Saturday, May 9, 2015
May 9, 1930: George Hughes
Today we learn about a lynching and riot in Texas through the pages of The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) dated May 10, 1930:
MOB SEIZES BODY OF NEGRO
VICTIM IS DRAGGED BY CAR THROUGH STREET; BUILDINGS ARE BURNED
By Associated Press.
SHERMAN, Tex., May 10.—(Saturday.)—After wrecking three blocks of the negro section of Sherman, a mob which yesterday lynched George Hughes, negro attacker of a white woman, at 2 o'clock this morning was still carrying on sporadically. The fire department answered a fresh alarm from the negro at 1:55 o'clock.
Burning of the negro business building alongside which Hughes' body was burned was followed by a wrecking of all other negro business houses for three blocks. Virtually every store was entered, stocks thrown on the floor, windows broken and havoc wrought.
Shortly before 2 a. m. it appeared that the town had quieted down, and it was then that the fire department went blaring down the street to answer the newest alarm.
SHERMAN, Tex., May 9.—The body of George Hughes, 41, negro, who confessed to an attack on a white woman, was recovered at 11:45 o'clock tonight from the vault in the courthouse, where he had been burned to death when the courthouse was burned by a mob this afternoon.
The body was dragged through the narrow opening made by an acetylene torch and dynamite blasts and a chain wrapped around it.
When the men who went into the vault shoved the body through the hole and dumped it to the ground, two stories below, women screamed and clapped their hands and a great cheer went up from the mob.
The body was tied to the rear of an automobile and it was started through the streets toward the jail, dragging the body, as the maddened mob cheered wildly.
Difficulty was encountered because of the crowds jamming the streets.
The state rangers and guardsmen remained at the jail, not attempting interference as the dynamiting was in progress at the courthouse ruins.
After the vault had been blasted open the men could not enter for some time because of the fumes inside. However, they could see with their flashlights that body of the negro was inside, and waited until the gas had blown away before they entered, although the crowd below manifested impatience.
The car dragging the body started down toward North Sherman, leaders of the mob shouting "On to Nigger Town."
When dragged out of the hole the body was allowed to roll down the ladder which had been placed against the charred walls of the courthouse. It appeared to double up into a ball and hit the ground with a dull thump.
At the thump came the cry from the mob. Newspaper men who watched the scene said that many of the women in the crowd had babies in their arms. They said they heard cries of "Glory be."
The hole was open for about five minutes before the men were able to enter into the vault, so stifling was the air that came out of it. The body had not been burned. The negro apparently had been suffocated.
The mob announced its intention of first giving "all the other negroes" a chance to look over the body, and then take it to the country and burn it.
SHERMAN, Tex., May 9.—Repelled with tear bombs in three attacks by Texas rangers and county officers, a mob here this afternoon finally dashed ten gallons of gasoline into the courthouse and caused the cremation of George Hughes, negro, at the cost of Grayson County's $60,000 court building.
The body of the 41-year-old negro, according to Sheriff Arthur Vaughan, remained in an office vault in the ruins of the structure. The prisoner had been rushed into it during the first assault of the mob.
The court building was set on fire after the mob had been driven from the structure by tear bombs hurled by officers who had gathered about the negro as he was to go on trial for attacking a young white woman near here last Saturday.
After being driven to the courthouse lawn and into surrounding streets, the swirling crowd waited a few minutes and then started a determined attack, but again fumes from the bombs pushed it back.
This was repeated, but terminated as at first. Dynamite was resorted to in the third rush, several charges of the explosive being ignited under the building. Again the officers won by extinguishing the charges before they could damage the building.
On the fourth charge members of the mob hurled ten gallons of gasoline into the basement and lighted it before officers could interfere. The blaze was started on the east side under the room in which the negro was locked. The crowd then cut fire hose, and the courthouse was soon a mass of flames.
Although the crowd appeared to have quieted down, the atmosphere was surcharged with tension. A general unverified report was heard that the mob planned to go to the negro sections of the city as soon as dark fell and burn the houses there.
In the confusion rangers could not immediately be located. It was reported that three of the four rangers had gone to the airport and left in an airplane. Another report, generally credited but not verified, was that one men had been seriously wounded by one of the only two shots fired during the rioting. This man could not be located, and the person said to have fired the shot also could not be found.
Five boys suffering from injuries caused by being struck over the head with guns or bottles were the only persons milling in the mob reported hurt. None of the officers was injured.
Aside from pushing the mob back by physical exertion and using their guns as clubs, the tear bombs and water from the fire hose were the only methods employed by officers in combating the crowd.
More information comes to us from The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) dated May 24, 1930:
WOMEN IN TEXAS MOB
AUSTIN, Tex., May 22—(ANP)—That women and children were in the mob that lynched George Hughes in Sherman, Tex., last week and burned the courthouse and scores of homes owned or occupied by Negroes, was revealed here when Capt. Frank Hamer of the Texas Rangers issued a denial that the Rangers had been ordered not to shoot.
Captain Hamer pointed out that the Rangers did fire on the mob and further firing was hindered because of the number of women in the group. he further stated that the Rangers remained on guard until the fire and smoke drove them away and cut off their way to the vault in which Hughes had been placed for safekeeping.
The captain's statement confirms the report that women ans children were seen in the mob and taking an active part in the lynching and burning.
The final article comes from the El Paso Evening Post (El Paso, Texas) dated June 6, 1930:
"Wild West" Lynching Described by Governor of Texas Over Ocean 'Phone
MOB STORM GAOL TO KILL NEGRO.
GOVERNOR DAN MOODY'S STORY TO "EVENING STANDARD."
An angry mob of 6000 in Sherman, Texas, have carried out a lynching as terrible as any which have ever shocked the world. They fire to the courthouse, killing a negro who had been accused of attacking a white woman. Then they burned his body in the street.
To obtain first-hand details the "Evening Standard" put through an Atlantic telephone call to the Governor of the State, Mr. Dan Moody. Because Texas time is five hours behind London time the call reached him at 7:30 a.m. Sitting up in bed holding his telephone he told the story of the lynching. Below is his description—the first of its kind ever given over the ocean telephone.
By an "Evening Standard" Representative.
"Yes, Sir. This sure is Austin 618J, Texas State. Who's talking?"
An expensive two minutes passed while I attempted to "get over" the name of the "Evening Standard" 6000 miles to the sun-baked, dusty, Southern town of Austin, capital of the State of Texas, which in size is four times bigger than England.
The Atlantic telephone service, had stretched out its long arm and rung the telephone bell by the bedside of the Governor of Texas, Mr. Dan Moody; and here was the Governor himself speaking to me in a rich drawling voice with long rising vowel sounds, and explosive consonants.
"The 'Evening Standard' of London, are you? Waal, you dragged me out of bed. But I'm not kicking: It's too darned hot for sleeping here . . . 75 degrees and not 8 a.m. yet, as hot as that, and before noon it'll be 85, maybe 87, perhaps 90 degrees, in the shade.
"If They'd Pulled Their Guns—!"
"Guess you don't want weather information, though . . . About the lynching? Waal"—he reflected—"it's been a mighty tough break around the neighbourhood of Sherman for the last forty-eight hours for the boys of the National Guard:
"You get me . . . I ain't allowin' them 300 boys to start pullin' their guns on a mob of men and women just on account of a nigger. They've got to do just what they can with their tear gas bombs and night-sticks [batons].
Understand, if they used their guns it's sure lead to a hell-fire mix-up. The boys've got bashed about a bit, but they ain't cryin' their eyes out.
"Here's the story:
"Mrs. Drew Farlow was being carried on a stretcher to the Court Houser to testify against George Hughes, a negro, who was charged with assaulting her.
"Wall, it's our law here in Texas that if a black man even leads a lil' white girl by the hand he's lynched—if the Guard don't get there in time to stop it.
"Maybe you can't realise that, but maybe you can when I tell yuh that thar's one railway wagon fer whites and one fer blacks here in the Southern States.
"Texas people go mad if a black touches a white woman.
"When they saw Mrs. Farlow lying in the stretcher they went white hot.
"They banded together, rushed the courthouse and attacked four Rangers guardin' the negro outside his cell, demanding his public lynching.
"WOMEN GOT KEROSENE, THE MEN FIRED IT"
"Our boys used tear gas and a fire hose, and drove 'em off.
"Then the mob went screaming mad. Women got kerosene and the men dashed it all around the courthouse and fired it.
"I got a message immediately, and so I ordered reinforcements to get to the spot and gave the commanding officer the order to hold the black man, if possible, but not to shoot one white man.
"Our boys had to quit the courthouse and the nigger. He was still alive, although mad with fright. But he didn't live long. The smoke suffocated him.
"The crowd went away for an hour, but came back later demandin' his body. They wanted to make sure he was dead.
"Seventy of our boys were called to defend the courthouse and 3000 townsmen rushed em' suddenly, firin' over their heads, throwing sticks, bricks, bottles and scrapping like prairie coyotes.
"Our guardsmen fired a volley, the crowd split and one section charged our boys, and the other storming the county jail.
"Time after time our boys drove 'em off, but the folks were crazy with rage. 'Give us the nigger's body,' they shouted.
DYNAMITE ATTEMPT ON COURTHOUSE CELL
"Over three hundred of the mob left unobserved to attack the blacks in their quarters of the township, but 2000 had already hiked it. Others locked their doors and armed themselves with razors, carving knives and hatchets.
"When it got dark the mob went through our boys and fought their way to the nigger's cell. Using sticks of dynamite they tried to blast through the wall. Finally they cut away the lock with an oxyacetylene flame and dragged out the body.
"Hundreds of women ran out of their houses when the news was shouted to them from men in the streets. They clapped, cheered and danced with the men.
"Waal . . . they dropped that nigger's body to the ground from a window 60 feet high, and roped it upside down to the back of an automobile. Then they started a triumphant march.
"Right in the center of Sherman they erected a wooden cross. The women threw some of their clothes at the base of it and set alight."
Silence . . .
"That's about all," said the governor, "but I guess it's just about as bad a case of lynchin' crowd gone mad as the Southern states have heard in years."
I wished him good luck.
"All rightee! I guess this is whar I eat breakfast and then . . . start the day's work."
"Eight minutes," laconically observed the telephone girl.
It is worth noting that the governor was not happy with the article and claimed that he did not say that he ordered the guard not to fire. He claimed the reporter made up most of the article, only asking him about the weather and if the defendant had been killed by the mob.
Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.