The Free Lance-Star (June 21, 1943)
SEVEN KILLED, MANY INJURED IN FIERCE DETROIT RACE RIOTS
Governor calls state troops to keep order
Violent disorder overwhelms city
Detroit, Michigan (AP) –
Widespread race riots that cost the lives of six Negroes and a white physician and resulted in more than 200 injuries to Negroes and whites alike flickered and flared intermittently this afternoon.
Governor Harry Kelly of Michigan, before speeding to Detroit from Columbus by Army bomber, ordered Michigan State Police and state troops mobilized to preserve order.
Mayor Edward J. Jeffries Jr. of Detroit said he would ask the Governor on his arrival to declare martial law in the city.
About 75 military policemen, drawn chiefly from an Army post at suburban River Rouge, arrived at police headquarters this afternoon. They were to be assigned to patrol duty to keep servicemen out of the riot areas, police officials said.
Tear gas was used within a stone’s throw of the City Hall when a group chased a Negro youth from Monroe Ave. into the Campus Martius, on the east side of Woodward Ave. Officers used the gas to disperse the crowd which gathered.
The physician who was fatally beaten as he was answering a call in the riot area was identified as Dr. Joseph De Horatiis.
Six Negroes were also dead, victims of the racial flareup, and a police sergeant was critically wounded in a gunfight with a Negro store-looting gang.
Detroit, Michigan (AP) –
Michigan State Police and state troops were ordered to Detroit today to restore order after six persons were killed and some 200 injured in widespread race riots.
Capt. Donald S. Leonard of Michigan State Police announced shortly before 11 a.m. that Governor Harry Kelly of Michigan had ordered mobilization of the state forces.
At that time, outbreaks of violence which had spread from an altercation at the Belle Isle Bridge late last night were continuing despite the mobilization of the entire 2,500 members of the police force of the nation’s fourth largest city.
Six Negroes had lost their lives. A white physician, attacked while answering a call and a police sergeant were critically injured. The police sergeant was shot in a gunfight with a Negro store-looting gang.
Capt. Leonard said the Governor had directed mobilization, at two Detroit armories, of 1,000 state troops picked from the best-trained companies of the state. In addition, he said, between 400 and 500 members of the State Police force including those in Michigan’s upper peninsula, more than 300 miles from Detroit, were already mobilized and standing by ready for action if needed.
Governor Kelly arranged to fly to Detroit from Columbus, Ohio, where he had gone for the annual governor’s conference.
He said at Columbus:
I am not declaring martial law. I am trying to hold the situation without that.
The Governor said:
We’ve got to stop this today if we’re ever going to.
Groups of Negroes and of whites milled about on street corners in a wide section bordering and northeast of downtown Detroit, hurling stones and bricks at passing automobiles bearing members of both races. Automobiles were overturned. Police reported every window on Hastings St., “Paradise Valley” of the Detroit Negro section, broken for a distance of 25 blocks.
Hospitals were crowded with persons awaiting treatment of injuries.
Before noon, police had arrested 326 persons on charges ranging from felonious assault to disturbing the peace and carrying concealed weapons.
All saloons in Detroit and suburban Hamtramck were ordered closed. Police directed pawnshop and hardware store operators to remove from windows and shelves all stocks of guns, ammunition and knives and to lock them in safes.
Two Negro leaders, the Rev. Horace White of Plymouth Congregational Church and Otis Saunders of the Double-V Committee, a Negro organization, reported to Mayor Edward J. Jeffries they were met by jeeps when they toured the area of violence in a police car with sound amplifiers, appealing for a cessation of fighting.
White and Saunders said one cause of the emotional disturbance that resulted in the riot was a widespread, erroneous report among members of their race that a Negro woman and child were slain Sunday on Belle Isle, recreational and swimming spot in the Detroit River.
They recommended mobilization of 200 Negro leaders deputized as special officers, as the best means to halt the rioting. Police agreed to the recruiting of 200 Negroes as special aides, but said they would not be deputized and would not carry arms.
Auxiliary special policemen, trained by civilian defense units to aid the police during air raids, were ordered mobilized. Among them are many Negroes.
At noon, Police Commissioner John Witherspoon said the outbreaks of violence appeared to have tapered off into isolated incidents.
Thirteen Detroit elementary schools were closed, after Deputy Superintendent of Schools Herman J. Browe reported thousands of pupils were either kept at home by frightened parents or were taken home after word of the rioting spread.
Operations of two streetcar lines leading through the Negro section were halted when motormen refused to take the cars through that district for fear of violence.
Workers leave jobs
The Ford Motor Company reported hundreds of Negro workers had asked to leave work for the day because they had received calls from their homes saying they were needed.
Mayor Jeffries asked United Automobile Workers officials to have all plant stewards instruct their members to stay out of the downtown area this afternoon and tonight.
Disturbances which occurred over an area roughly 3 square miles heavily populated by Negroes and lying east and northeast of the downtown area, spread this morning to Woodward Ave., “Main Stem” of Detroit which runs from the Detroit River north.
At Woodward and Adelaide Sts., a crowd of 300-400 whites was reported milling about, stoning every passing automobile that carried Negroes. Police reported it consisted mostly of young men dressed in overalls and working clothes. A barrage of rocks forced one car to strike a safety zone; the car was then overturned.
This group was finally dispersed when police riot cars arrived with 20 officers carrying machine guns and tear-gas pistols.
Senior Inspector Edward Graff reported a crowd of 500 Negroes broke into a pawn shop on Hastings St., obtaining revolvers and ammunition. Hastings St., known locally as “Paradise Valley,” is the center of the Detroit Negro area.
A survey of five police precinct stations at 8 a.m. showed at least 238 persons held for assault and disturbing the peace.
One of those slain bore a draft card issued to Carl Lincoln, 19. Patrolmen Harold Bole and Vernon Hayden said they fired after he threw a brick at Bole. The officers said they were called to Hancock and Beaubien Sts. by two Negro patrolmen who reported Lincoln was molesting women and throwing bricks into the street. One of the police bullets struck him in the chest.
The others killed were identified through cards on their persons as William Hardges, 27, and Robert Davis, 28.
Police reports said two officers were wounded in a gun battle with Negroes at Division and Hastings Sts.
Most of the widespread rioting which had continued through the early morning hours was reported under control at 7 a.m.
After a conference of high law enforcement officials, Capt. Donald S. Leonard of the Michigan State Police said he believed that Detroit police were getting the situation in hand and that he would advise Governor Harry F. Kelly “there was no immediate need for martial law.”
Windows of stores in the Negro district were smashed, there was considerable looting, and at least 20 taxicabs were stoned and damaged, police reported.
The conference of officials began at 4 a.m., and continued in session for several hours. One of its actions was to close all saloons in the Negro district.
Inspector Robert Turner, harbormaster at Belle Isle, said the rioting started at about 10:30 Sunday night on the broad bridge that leads from Jefferson Ave. to Belle Isle, popular recreation park in the Detroit River. Turner said that the hot Sunday brought about 50,000 persons to the island, “90% of them Negroes,” and that there were several minor fights during the day. Turner said he believed a minor squabble on the bridge in the midst of the traffic jam caused the outbreak.
The disorder spread to Jefferson Ave. and then into the main Negro district.
In an effort to control the situation, several hundred sailors from the naval armory which adjoins the Belle Isle Bridge, were strung in a line across Jefferson Ave., blocking off traffic.
The 1940 U.S. census gave Detroit 149,119 Negroes out of a total population of 1,623,452.
There have been a number of minor racial incidents in Detroit during recent months and several strikes have occurred at war factories over the racial issue on production lines. The most important of these was early in June at the Packard Motor Car Company following which R. J. Thomas, president of the United Automobile Workers (CIO), declared in a speech that he had “absolute evidence” that it had been promoted “by agents of the Ku Klux Klan, acting for the enemy.”
The Ku Klux Klan denied that it had anything to do with the Packard strike.
The Double-V Committee, a Negro organization, issued a public appeal at 4:30 a.m., addressed to the “Negroes of Detroit” and stating:
Despite incidents which occur which are exceedingly unjust, unfair, and discriminatory against our group, we must not resort to violence or give way to race hatred.
Columbus, Ohio (AP) –
Governor Harry F. Kelly of Michigan announced today he had ordered full mobilization of the Michigan State Guard and State Police to cope with a race riot in Detroit.
Kelly also asked Maj. Gen. H. S. Aurand, commander of the 6th Service Command, to hold in readiness a battalion of military police at River Rouge.
I am not declaring martial law. I am trying to hold the situation without that. The troops will be taken into Detroit company by company, if and as needed.
I am asking the Army to have its military police battalion at River Rouge on the alert.
Kelly, here for the annual governor’s conference, acted after conferring by telephone with his secretary, Tom Kenny, at Lansing, and Mayor Edward J. Jeffries of Detroit.
Arrangements were made to fly Kelly and his Adjutant General LeRoy Pearson to Michigan in an Army bomber at once.
If we can bottle this fast, we won’t need martial law. Thank Heaven the Michigan State Guard is well-organized.
In a telephone conversation with Oscar Olander, Michigan State Police Commissioner, the Governor declared:
My orders are these, bring in more than you need than less. We’ve got to stop this today if we’re going to. We’ll try to handle it without martial law.
The Governor expressed satisfaction that there was sufficient manpower to handle the situation quickly.