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THE RACIAL MIND OF EAST TEXAS HENDERSON \(Sunday morning’s mail brought this comment on the murder of John Reese, a 16-year-old Negro, and related shootings into Negro homes, cafes, and vehicles by white East Texans. Rev. Guston Browning, the writer, is minister of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Henderson, a few miles from Tatum, the home town of the two men who have made statements they were responsible for Reese’s As a ‘former pastor in Tatum where lived the two white men accused of the murder of John Reese, as a person who now lives just a few miles away and as one born and reared less than forty miles from the scene of the murder, I have followed with keen interest the stories of developments in this case. And I feel qualified to offer a few sideline observations about it and its reflection of the racial mind of East Texas generally. Whether or not a direct connection between this murder and the conflict over the Negro school at Mayflower can be positively established, I do not know. But that a shameful, non-Christian feeling of racial superiority is at -the base of it all, I would bet my life. The persons firing the gun that killed Reese may or may not have done so with the deliberate thought in mind that this would somehow give vent to their feelings of racial hatred and animosity as stirred up by the Mayflower school controversy. The Gregg County grand jury evidently -thinks not and they may be right. But -there was a deep-seated feeling of animosity and a sense of racial superiority on the part of those white murderers, whether conscious or not. In Tatum, there is on the part of many white persons a sort of “sandi n-the-craw” feeling -toward Mayflower because the Negro: school is gradually being maneuvered to Mayflower. The shift is not yet quite complete but it is expected to be before too long. Some white businessmen of Tatum and others are resentful of this. Some even f eel, -but cannot prove, that the shift is a result of a “swapout” between local politicos and school officialsthat the Tatum school has been promised to Mayflower in return -for Mayflower’s support for the poliaticians at the ballot box. And the vote from Mayflower is strong enough to swing an election one way or another. Whether true or untrue, this suspicion does exist in the minds of many white Tatum citizens and engenders some general dislike for Mayflower residents. Added to that strictly local “air of animosity” toward Mayflower is the general lack of regard for Negroes in East Texas. A Negro is considered by. many as something just a little less than human. I have heard white men remark that “they ain’t no better than a mule,” and have heard them seriously speculate. “You reckon a nigger’s got a soul?” When I was in high school in Carthage, in Panola. County where half of Tatum is located, it Was considered great sport to go “coon conking.” This inelegant term was used to describe the practice of taking rubber hoses and beating up, or at least “tapping lightly a few times,” some poor, innocent Negro boy who chanced to be upon the streets when the local white boys decided to have their fun. I recall and confess with great shame that on one occasion I rode along in the back of a pick-up in which were a gang of boys who were out for the thrill of throwing brick-bats at Negroes as we rode along. That particular night, our little escapade came to an abrupt halt when a Negro man against whose house some bricks had been thrown came out and fired_ a shotgun blaSt into the air. We hastily departed and went back to the “Silver Grill” cafe, The Texas Observer Page. 3 Feb. $, 1956 A Henderson: Minister Speaks On the Reese Murder Case where riotous amusement was enjoyed in discussing the exploits of the evening. This “night of fun” was not carried out because of any particular racial incident or tension but just as a consequence of the general state of the racial mind of East Texas, It could be that John Reese was murdered in the same way. The thought having occurred to the murderers, “Let’s make a raid,” they set upon the cafe and school which are “conveniently” located between Longview where they had been drinking beer and Tatum, their home. Their decision to fire into the school might have been stirred by the Mayflower school controversy, but I would not \(In the course of his response to charges from the Gregg County District . Attorney-that he had failed to turn over “import-. ant evidence” in the Reese case tor disCussed the issues raised by his subpoena to appear before the grand jury of that county and by Longview have no wish to engage in an argument with a law enforcement officer. However, the widely published charges by Gregg County District Attorney Ralph Prince against me and the newspaper I work for are so serious, and raise such Strange Captains To the Editor The .whole issue of Feb. 1 is fine, but I wish to give my especial praise to your editorial on the Johnson-Rayburn plan of releasing gas from federal control. You see very truly that this is not, as it is held up to Texas public; an inter-state controversy. It is an intra-state dispute between the consumers of gas on one hand and the other. The Texas consumer will he as hard hit as the Maine consumer. It’s not Texas vs. the other 47 states but big oil-and-gas monopoly versus consumers throughout the U.S. Our political leaders in the Congress are giving away the best and sturdiest shillelagh with which we are Republican Partynamely,’ the Give: away Program of which Doug McKay . is the high prieSt. How can we look a Republican in the face and accuse his party of giving away the people’s property to the big interests when our own leaders are prime movers in a giveaway which rivals in size and greed, anything the Republicans are guilty of ? Really, it’s like a captain who disarms his own troops in the presence of the enemy. ROY BEDICHEK 801 E. 23rd St., Austin The Comparison To the Editor : The scandals under Truman were largely concerned with a minor vice known, as ,”influence peddling” …. which … has reached full flower with Ike’s business administration. But with Allan Shivers as Governor of this state, influence peddling has been only an adjunct of other and bigger scandals._ What if the 1J.S. Tre4st-try find it hard to believe that the choice was more or less unconscious or unreasoned. The shooting into the cafe was even more so, I feel, a symptom of the total lack of respect for Negroes in East Texas, perhaps intensi, lied by the school controversy, perhaps not. At any rate, the problem of inte Interpretive grating the Tatum and Mayflower schools will be a tough one, regardless of what the Supreme Court says. occurs to me. What about the “nigger boys, name of Wallace” who were “prosecuted and fined” for the June shootings which one of the alleged murderers now admits being responsi basic issues for democracy and its free press, I am left no honorable option but to make this statement. What is at issue here is not the whereabout of a bullet but the right of every person to speak the truth and his opinion without censorship or coercion from government. The essential point is that I have been called here by the voice of a governmental authority because I published the truth that authority did not want published. The ‘district attorney is perfectly entitled to hiS view that the area newspapers were correct in being “absolutely quiet” on the case, but he is not entitled to use his official authority against t newspaper and a newspaperman that disagree with this interpretation of journalism’s responsibilities. had beenas the Texas treasury was “looted -osi a scale unmatched in … had had a banking scandal, say, on the scale of Shivers’s insurance scandal, -which was, in Mr. Carmack’s words, “even worse than the veterans’ land situation”? Such plundering of the public cannot be ascribed to Mr. Truman. a. Incidentally, I quite agree with the main thesis of Mr. Carmack’s article, and lie deserves the credit the Observer gave him for speaking out. As another one of your readers has said, the daily papers are being forced to print more of the facts. SELWYN JONES 5935 Van Fleet Drive, Houston The Bribers Too To the Editor : There can be no bribery without the briber and the bribed …. The public demands a higher ethical standard from its public officials than that prevailing in land promoter circles, among horse traders and used car swappers, loan company usurers and corporation lobbyists …. la think this is a year in Texas for an idealistic liberal of the Adlai Stevenson school. A new Homer P. Rainey could win the governor’s race in a walk. Either John White or Ralph Yarborough can have it for the asking …. Nobody so tainted with the money changers’ support and so eager to do their bidding as Price Daniel should stand a chance this year. R. N. JONES 3002 Dutton, Dallas The Realities To the Editor: I have known Price Daniel since we were children together in the same hie for? What does their conviction say, if anything, about justice for alt before the law? Finally, in response to remarks made by a fellow minister of my same denomination in last week’s edition of the Observer, I,agree that the church must share in the blame that conditions continue to exist as they do. But let us give credit where credit is due, also. If I have now risen above the level of intelligence and sensitivity which I demonstrated the night I rode along in that pick-up, it is because of what I have learned from the literature of my church as much as anything else. Whether the church, especially in East Texas, should push faster and harder than it is now doing, I do not honestly know. It may be that our present pace yields more progress than would forcing the issue. On the other hand, it may be that we are compromising because of cowardice. God help us if we are, GUSTON H. BROWNING Almost two hundred years ago an unnamed journalist asked: “Where dwells the man that dare suppress the noble freedom of the press?” Apparently he dwells in Gregg County. What the district attorney, is here attempting is what has been elsewhere called “preventive censorship.” Whether a long arm has reached from Austin to assist in the work, I do not know. I do believe that the district attorney, a spiritual kin of all the other officials in the history of governments who have sought to threaten straightforward newsmen with legal action, hopes he is planting seed in the minds of other reporters: “I’ll skip that part of the truth; no use stirring things up.” He and his kind seek to coerce the press into a willingness to forget that when the truth involves public issues, it Baptist Sunday School. He had the education, the intelligence, the sensitivity, and the financial independence requisite for principled liberal activity in Texas Deal charitably if you choose with a Texas politician’s Inaderstandable reluctance to carry the heavy burden of liberal political commitment. We who watched Homer Rainey and Marion Storm and Jeff Hickman and Lindsay Walden fall under that burden choose to honor their memory by declining to proclaim Price Daniel an honorable man. Do not speak of honor, nor even of’ decency, to those who followed the phony narcotics hearings recently staged by Daniel in all Texas cities. spotlight on … those who have won a hard victory over the drug habit and did not deserve the invasion of their addicts and known petty criminals …. if the coming gubernatorial campaign does not develop into a courageous, forthright debate on public issues, the blame may not lie entirely with the liberal candidate ….. Daniel makes an oblique critical reference to the fact that Washington schools are already integrated. Does this sly tactic suggest the high moral plane on which he expects to conduct his campaign for governor ? We shall indeed have distorted our view of the issues if we assume that not having been caught taking a bribe from some dubious promoter entitles a public official to a perfect rating for honesty, integrity, and responsibility. In this matter. the =reflecting public may be nearer the realities than the overconscientious author of liberal editorials MARGARET CARTER 1024 Hawthorne, Fort Worth Security of Home, Property, Lite at Issue