Dear Senator Johnson : After diligent search neither the Department of the Interior, Agriculture, nor the Forest Service has been able to turn up a January-blooming dogwood. . . . Disputed Loan Gets Explanation Observer We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. .,*Pc tiq ive-Y oQ 00 . ,alependent-Liberal Weekly Newspaper The one great rule , of composition is to speak the truth. THOREA he Vol. 51 TEXAS, FEBRUARY 12, 1960 10c per copy No. 45 A Curious Case SAN, ANTONIO; AUSTIN Henry Gonzales has his senator’s and business office in a building on Houston Street just west of the intersection where it enters the West Side; thus he functions within the context expected by the Latin-American people who give him his largest majorities and yet is within a few minutes’ walk of the downtown district. He energetically pursues the interests of a constituent in a decision of the state government, and he fights for state appropriations for his district, in these respects fulfilling roles expected of all Texas legislators. In other respects, however, Gonzalez is much different from his Senate colleagues. In the first place, he is a working humanitarian. On his walls are plaques from the Democratic Mindrity Conference and a local union in California, made out to “The Great Humanitarian.” A plaque from the American GI Forum commends him: “In thought, in word, in action, unselfish dedication to all Americans.” For visitors to his office, Gonzalez has laid out hand-sized sheets on which appear the American eagle and these remarks by Henry Cabot Lodge in December, 1888: “Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs and keep their memory green. It is a pious and honorable duty. But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and GermanAmericans, and so on, and all be Americans.” Though he is in the middle of a re-election cam p a i g n, \(about which this week’s Texas Businessman said he has enough conservazalez’s inner office is literally littered with books and magazines. They run to history and philoso phy; he buys them everywhere he goes, and has to move a stack of them from one chair to another, to let a visitor sit down. About his desk are pictures of some of his eight children, and a bust of Franklin Roosevelt; on the wall behind him, a citation from the NAACP. Often as not he is answering ti the phone himself. It rings a lot, and sometimes he leaves it off the hook to talk a while. The morning of the Observer’s visit he was still discussing with constituents his close call when he fell asleep at the wheel of his station wagon and ran into a bridge. “I’m sorry to disappoint my political enemies, but I still have to,” he was laughing and talking to one. “They tell me that half the people who bought the paper bought it to see if I was still alive, and the other half bought it to see if I was \\dead.” A Disputed Loan As a humanitarian and an intellectual, Gonzalez clearly does not fit the outlines of the usual Texas politician. Nor does he, in still another respect. With ten in his family, he has had to tide over his affairs with loans since he entered public life. The officers of Three Americas Life Insurance Co. of San Antonio recently announced his appointment as public relations counselor associated with the division sales director in San Antonio, and his writing and speaking have also brought him income, but he has not attained the affluent condition which citizens sometimes expect of public men. One of his loans was the occasion of the Observer’s visit. It had been alleged to the Observer that Reserve Credit Co., a now defunct lending firm which also refinanced loans for other San Antonio lending firms, had loaned , SAN AUGUSTINE “He hit her a terrific rate of speedthere weren’t ‘ any tire markSnot a sign of a tire mark. She was a little on the wrong side of the highway, in the middle. The car carried her body 47 steps that’d be 141 feet.” So does the sheriff of San Augustine describe how one hour into the New Year a car bore down on a falling, or sitting, or prone 15-year-old Negro girl and mangled her to death. A member of a prominent San Augustine insurance family, Hugh Sparks, white, married, ‘and 37, has been charged with murder with malice and/or murder with a motor vehicle by running over his children’s babysitter. He left a New tear’s Eve party about 11:30 to take her home. She lived with her mother in a shack on Farm Road 2213 half a mile out of town, but she was run over another half mile beyond her house, and the car was headed toward town. San Augustine is a Deep South town of 2,500 people near the Louisiana line. Over the weekend, during the daytime, young Negro men in clean college-style clothes stand on the streets, talking and idling. White girls, gay-sweatered and blase, walk along the sidewalks in the sunshine, , higher than the highway passing through the town. In the City Cafe, a lady sits at a booth talking to two men, saying: “She said, ‘I’m starvin’ to death for somethin’,’ and I said, ‘What is it?’, and she said, Tor-en bread puddin’!’ ” But now San Augustine has a race case on its handsand knows it. Sheriff Elbert Nichols is the picture of a 6 sheriff. He stands several inches higher than six feet, is large and bony; wears boots, khakis, and a Western hat. When the Observer first met him in the jail, he shook hands and pulled a snub-nosed little .22 pistol out his pocket. “Look at that,” he said. “I just took that off a nigger. Ain’t that .sornethin’? It’s a little .22.” He had been thinking before he heard of the girl’s death, lie said, that he was proud that the county tad not had a traffic fatality all last year, and he was afraid at first that the girl had been killed before midnight. He went to work carrying relatives of the girl to the funeral home where her body was taken. By 5:30 a.m. he had figured out his suspect. ‘You Understand?’ All he wants, he told the Observer, “is justice done.” Striding into the squat brick jailhouse be, side the county courthouse in the town square, back to a small room where men were playing dominoes under a calendar adver They’re Just Not Here CADDO LAKE To forestall complaints to the post office department that someone misplaced four pages of the current issue, the editor explains that he has retired to East Texas to study his navel. San Augustine Mystery tising the Sparks family’s insurance company, the Sheriff told the Observer: “I don’t want to make it hard on anyone. At the same time I don’t want to just let it go. You understand what r mean?” The Sparks family owns the Home Life Association, an insurance company which Nichols said sells life insurance “all up and down East Texas.” The family the mother, four girls, and three boys, Nichols saidrun the insurance business and are involved in other business in the town. “They’re awful good people,” Nichols said; “real respected white peoplepermanentchurches, lodges, all that.” C. S. Ramsey, brother of Lt. Gov. Ben Ramsey of San Augustine, “just wrote up” the $1,500 bond for Hugh Sparks for his release from Nichols’s initial charge of murder with a motor vehicle, the sheriff said. Then J. L. Smith, former district attorney, fixed up the $5,000 bond on which Sparks was released from detention on the grand jury charge -which included murder with malice. The sheriff volunteered that the bonds were not very high, but “he thousand as well as a dime.” Sparks has not announced who will defend him in his trial in district court here. His trial is scheduled for the term of court opening March 21. The parents of the girl, Bobbie Jean Ligon, had separated. The father lives in Orange. “They’re yella niggers,” said the sheriff; “raised just above Bland Lake.” Not the girl nor any of her family had been in trouble with the law, he said. As for Sparks, “he didn’t deny it,” Sheriff Nichols said. “We found some evidence on the car. We ITd it analyzed, and it was the same.” Nichols said the girl was not standing up when she was hit, because there was no dent in the radiator. She was about four feet, four inches tall. The bumper evidently struck the back of her head, he .said. “There’s not a white person in this town and county that’s not sorry this happenedcolored, too,” the sheriff said. “They’ve got better schools than we got. We built ’em a modern school in 1957. We got along fine here in this county.” Would the recent Texas court decision invalidating court proceedings in counties where Negroes have been systematically excluded from grand juries bear on the San Augustine trial? he was. asked. “We put ’em down there,” he said. “Maybe they wouldn’t use ’em. Still, they’re on the list of grand jurors. That’s been true ever since I’ve been here, five yeati. I believe there was, one \(a March, and one this year, but they didn’t use him.” Motive a Mystery What was the sheriff’s theory on the motive, if there was one’? He did not know; Sparks “s:lys he doesn’t remember anything after the party.” “You’ve got to read between the lines,” the sheriff said. A “state-approved pathologist,” Dr. Jack Pruitt of Lufkin, was brought into the case and conducted a complete autopsy, the sheriff said. He found “no evidence of rape,” no evidence of , attempted rape; and no evidence of intercourse, nor was the girl pregnant, Nichols said. A cousin of the girl’s told him, he said, that New Year’s Eve was the first time she had baby-sat for the Sparkses. “I’d give five hundred dollars if it hadn’t happened,” Sheriff Nichols concluded, paying for the coffee in City Cafe. “It’s one of those things there’s no he’p for.” A Creek, a Road A brown creek you can leap across at spots runs across a flat in a sheltered bed alongside Farm Road 2213. The creek turns toward the road, passes through a narrow, falls a few feet, and flows under a bridge where the sand bank is soft and footprinted and people have thrown cartons and bottles. The road ascends a hill then. Five weeks ago Sparks’s 1955 Pontiac hurtled down this hill, leveled out on the flat, and ran over the girl as she was falling to, or sitting, or lying on the road -w-here the creek runs beside it. Back toward town, the Davis family, Negroes, told about their neighbors, the Ligons. Bobbie Jean was a tenth-grade student. Her final rites were held at Mount Horeb Baptist Church, but she had transferred her membership to Robinson Baptist Church, said Mrs. Anna Bea Davis. Mrs. Davis has two daughters about the same age as ,Bobbie Jean. That ‘night one of her girls and Bobbie Jean were baby sitting. Her daughter stayed all night, and “Bobbie Jean was supposed to, too.” What did the talk say about the girl’s death? “You can’t hear any talk,” Mrs. Davis said. “No sir. He’s a nice man, I’d never a dreamed he’d do a thing like that.” Bobbie Jean, was she pretty? “A nice girlnot real pretty. She was a nice girl,” Mrs. Davis said. Her mother moved to Dallas after her daughter’s death to be with two other daughters in Dallas. she said. Mrs. Davis was standing 1 by the reporter’s car, on the highway. An old-model car driven by a white boy zoomed deliberately near her, and she pressed up against the car door as his exhaust roared past and he sped curving away. “Whoo-ee!” she cried out. “Better get out of the road,” said the reporter. “I’ll say this highway’s dangerous’.’ ;’ she said, laughing some. Her daughter Annie Pearl Davis, the one who also baby sat New Year’s Eve, came to the door of their shack by the highway when her mother called her. She is a pretty girl, and she was pulling a scarf tight around her shoulders. She was somewhat wary. Bobbie Jean had been a classmate of hers, she said. They had been friends. Bobbie Jean had been a C student. “We’d go to \(Continued nn Page 2′
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