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son telling him how much his letters encouraged her. When he was released and everything was fine with him, she wrote, “Maybe I’ll feel like a million dollars have just been given to me. . . . Before we know it you’ll be here. … How can anyone think of you bad when you have a good heart and love everybody even people you hurt?” THE NEXT DAY Mrs. Hernandez received a form letter from C. L. McAdams, warden of the prison. The cold words informed her that her son “the above named and numbered inmate” had been “temporarily placed under restriction from receiving visitors. He will be allowed to write. … He is not in serious trouble, nor is he injured.” Mrs. Hernandez knew that meant solitary confinement. On June 4 she wrote her son expressing concern: “I can’t say it’s your fault for whatever happened . . . how hard life must be living like an animal and all the abuse one must get there. . . . This news gives me a lot of worry if only because a while ago I read of all the tragedies that go on in those places, no one is safe. … Why, my God, must there be places like this made by men’s own mistakes?” That same day, Mrs. Hernandez received the following telegram from Henry R. Small, Bureau of Records and Identification at Huntsville: “WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, ARMANDO HERNANDEZ #202431, Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the State Week and Austin Forum-Advocate. 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. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Editor, Greg Olds. Associate Editor, Kaye Northcott. Editor-at-large, Ronnie Dugger. Business Manager, C. k. Olofson. Business Manager Emeritus, Sarah Payne. Contributing Editors, Elroy Bode, Winston Bode, Bill Brammer, Lee Clark, Larry Goodwyn, Harris Green, Bill Hamilton, Bill Helmer, Dave Hickey, Franklin Jones, Lyman Jones, Larry L. King, Georgia Earnest Klipple, Larry Lee, Dave McNeely, Al Melinger, Robert L. Montgomery, Willie Morris, James Presley, Charles Ramsdell, John Rogers, Mary Beth Rogers, Roger Shattuck, Robert Sherrill, Dan Strawn, John P. Sullivan, Tom Sutherland, Charles Alan Wright. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he DIED 12:20 PM THIS DATE OF DEATH BY STRANGULATION; HANGING BY SUICIDE. THE BODY IS AT THE HUNTSVILLE FUNERAL HOME, HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS. PLEASE CONTACT THE FUNERAL HOME AT ONCE AND MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO CLAIM THE BODY IF YOU WANT TO DO SO AT YOUR EXPENSE. BY STATE LAW, BODIES NOT CLAIMED MUST BE RELEASED TO THE STATE ANATOMICAL BOARD. WE SYMPATHIZE WITH YOU IN YOUR LOSS.” Insane with grief, Mrs. Hernandez rushed to the court building where, it seemed to her, her son’s life had been mangled by apathetic judges, hostile cops, prosecutors on the make. She went crying from office to office to attorneys, clerks, even, crazily, the FBI demanding that someone do something, though it wasn’t apparent to her what could be done. She was hurriedly shuffled along to someone else until somehow she found herself in the office of R. Don Thorne, a young El Paso attorney. He offered, on his own, to represent her in getting further details on the death. Mrs. Hernandez insisted perhaps needfully that it was not suicide; is suicide possible in a solitary-confinement cell where all implements of self-destruction are supposedly removed? she wondered. She recalled her son’s ambiguous remark before he left: that “they” had promised to “get” him next time. agrees with them, because this is a journal of free voices. The Observer is published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly from Austin, Texas. Entered as second-class matter April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. Second class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Single copy, 25c. One year, $7.00; two years, $13.00; three years, $18.00; plus, for Texas addressees, 4 14% sales tax. Foreign, except APO/FPO, 50c additional per year. Air-mail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Editorial and Business Offices: The Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas 78705. Telephone 477-0746. Editor’s residence phone, 472-3631. Change of Address: Please give old and new address and allow three weeks. Form 3579 regarding undelivered copies: Send to Texas Observer, 504 W. 24th, Austin,.Texas 78705. Subscription Representatives: Arlington, George N. Green, 1202 S. Pecan, 277-0080; Austin, Mrs. Helen C. Spear, 2615 Pecos, 451-1805; Beaumont, Betty Brink, 2255 Harrison, 835-5278; Corpus Christi, Penny Dudley, 12241/2 Second St., 884-1460; Dallai, Mrs. Cordye Hall, 5835 Ellsworth, 821-1205; El Paso, Philip Himelstein, 331 Rainbow Circle, 584-3238: Ft. Worth, Dolores Jacobsen, 3025 Greene Ave., 924-9655; Houston, Mrs. Kitty Peacock, PO Box 13059, 523-0685; Lubbock, Doris Blaisdell, 2515 24th St.; Midland, Eva Dennis, 3523 Seaboard, 694-2825; Snyder, Enid Turner, 2210 30th St., 443-9497 or 443-6061; San Antonio, Mrs. Mae B. Tuggle, 204 Terrell Road, 826-3583; Wichita Falls, Jerry Lewis, 2910 Speedway, 766-0409. Her formless doubts increased when the letter she had written her son on May 27 encouraging him was returned to her, marked “Returned to Sender, No Longer at This Address.” Yet the original El Paso post office stamp on the envelope indicated the letter had been dispatched on the 28th, a Wednesday; the Huntsville post-office stamp bore the return date of “Jun. 6.” Since the date of death was given as June 4, unaccountably this letter would have had to be held about a week without being delivered. This had not occurred before. The black nightmare grew. There was the body to be brought home in order that it not be surrendered to apathetic knives in medical schools. She had no money. It would cost her $340 to bring her son’s body back from a prison where he had been sent. She borrowed the money. No autopsy had been performed in Huntsville. Mrs. Hernandez hired a doctor to perform a private autopsy. Another $100. The doctor’s finding: “The pattern of the neck groove is strongly suggestive of self-inflicted hanging.” He acknowledged “an 85% degree of accuracy.” Still refusing to believe her son had taken his life, Mrs. Hernandez clung to that 15% of doubt. There was the wake to face and the mangled neck of the young man to avoid looking at. IKNEW “BiBi” Armando’s nickname, whose origin had long been lost. He lived next to me in a southside Mexican barrio. He was astonishingly intelligent a fact even more remarkable in that he had had virtually no formal schooling. Occasionally usually he was very quiet he talked about the detention places, jails, prisons. Horror stories. Brutality from the guards, the inmates. The excruciating desolation of solitary confinement. “You want to shout, you can’t stand it, like you’re tied up and you keep yelling and no one comes,” he told me. The last time I saw him a winter he was out I ran into him on a downtown street. A cold, windy, ashen day. He was wearing an overcoat much too large for him. His face was gray. He carried a stack of books from the library. He devoured books. Good books. He looked like an old young man. Months later Armando’s sister would call me: “They killed my brother!” The official report was that he had been placed in solitary for seven days after he had reportedly refused to work. \(Seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 strip torn from the uniform he was wearing. Hanged? From what? In a cell whose ceiling must necessarily be too high to reach? Those were Mrs. Hernandez’ thoughts. Bitterly, she felt and told all who listened that she knew that for her THE TEXAS OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co. 1969 A Journal of Free Voices 63rd YEARESTABLISHED 1906 A Window to the South Vol. LXI, No. 24 7011EtitPrg December 5, 1969