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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Long Hot Summers

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Veterans of the "long hot summers" of the summers of the 1960s, a time of racial tension, would have thought it "de ja vu all over again" if they had remembered 1919. It was a summer of racial tension nationally, but one of its worst episodes occurred in Longview, Texas, in Gregg County, in July.

Longview was a city of approximately 5,700 people, over 2,000 of them African American. Racial friction in the city focused on black leaders Samuel Jones and Dr. Calvin Davis, who had urged black farmers to bypass local cotton merchants and deal directly with warehousemen in Galveston, promising more profit if they would so do.

Then, an incident sparked a major confrontation between the races. The Chicago Defender, a national publication primarily read by blacks, published an article attributed to Jones, about Lamuel Walters, a local teacher, that a black man from Longview and his paramour, a white woman who lived in Kilgore. Walters was then murdered by a white mob.

On July 15, Jones was assaulted by whites, supposedly brothers of the white woman involved. Later, other whites decided to continue the beating at Jones' home but when they approached it gunfire chased them away. Some were wounded, though not fatally, and one was caught by Jones' friends and beaten. A larger mob, this time well armed, returned, burned Jones' house, Dr. Davis' home, and the homes and businesses of other African Americans.

County Judge E. M. Bramblette and Sheriff D.S. Meridith asked Governor William P. Hobby for help. Hobby responded by dispatching eight Texas Rangers and placing companies of National Guard located in East Texas on alert. But the violence in Longview continued because the Rangers did not arrive in time to stop it. When additional appeals arrived from Longview, Hobby ordered the Guard, commanded by General R.H. McDill, to establish martial law. McDill arrested several whites and blacks for assault and arson, though none were ever tried, and seized all weapons he could locate. The guns were returned when civilian authorities resumed control a week later.

Much about the long hot summers of the 1960s seemed more like class struggle than pure race riotótelevision coverage showed many poor or criminal whites helping black rioters loot urban stores. The long, hot summer of 1919 in Longview was all about race.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical

October 15, 2007 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)
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