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MANIA FOR MURDER HOUSTON Houston, this booming, brawling biggest city in the South which has become known for its Oillionaires, political warfare and murder, is rocketing toward a new record in the latter category. There were 75 slayings here the first six months of this year-70 of ‘them classed as murders. The slaughter really shaped up in June when 23 lives were snuffed out. No matter which way he looks at the statistics, Police Homicide Captain Leo Watts doesn’t like what he sees. If Houstonians continue to kill each other at the average rate of the past six months, he can chalk up 140 murders at the end of the year. Should they continue to slaughter at the June rate of 23 per month, the year-end total would so far pass last year’s 109 murders that Capt. Watts shudders to think of the consequences. Houston’s mania for murder has Watts and other police and court officers working overtimenot only investigating each individual case as it happens but also the overall question of why Houstonians are so quick to kill. There must be a reason, they say, that murderlike, say, the petroleum industry or any activity seems to center and flourish in a given city. What then is the homicidal quirk in Houston’s community makeup, they want to know. Captain Watts, Police Chief Carl Shuptrine, District Attorney Dan Walton, Harris County psychiatrist attorney Percy Foreman, and dozens of others have done some serious thinking on the subject. Some of the murder factors they have come up with seem local and A FABLE Once upon a time there lived a colony of beavers in the North Woods. They had a fine prosperous little colony until one day a group of well-intentioned beaver clubwomen became very, concerned over setting up a good system, of formal education for the young beavers. They called a council and invited a group of noted educators from the Zipper British Columbia Institute of Dam Builders as guest consultants. The noted educators said : “The aim of education is to educate the -whole beaver. Classroom materials and methods should be geared to the average beaver. If you put the aim too high, he will develop frustrations and school will become a traumatic experience instead of a joyous and enriching one.” So the citizens of the colony set up a school where all the little beavers had joyous and enriching experiences and where they were taught to build average dams. One day there was a great storm and a terrible flood came roaring down the river. The dams which the graduates of the beaver school had built were so average that they just weren’t good enough to hold back ., a real flood. The colony cried for a real good dam builder to build a damn good dam to hold back the flood, but everyone had been average for so long that there just wasn’t anyone smart enough or with enough education to build a damn good dam. So the flood swept the beaver colony down the river to a place near a big city. Some trappers who were hunting in the woods shot all the beavers and sold their pelts to a fashionable furrier in New York. The next winter all the chorus girls were wearing beaver coats. MORAL : If you study hard in school, you may be worth a clam. R.P.S. Page 3 July 26, 1957 THE TEXAS OBSERVER others are statewide. Some will have to be corrected on the local level while it appears that others must have legislative action, they say. For example, Police Chief Shuptrine charges that the ready availability of guns and knives in Texas is a strong contributing factor to many of our murders. Dr. Dwyer agrees saying “there are many murderS here which would not have been committed if a weapon had not been so handy during heat of argument.” Police confiscate hundreds of pistols and knives here annually. Many of them have already been tools of murder, but most were taken before their owners had a chance to use them. Texas, with its leftover Wild West gunslinger outlook on life, has a. law which says you can own a gun for protection but it’s a prohibited weapon if you carry it. In police court here they are liable to fine you up to $200 if you get drunk and take a couple of shots at some citizen in a bar., Or you might get off without a fine if you tell a good story. Whichever happens, under state law you get your gun back. Twenty persons have been knifed to death here during the first six months of 1957, yet state laws are such that you can hardly convict a man of any wrongdoing if you catch him carrying a switchblade knife as long as his arm. Chief Shuptrine says the knife law is “so vague” his officers have just about quit filing the charge because the knife toter can go free if he hires an attorney. Thei e is an old, probably bad joke among newspapermen that when the news is breaking slow it can be speeded tip by going to the AUSTIN The thought is persistent and keeps intruding: We may shortly be witness to the ending of a miracle. The miracle, if that is what it was the switching, almost en bloc, of the political allegiance of Negroes from Republican to Democratic was wrought by the New Deal in the four years between 1932 and 1936. I cannot help but think that, as Negroes look closer and closer at the Democratic Party’s two civil rights faces, the miracle has gone, or is about to go. Because if my skin were black and my children’s, I do not see how I could, or why I should, vote anything but Republican, inside Texas and out. And I would expect Thad Hutcheson to give me candidates to vote for next year, and whoever is Republican National Chairman in 1960′ to give me candidates for that year and every four thereafter. I would try, if I were black, to blow the South’s one-party system as high as the dynamite of the franchise will , blow it. And why should I not? Why should I vote for Lyndon Johnson or Ralph Yarborough again, when the former waves the bloody Reconstruction shirt of Thaddeus Stevens and the latter gives me only silence for my ballot? And why should not my brothers, in Virginia, be gleeful at the prospect of toppling Harry Byrd ; or in Georgia, Herman Talmadge and Richard Russell ; or in Mississippi, James Eastland ; or in North Carolina, Sam Ervin How high would I, will I, blow the state and national aspirations of the Democrats ? High enough. High enough to insure that neither Lyndon Johnson nor John Kennedy nor any Democrat you name will be the next President of the United States, no matter what civil rights platform plank is adopted at the bars and handing out knives and guns to the customers. In Texas, the move probably wouldn’t help much because a goodly number of citizens who frequent such places have already armed themselves from the stock of nearby pawnshops under a convenient “no down payment” plan. Another factor in Houston ,murders is the beer joints. The Bayou City, which admittedly is a place to raise a thirst in the shimmering-hot summer months, has 4,000 beer joints. The state has assigned six Texas Liquor Control Board officers the task of riding herd on these places, which is an obvious impossibility. Chief Shuptrine is trying to get some additional officers to set up a special tavern detail which will be permanently assigned to o 6rabbino -the drunks and stopping the brawls in such joints. These phases of Houston’s mass murder problem can, in time, be -worked out. But the major problem, Capt. Watts and District Attorney Walton agree, may be traced to a public attitude which may not be easily solved. It is the question of justice in Texas courts for Negroes involved in crime. -Watts’ statistics show that 49 of the first 70 people murdered in Houston this year were Negroes38 men and 11 women. Virtually all were killed by people of their own race. But grand juries and trial juries comprised almost totally of white citizens don’t regard the matter with much alarm. Grand juries have in many instances turned free the killer in such cases because it was “just a cutting match and one man lost.’ next Democratic National Convention and, for the purely human \(I am human, though my complexion waiting, no matter how the Senate’s Democrats line up now, too late for human patience, on the current civil rights bill. Because there are enough of me, in Texas and outside, South and North, to do this. The Southern Regional Council this week published a little chart. It tells, statistically, what I have been saying a great deal more emo-* tionally, how strong we have been at the ballot box and how ‘strong we shall be when, and as now seems likely, after Mr. Eisenhower, Mr. Brownell, Mr. Javits, Mr. Ives and others \(all. of the party of Thaddeus Lyman Jones Stevens and Earl ‘ Warren who, Democrats in the South rush to remind me, handed down a Republigive me federal protection when I get ready to vote. Here are the council’s figures, showing, by Southern state, how we have voted and how, potentially, we may vote : State Eligible Voting Alabama 516,000 53,000 Arkansas 233,000 68,000 Florida 367,000 149,000 Georgia 634,000 163,000 Louisiana 510,000 161,000 Mississippi 497,000 18,000 N. Carolina 550,000 102,000 S. Carolina 390,000 99,000 Tennessee 371,000 149,000 Texas 551,000 209,000 Virginia 423,000 85,000 Clear enough ? Perhaps all I need is the protected right to vote. And who then will sit in judgment on my rights When cases involving Negroes are brought to trial, much the same thing happens. DA Walton says white juries hearing cases involving Negroes are swayed by a “paternalistic influence” that Negroes shouldn’t be made to live up to “our standards of conduct.” He says another factor is that some white jurors just refuse to concern themselves with a Negro’s problems. To put it bluntly, many white jurors have no regard for a Negro life so they give Negro killers suspended sentences or very light terms. It’s been ten years since a Negro was given a death sentence for killing another Negro and there have only been two such penalties in history meted out which court attaches can recall. They have no light sentence trouble, however, when a Negro makes the mistake of killing a white man. The result of /this disregard for Negro life has been that Negro citizens have no protectidn under law. Capt. Watts explains the situation this way : “More than 60 percent of our murder is among 20 percent ple.” There is a strong movement afoot to try to remedy the situation. DA Walton is making a detailed study of where, how and why Houston murders continue at such an appalling rate. County Judge Bob Casey is threatening to get tougher on issuance . of beer joint licenses, even for Negroes. Houston officials are becoming a little concerned in a Chamber of Commerce way. They apparently aren’t too conc e rned about Negro peoplebeing killed or injustice for them in court. The trouble is that on national. murder statistics there is no distinction between white and Negr6 slayings. All these killings are hurting our municipal prestige. BOB BRAY The Listening Post …. There’s talk around the State Capitol that State Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Jim Lindsey of Texarkana wants to run for the State Senate. It’s tied to reports that Sen. A. M. Akin, Jr., may take on Lt. Gov. Ben Ranisey, leaving a slot for Lindsey. …. Talk persists in Austin that Sen. Charles Herring may be Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s chief opponent. Herring is saying nothing, which says something. …. Chaparral Press of Austin has begun revision of the biography of Sen. Ralph Yarborough”Portrait of a Steadfast Democrat” published during the 1957 Senate campaign. Yarborough gives the book -a large share of the credit for his election and has sent copies to Senate Democratic colleagues up for re-election in 1958. …. In the dozen years since the foreign aid program began, Texas has contributed $3,033,490,000, says the Council of State Chambers of Commerce. The council adds that Texas’s share for the next fiscal yearif Ike gets all the funds he has asked forwill be $169,629,600. Of this total, $46,709,600 would be for economic aid and $122,920,000 for military assistance. …. The Southern Regional Council estimates that, in the last general election, approximately 37 per cent of the 551,000 Texas negroes qualified to vote actually went to the polls. The council noted that this was better than negroes did in 10 other Southern states : Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. \(because rights they are and I do not have to deserve them ; I have them, by the act of birth in this gets around to talking about them? Some Questions