of high
school boys for questioning. In-
vestigators also sought the par-
ties responsible for threats            A = Vehle residence. B = Hudgins residence. C = Old Jail.
against the property of white con-      D = Vehle Bakery. E = Grayson County Court House Square.
tractors who employed black             The Black area is north and east of this map.
workers.                               men in Sherman declined, though            On May 24 Governor Moody
    In 1930, I simply did not          troops stationed at the school for    lifted martial law. Maj. Dupont
understand the “pall” hanging          blacks continued guarding the         B. Lyon succeeded Col. McGee
over my hometown. It was years         building. The school, which had       as head of the peace patrols. Dur-
later as I began to devote myself      been closed for several days, was     ing the first few days of martial
as a Christian to Bible study and      reopened on May 14.                   law, 430 national guardsmen and
the supernatural influences of our          On May 19 the military court     nine Texas Rangers had been in
world. I now can look back and         of inquiry gave its evidence to the   Sherman; 50 were there on May
see that even at that young age,       Fifteenth District grand jury. On     23. The Sherman Daily Demo-
the Holy Spirit was beginning a        May 20 the grand jury returned        crat lamented the lawlessness,
work in my life which later            seventy indictments against four-     property damage, and notoriety
developed into my Sprititual Gift      teen men in connection with the       that the incident had caused but
of the Discerning of Evil Spirits.     riot. Lynching was not named in       expressly did not lament
Now it is obvious that the “pall”      the charges. On May 22 Judge          Hughes’s death. Soon afterward,
was none other than a Satanic          Carter changed the venue to           lynchings followed at Honey
influence which was guiding            Criminal District Court No. 2 in      Grove, at Benchly in Brazos
those people by evil powers.           Dallas. Thirteen of the suspects      County, and at Chickasha, Okla-
    By the evening of May 13,          were sent to Dallas on May 23,        homa. Several more lynching at-
thirty-eight men and one woman         and one was released on bond.         tempts, one at Brownwood
had been arrested. The next day             Of the fourteen men indicted     against a white man, were
justice of the peace W. M.             for the violence in Sherman, only     thwarted
Blaylock charged eight men with        two had been convicted by Oc-             BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lynchings and What
inciting to riot and one with post-    tober, 1931, one for rioting and      They Mean (Atlanta, Georgia: Southern
                                                                             Commission on the Study of Lynching,
ing threatening placards. He dis-      the other for arson. Both received    1931). Dallas Morning News, May 10, 1990.
missed three of the charges the        two-year sentences.                   Sherman Daily Democrat, May 4-24, 1930.
same day.                                                                    Robert L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade
    The number of national guards-                                           Against Lynching (Philadelphia: Temple
                                                                             University Press, 1980).
Aftermath - Martial Law

                       At left is the statement
                    from Ranger Captain
                    Frank Hamer to Texas
                    Governor Dan Moody.

                        Governor Moody
                    dispatched more National
                    Guard units and when
                    violence continued,
                    declared Martial Law in
                    Sherman late on May 10.

                       Sherman remained
                    under Martial Law until
                    May 24.



                     Photo below by
                     Helen J. Logue
                      Texas Ranger Frank Hamer
     Captain Frank Hamer (pronounced Hay-mer)                Lee Simmons, of
was born on March 17, 1884 in Fairview, Texas and       Sherman, Texas, was head of
grew up on a ranch in San Saba County.                  the prison system at that time.
     In 1905, while working as a cowboy on the Carr          After a three-month
Ranch, Hamer helped to capture a horse thief. After-    search, Hamer and Texas
wards, the sheriff recommended Hamer to the Texas       and Louisiana Law officers
Rangers, which he joined in April 1906.                 ambushed and killed the
      He patrolled the border                           criminals near Gibsland,
 from Big Bend to                                       Louisiana.
 Brownsville, dealing with                                   During the 1930s Hamer worked for various
 arms smugglers, bootleg-                               oil companies helping to prevent strikes and break-
 gers, and bandits.                                     ing up mobs. He was called again to Ranger service
      In the 1920s Hamer                                in 1948 by Governor Coke Stevenson to help
 was instrumental in helping                            check election returns in the U.S. Senate race.
 to bring order to the oil                                   Hamer patrolled on horses before they got cars.
 boom towns such as Mexia
                                                            Frank
 and Borger.
                                                        Hamer retired
      In 1934 the retired
                                                        in 1949 and
 Capt. Hamer was hired as
                                                        lived in Austin
 a Special Investigator for
                                                        until his death
 the Texas prison system to
                                                        in 1955. He is
  track down gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde
                                                        buried in
  Barrow, notorious outlaws who had killed more than
                                                        Austin’s Me-
  a dozen law enforcement officers and unarmed citi-
                                                        morial Park.
  zens in a crime spree spanning several states.

      Texas Governor Daniel James Moody, Jr.
     Dan Moody was the youngest elected to sev-             As governor, Moody pur-
 eral successive public offices: county attorney, at-   sued a strong reform program
 torney general of Texas, and governor of Texas,        and halted the liberal convict-
 elected for two terms, 1927-1931.                      pardon policy initiated by Gov-
     While district attorney he prosecuted a group      ernor Ma Ferguson.
 for criminal activities connected with the Ku Klux         In 1931, he retired from the
 Klan and sent some of them to prison.                  governorship, and at the request
                                                        of President Frankly D.
                                                        Roosevelt in 1935, he served as
                                                        special assistant to the United States attorney gen-
                                                        eral in charge of prosecuting incom tax evasion
                                                        cases.
                                                            He represented the governor of Texas in cases
                                                        involving the right of the governor to declare martial
                                                        law in the mid-1930s. He personally had knowl-
                                                        edge of martial law having declared it himself during
                                                        the Sherman riots in 1930.
     Swearing-in of Gov. Dan Moody, 1927
                                     Grayson County, Texas
                                     Courthouse prior to the
                                     Sherman Riot of 1930




              Ruins of
 Grayson County, Texas
   Courthouse after the
  Sherman Riot of 1930




Present Courthouse, Sherman, Grayson County, Texas

								
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