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Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

Murder at a school

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

During the evening of March 12, 1926, as students and parents watched a play at Center Point school in Trinity County, two brothers, Frank and Harvey Johnson, rushed through the main door.

Harvey was waving a pistol and Frank was carrying a knife, but his throat had been cut from ear to ear with blood dripping on the school’s floor. Outside, another man lay in the school yard, dying from pistol and knife wounds.

The Johnsons told the women and children to leave, saying “we will deal with the men.” But they were finally persuaded to surrender to the law.

The school was crowded with people who had traveled from throughout the county to see the play. One man backed his truck up to a widow so people could stand in the bed and see the play through the window.

The sight of Frank and Harvey Johnson created pandemonium. People began screaming and jumping from the windows, fearing to approach the doors guarded by the brothers.

As they left, the people saw several men giving first aid to Homer Gibson, a school trustee who had been shot and cut by the Johnsons only minutes earlier. Gibson had reportedly defended a teacher who ejected one the Johnsons’ sons from classes at Center Point school.

Two days later, two men dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen entered Frank Johnson home’s and killed him. A man guarding Johnson had slipped away.

Harvey Johnson was arrested, tried and received a suspended sentence for Gibson’s murder. He was reportedly shot by a man in Palestine and died there, but residents of the Center Point area felt the plans to kill Johnson originated in Trinity County.

“In those days, almost every man went armed with two six shooters,” wrote historian Flora G. Bowles in 1966.


All Things Historical October 13, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
(Distributed by the East Texas Historical Assn. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 38 books about East Texas. He can be reached at www.bob-bowman.com)

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Texas Murders
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