Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Politics

NAACP Southwest Conference in Dallas — 1950

NAACP-conference_the-crisi_june-1950Top delegates of the NAACP regional conference in Dallas, 1950

by Paula Bosse

The third annual NAACP Southwest Region Conference was held in Dallas, March 24-26, 1950. Above we see the top delegates (out of about 200 attendees), standing in front of the Salem Baptist Church, then located at 710 Bourbon in South Dallas. One of their main objectives was to increase NAACP membership in order to more effectively tackle issues of civil rights and social injustice.

The conference’s main speaker was special counsel to the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall. During the conference, he stated that, although there was slow and steady progress being made by African-Americans in American society, he did not expect to see racial segregation abolished in his lifetime. 17 years after this statement, Thurgood Marshall was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to serve as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

NAACP_thurgood-marshall_FWST_032750Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 27, 1950

Below, the review of the conference that appeared in the April, 1950 issue of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis (click to see larger image).

NAACP-SW-conference_the-crisi_april-1950The Crisis, April, 1950


Sources & Notes

Top photo from the June, 1950 issue of The Crisis, the magazine published by the NAACP. Many decades’ worth of scanned issues of the magazine are viewable via Google Books, here.

The Salem Baptist Church was, at the time of the photo above, located at 710 Bourbon in South Dallas. According to the church’s website, the church moved from that location in the early 1960s when the site was one of many purchased by the Texas Highway Department to be demolished for highway construction.

Click photo and news clippings for larger images.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“A Woman Knows Real Live News When She Sees It” — 1915

womens-news_dmn_070815_knott-cartoon“Oh goody!” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This editorial cartoonist’s take on what was really important to Dallas women is one that probably caused some Dallasites to chuckle and some to fume. The date of this Dallas Morning News cartoon was July 8, 1915. In 1915 women had no constitutional right to vote in the United States and were barred from voting in local, state, and national elections. The Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution (which gave women the right to vote) was ratified in Texas in June, 1919.

The woman’s suffrage movement in Dallas had been active since at least the 1890s, but it really began to catch fire in the early ‘teens when the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association (DESA) was formed in 1913. The second president of this organization (who was one of the state’s leading suffragists when this cartoon appeared) was Texas Erwin Armstrong (Mrs. Volney E. Armstrong). (Yes, her first name was “Texas” — her friends called her “Tex.”)

I have to admit, I was not aware of Mrs. Armstrong until today, but she was one of many laudable women who helped forge the way for those of us who followed. I like this quote of hers from 1918, commenting on the support (or lack thereof) of politicians during the slow but sure path to ratification:

“Any Democrat who failed to vote for this measure is a man without a party and soon will be a man without a country.” (DMN, Jan. 12, 1918)


Dallas Morning News, March 15, 1915 (photo and profile)


More suffrage news from Dallas (click articles to see larger images).

DMN, Nov. 11, 1915

DMN, March 8, 1918


Sources & Notes

Dallas Morning News editorial cartoon “A Woman Knows Real Live News When She Sees It” (by staff cartoonist John Knott) appeared in the July 8, 1915 edition of the paper.

For more on the history of Dallas women and women’s causes, check out the book Women and the Creation of Urban Life: Dallas, Texas, 1843-1920 by Elizabeth York Enstam (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1998); a large portion of the chapter “Suffragists and the City” can be read here.

The history of the women’s suffrage movement in Texas can be found at the Handbook of Texas site, here.

The obituary of Mrs. Texas Erwin Armstrong (1878-1960) can be found in the archives of The Dallas Morning News: “Campaigner For Women’s Suffrage Dies” (DMN, March 7, 1960).

Click clippings and pictures to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Voting Day

voting-instructions-for-youth_marion-butts_dpl_1965Lever-pulling behind the curtain, 1965 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It’s here, y’all. Get out and get it done.




Sources & Notes

Top photo from 1965 by Marion Butts, from the Dallas Public Library’s Marion Butts Collection: “Young woman demonstrates the use of a voting machine” — more here (you may have to be logged into to your Dallas Public Library account to reach this page).

Second photo is undated and has no photographer info: “Early voter, Mrs. Gene Savage, looking at long Democratic party ballot,” from UTA Libraries, Special Collections — more info here.

Third photo is from 1972: “Students voting in Fall Elections, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), 1972,” from UTA Libraries, Special Collections — more info here.

More on Dallas elections can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “How Dallas Used to Get Election Returns,” here.

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


How Dallas Used to Get Election Returns

election-returns_1928_frank-rogers_dplA Dallas crowd waits for returns in 1928 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think there’s some sort of political thing going on? Like most every other human being in the United States (…and beyond), I’m pretty sick of hearing about politics and politicians. Like nauseous sick. So why not write about elections! Below are some fun facts about how Dallasites used to get their election returns — share them with your fellow voters while standing in line at the polling station. They will think you are either very interesting or very annoying.

Forget the issues and the personalities, let’s look at election results: how were they passed along to the public in the days before radio and television? Other than newspapers (the primary source of all things informational), there was a time when results were “bulletined” by throwing images onto stretched canvases or even onto the sides of  buildings by a powerful stereopticon or “magic lantern.” These results were continuously updated as manual counts in local races were tabulated; farther-flung races were updated via tallies received by telegraph or telephone. Crowds gathered in front of buildings — usually newspaper offices — to watch the returns. Some accounts have this form of information dissemination beginning in the 1860s (see an illustration from 1872 here), with the practice becoming more widespread by the 1880s and more technologically advanced by the 1890s.

Below, an illustration showing jubilant crowds watching congressional returns in Columbus, Ohio in 1884.

Columbus, Ohio, 1884

Things had been refined by 1896, as this illustration from the Atlanta Constitution shows. The caption: “Flashing out the returns in front of the Constitution office. Thousands of people gathered in front of the Constitution Building last night and watched the returns come in.” In the rain! That’s dedication.

Atlanta, Georgia, 1896

Also in 1896 — things got crazy in New York, with a ridiculously large “screen” hung from a very tall building.

NYC, 1896

from “Film and the American Presidency”

The first mention I found in The Dallas Morning News about projecting election results before a large crowd was in 1891. Not only did the newspaper have a large bulletin board (maybe like a large chalk board?), they also used the stereopticon. (The full article about the results of the 1891 election can be read here.) (All pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.)

Dallas Morning News, April 8, 1891

The magic lantern was called back into service the next year (read an entertaining DMN article about an 1892 election here in which the crowd huddled in front of the screen watching the returns despite rain and open saloons) — in fact, this “electric bulletin board” was so popular it was used for at least 40 more years.

In 1896, interest was really intense — an unbelievable 94% of Dallas’ registered voters had turned out to cast ballots. (It took four days to tally the votes!) A huge crowd gathered around the News building at Commerce and Lamar to watch the bulletins which were “flashed by means of a powerful stereopticon on a large canvas screen stretched across the street” (“Republicans Doubled Votes in ’96” by Sam Acheson, DMN, Jan. 1, 1968).

By 1900 this stereopticon thing was getting to be standard operating procedure.

DMN, Nov. 6, 1900

DMN, May 2, 1908

By 1911, “25,000 or 30,000 persons” were showing up to watch the returns.

DMN, July 23, 1911

I guess people used to just phone the papers after elections to ask about the results. The News would rather you didn’t, thanks.

DMN, July 21, 1916

1918 was an interesting year for a few reasons: (1) WWI was underway, (2) the polls opened — for some reason — at 9:27 AM and closed at 8:27 PM (?), and … (3) it was the first election in Dallas in which women were allowed to vote. There was suddenly a huge number of registered voters to have to deal with. Newspaper reports showed registration of women outnumbering men in several precincts. The large number of new voters meant that votes began to be counted “one hour after the polls are opened and will continue until the work is concluded” (DMN, July 19, 1918). Which seems odd. Also, women were encouraged to vote early in the day so as to avoid long lines and men were instructed to watch their behavior if there were women present.

DMN, July 26, 1918

It’s surprising that the use of projectors to display election returns was used as late as 1930, well after the advent of radio. Apparently the Texas Election Bureau and Press Association had rules forbidding radio stations from announcing election results over the air until they had been printed in the newspaper — they were, however, allowed to give “relative standings” to their audiences at fifteen-minute intervals (DMN, July 27, 1930).

Seems like the newspapers held all the power (probably not a huge problem for radio stations since most of them were owned by the newspapers, and, of course, no problem at all for the papers who printed oodles of “extra” editions). By 1930, though, crowds had gotten so large downtown that they were diverting people to Fair Park where they could sit and enjoy the cool breezes as they listened to see if their candidates had won or lost. (“Sitting” seems to be the operative word here.) But soon radio would wrest the “instant news bulletin” power away from the newspapers, and these quaint magic lantern watching-parties would be unnecessary. Eventually people wouldn’t know they’d ever even existed.

Fast-forward to today. I can’t even imagine trekking downtown to watch election results come in at a snail’s pace, magic lantern or not. It’s the 21st century, man, and I’ll be plopped in front of my TV, channel-hopping, stress-eating and stress-drinking, and wondering what friendly country I might consider “visiting” for a while.


Sources & Notes

Top photo shows crowds of Dallasites watching election returns. This Frank Rogers photo — a Dallas Public Library photo reproduced in A. C. Greene’s book Dallas, The Deciding Years — shows a crowd (which seems to be devoid of women) watching the 1928 presidential election returns on Elm Street. Another Rogers photo from the DPL, undated, probably taken 5 or 6 years earlier:


It’s convenient that he was able to include his studio in the background! The photograph is undated, but Frank Rogers and the Adam Schaaf Piano Store shared a building — at 1303 Elm — between 1922 and 1923. The building to the right is the Dallas Times Herald Building, and it would make sense that the crowd was looking toward the other side of the street. In fact, this may have been the night that the KKK famously marched through downtown, past the large crowds gathered in front of both the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News offices, to celebrate that their candidates had won … and won big.

DMN, Aug. 27, 1922

The illustration showing Ohio returns in Columbus being projected on the night of Oct. 14, 1884 is from Frank Leslie’s Weekly (this illustration was featured in the book Politicking and Emergent Media: U.S. Presidential Elections of the 1890s by Charles Musser).

The 1896 illustration is from the Atlanta Constitution, found on Twitter.

The 1896 photograph of the World Building in New York is from the trade journal The Electrical Engineer, Nov. 11, 1896. The paragraph below it is from the book Film and the American Presidency by Jeff Menne and Christian B. Long.

Further reading from the archives of The Dallas Morning News (regarding the July 26, 1930 election):

  • “News and Journal To Give Two Election Count Parties” (DMN, July 25, 1930) — an announcement to voters where they could get the “flashed” returns of the next day’s voting (in front of the News building “as usual,” and at Fair Park “where results will also be thrown on a screen at the moving picture booth near the grand stand”
  • “Fates of Favorites Watched on News and Journal Screens” (DMN, July 27, 1930) — two photos showing crowds at Commerce and Lamar and at Fair Park watching the returns

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Fair Park Bond Issue — 1934

centennial-bond-issue_front-cover_cook-collection_degolyer_SMU_sm“Forward 1936…”  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

With all the heated discussion currently going on about what the city is going to do with Fair Park, I thought this little pamphlet from 1934 seemed timely. Published by the “Centennial Fair Park Bond Committee” (comprised of all the Dallas movers and shakers one would expect), the get-out-the-vote brochure was issued to explain the $3,000,000 (about $54,000,000 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation) bond issue, the approval of which was essential in order to clinch the honor of hosting the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The entire pamphlet — part of the George W. Cook Collection in the DeGolyer Library — may be read on SMU’s website, here.


A couple of excerpts:





The issue passed, overwhelmingly, by a 5-1 margin. It’s interesting to note that the voting restrictions on this referendum were … pretty restrictive. Not only was payment of a poll tax required to vote (…one had to pay for the “privilege” of voting…), but one also had to be a property owner — and that property owner was not allowed to vote until a “rendition” was signed downtown in the tax assessor’s office. Many property owners who had signed the necessary paperwork were still unable to vote as they had not paid (or could not afford) the poll tax. It’s pretty obvious here that a substantial number of lower income residents (i.e. non-property owners or property owners unable to afford the poll tax) — including many who lived in the area immediately surrounding Fair Park — were legally prohibited from casting a vote.

6,550 ballots were cast (5462-1088), which represented “little more than one-third of the 18,000 supposed qualified to decide this important issue” (Dallas  Morning News, Nov. 1, 1934). It was declared to be “the largest majority ever cast for a bond issue in [the] history of Dallas” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934).

The passage of the October, 1934 bond issue assured that Dallas would host the Texas Centennial Exposition, a statewide celebration which proved to be a huge success and was a tremendous economic boon to the city.


Sources & Notes

The pamphlet “Texas and Dallas … Forward 1936: Why We Should Vote For Centennial Fair Park Bonds, Tuesday, October 30, 1934” is part of the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; the entire pamphlet is contained in a PDF which may be read and/or downloaded here.

More on this vote can be found in these two Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “OK on Bonds For Huge Fair Up to Voters” (DMN, Oct. 30, 1934) — published on voting day, this article includes the particulars of the voting restrictions
  • “Five-to-One Majority Scored As City Favors Centennial Bonds to Assure Huge Fair” (DMN, Oct. 31, 1934) — the results

Payment of a poll tax was still required to vote in Texas elections until 1966, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled such taxes were unconstitutional. More about that from the Dallas Public Library, here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Dallas Chapter of “The Women of the Ku Klux Klan” — 1920s


by Paula Bosse

I’ve managed to avoid mention of the Ku Klux Klan since starting this blog a couple of years ago, which is saying something, because the KKK pretty much ruled this city for a good chunk of the 1920s. The Dallas chapter — Klan No. 66 — had more than 13,000 men as members; it was one of the largest chapters in the nation (by some accounts, THE largest chapter). Members included politicians, judges, and law enforcement officials. But what of the Klan-leaning ladies who were not allowed to be join? Before I plunge into that, let’s look at what’s going on in this weird, be-robed group shot, a photo taken around 1924 in Ferris Plaza with poor Union Station as a backdrop. (Click these for much larger images.)







In the early 1920s, women — who had led the temperance movement and whom had recently been given the right to vote — began to form groups that tackled social issues. Some of these groups espoused the same general rhetoric as the KKK. One of these groups was formed in Dallas in 1922 — the “American Women” group was the brainchild of three women, including Alma B. Cloud, who appears to have been only 21 years old. One of the other founders was her partner in a short-lived ladies’ clothing boutique. Cloud immediately hit the lecture circuit, giving free lectures on “Americanism” to (white Protestant) women around Texas.

cloud_taylor-tx-daily-press-08222Taylor Daily Press, Aug. 22, 1922

By the following summer, the male leadership of the Klan allowed a “Women of the Ku Klux Klan” to be created; its national headquarters was in Little Rock.


They were not officially part of the KKK but were, in theory, a separate entity. While not, perhaps, as outwardly extreme as their male counterparts, they were certainly as virulently racist and intolerant. They might not have been lynching people and threatening violence, but they were busy pushing their exclusionary, white supremacy agenda. And both the men and the women liked to dress up in white robes and hoods. Here’s what the women looked like when they added masks to the ensemble (not Dallas — location of photo unknown).


Several of the independent women’s groups founded previously were happily absorbed by the WKKK — including Miss A. B. Cloud’s group. In fact, Miss Cloud became the leader of the Dallas chapter. The “Klaliff.” The headquarters for this group — which campaigned for “progressive morality”– was in a little space on North Harwood.

WKKK_1924-directory1924 Dallas directory

1924 seems to have been the big year for both the KKK and the WKKK. The women found themselves at lots of parades with burning crosses and other … “functions” — so why not form a drum corps? A few clippings. (Click for larger images.)

kkk-women_amarillo-globe-times_031624Amarillo Globe-Times, March 16, 1924

klan-women_dmn_073124Dallas News, July 31, 1924

kkk-women_mckinney-courier-gazette_111224McKinney Courier-Gazette, Nov. 12,1924

By 1926, the KKK was starting to lose its power, and the fear and intimidation they had instilled in much of the pubic began to wane. The (men’s) KKK had had to downsize and move into the women’s headquarters, and their candidates began losing elections. Even worse, you know things were getting bad if someone was suing the KKK for delinquent robe-payment!

KU KLUX KLAN WOMEN SUED FOR ROBES BILL: Suit for $4,463.80 was filed in the Forty-Fourth District Court on Friday afternoon by John F. Pruitt against the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc. The petition alleges that the plaintiff sold the defendant, a corporation, 6,000 robes at $2.50 each during the two years preceding the filing of the suit, for which the defendant agreed to pay $15,000 to the plaintiff. It is alleged that $4,463.80 remains unpaid. (DMN, Nov. 28, 1925)

The power once exerted by the Ku Klux Klan had diminished greatly by the end of the 1920s, and while the Klan has never disappeared completely, it will never again reach the heights it had attained in the 1920s.

Whatever happened to Miss A. B. Cloud? After having been ousted from her “imperial” position (for reasons I don’t really care enough about to investigate), she had a few sales jobs and eventually began to present motivational sales talks. There was an Alma B. Cloud in California who was mentioned in several news stories from the 1930s — she presented motivational lectures to students on how best to plan their future adult lives. Um, yes. I’m not 100% sure this was the same A. B. Cloud who was the former WKKK gal from Big D, but it seems likely. I wonder what those students would have thought had they known of her pointy-hooded past?


Sources & Notes


Top photo is titled “Ku Klux Klan Women’s Drum Corps Dallas in Front of Union Station,” taken by Frank Rogers; it is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University — it can be accessed here. I have manipulated the color.

Women of the Ku Klux Klan letterhead comes from the Women of the Ku Klux Klan Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Libraries; the collection can be accessed here.

The photo of the masked WKKK women is all over the internet — I don’t know its original source or any details behind it, but it’s creepy.

“Women of the Ku Klux Klan” on Wikipedia, is here.

“Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s” by Kathleen M. Blee, is here.

“Charity by Day, Punishment by Night: The Ku Klux Klan in Fort Worth” — from the great FW history blog Hometown by Handlebar — is here.

And, probably best of all, the Dallas Morning News article “At Its Peak, Ku Klux Klan Gripped Dallas,” by the wonderful and much-missed Bryan Woolley, can be read here. This article contains facts and figures, describes the sort of “madness of crowds” atmosphere in the city at the time, and details some of the horrible atrocities committed by the KKK in Dallas. Woolley cites historian Darwin Payne’s assertion that if one considered every adult man in Dallas who would have been eligible to have joined the Klan (this excludes, of course, those of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Catholic, or Jewish descent), one in three of them was a member of the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. ONE IN THREE.

A few short mentions of the Dallas WKKK have been compiled here.

UPDATE: For a look at racism in modern Dallas, watch the half-hour film “Hate Mail,” made in 1992 by Mark Birnbaum and Bart Weiss, here. It includes interviews with several prominent Dallasites, as well as interviews with a couple of Klan leaders.

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Gay Activism in Dallas and the Fight for Equality

gay-pride-parade_062572_portal_smDallas’ first gay pride march, June 24, 1972 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today’s historic ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality comes after decades of civil rights activism from the LGBT community. The push for acceptance and equality began for many after the historic Stonewall Riots in New York City, which happened 47 years ago this week. The political fight began in Dallas — as it did in most major US cities — in the early 1970s. Dallas’ first Gay Pride march was held downtown on June 24, 1972, at a time when “out” homosexuals and lesbians were often blacklisted or denied basic civil rights without legal recourse. Below, the coverage of that first march by The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

gay-pride-parade-FWST_062572Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 25, 1972

And now, a long, long 43 years later — almost to the day — the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in the union, a landmark victory not only for those early political and social activists who marched in the streets of Dallas and fought for their basic human rights, but also a victory for those of us who are their friends and family.


A wonderful history of the gay community in Dallas — from the days of secret “speak-easy”-type clubs to political organization to the AIDS fight — is contained in the KERA-produced documentary “Finding Our Voice: The Dallas Gay & Lesbian Community” (2000), which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube, here.



Sources & Notes

Photograph of Dallas’ first Gay Pride march is from the LGBT Collection of the UNT Libraries; it and other photos of the parade can be found on UNT’s Portal to Texas History website, here.

Coverage of the first Dallas march can be found in the Dallas Morning News article “Gays March Proudly” by Marc Bernabo (June 25, 1972).

Other Flashback Dallas posts on LGBTQ issues can be found here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


El Presidente y Su Sombrero — 1975

Pres. Ford In SombreroEl Prez at SMU, Sept. 13, 1975  /  ©Bettmann/CORBIS

by Paula Bosse

Politicians have to do a lot of silly things at public appearances, and some of them handle the baby-kissing and tedious chit-chat more gracefully than others. President Gerald R. Ford seems to have been pretty good-natured about this sort of thing, even in the wake of the Nixon impeachment and even while being incessantly lampooned by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live every week.

For reasons I’ve never understood, politicians and foreign dignitaries always seem to be presented with hats when they make an official visit somewhere, and when they come to Texas, they almost always get a cowboy hat. But on President Ford’s 1975 visit to Dallas and the SMU campus, he was made an “honorary Mexican-American” and was presented with a (very large) sombrero by Andrea Cervantes of the Mexican-American Bicentennial Parade Committee. He looks ridiculous, but it’s a fun ridiculous. I think he liked it — Mrs. Cervantes even got a kiss for her gift.

ford-sombrero_FWST_091475Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sept. 14, 1975

The sombrero re-appeared a few months later, autographed and on display at Pike Park. It never left Dallas. What a shame. I would have liked to imagine the President and First Lady relaxing at Camp David, Jerry wearing his sombrero, smoking a pipe, and watching college football on TV, while Betty sat at the other end of the couch, chuckling to herself, and shaking her head.


Top photo from CorbisImages, here.

More on this in the Dallas Morning News article (with photo) “Ford Commends Group for ‘Feliz Cumpleanos'” (Dec. 15, 1975).

This sombrero-donning was just seven months before the now-legendary “Great Tamale Incident” in San Antonio. Read how NOT to eat a tamale here.

Ford took his gaffes in stride, even going so far as to appear on the show that made note of his every stumble, literal and figurative. Read a behind-the-scenes account of Ford’s 1976 Oval Office taping of one-liners for SNL — including his “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” show opener (although I’m pretty sure he did it without the exclamation mark) — here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Dallas in 1879 — Not a Good Time to Be Mayor

main-jefferson_1879_greeneA view from the courthouse, looking north (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, a view of Dallas in 1879, looking north from the courthouse (one of many in the city’s past that eventually burned down); the intersection in the right foreground is Main and Jefferson (now Record Street).

This is such a cool photo that, on a whim, I checked to see what exciting things might have happened in Dallas in 1879. I found that the city’s voters had just elected a new mayor, James M. Thurmond, who had run on an “independent reform and morality ticket.” Yawn. On the surface, that hardly seemed very interesting — a  historical fact, yes, but not all that exciting. But, wait, there’s more to the story.

Thurmond’s post-election honeymoon was short-lived because, even though he had won a second (one-year) term, he had made some serious enemies in his first term. He was removed from office in 1880 by the city council in a lack-of-confidence vote, the result of a nasty trial and probably slanderous accusations by lawyer Robert E. Cowart.

The feud between Thurmond and Cowart grew more and more bitter as time passed, and on March 14, 1882 — moments after the two men had exchanged angry words in Judge Thurmond’s courtroom — Cowart shot and killed Thurmond. Witnesses described the shooting as an act of self-defense. They said that Cowart shot when the judge reached for his pistol. (For an incredibly gruesome account of this incident, the contemporary newspaper report is linked below.)

The photograph above was taken from the courthouse where this shooting took place. When the photograph was taken in 1879, the animosity between the new mayor and an unhappy lawyer had already begun to percolate. I suppose men with “Esq.” after their names in the 1880s were predisposed to shoot-outs indoors in well-appointed courtrooms rather than out in the dusty streets at high noon. It’s classier.

thurmond_headstone_greenwood-cemetery_findagraveGreenwood Cemetery, Dallas (photo: David N. Lotz)


Top photo is from Dallas, The Deciding Years — A Historical Portrait by A. C. Greene. (Austin: The Encino Press for Sanger-Harris, 1973); photo is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Photo of J. M. Thurmond’s headstone in Greenwood Cemetery is from Find A Grave, here. Cowart — who died in 1924 — is buried in a nearby plot in the same cemetery. (Incidentally, Cowart’s claim to fame — other than shooting a judge in his own courtroom — appears to be that he was the person who inadvertently came up with Fort Worth’s nickname, “Panther City” when he wrote a tongue-in-cheek newspaper article about Fort Worth in 1875. Read a great history of this amusing kerfuffle in Hometown by Handlebar’s post, here — scroll to the second story.)

For an interesting contemporary report of the shooting — including gruesome eyewitness accounts — check out the article from the March 15, 1882 edition of The Dallas Herald (under the headline “The Deadly Pistol”), here, via the Portal to Texas History.

A short background on the Thurmond-Cowart feud, from the WPA Dallas Guide and History (which includes the verdicts of Cowart’s two trials for murder), can be read here.

Click top photograph for HUGE image.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

How Lincoln’s Assassination Was Reported in Dallas — 1865


by Paula Bosse

Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865; he died the next morning. I wondered how the news had been reported in Dallas. I couldn’t find the first mention of the assassination in The Dallas Herald, but it seems there may have been a special “extra” edition published on or just after April 29th — a full two weeks after the fact! The one thing I kept encountering in general Google searches were mentions of the vicious, celebratory editorial that appeared in the pages of the Herald — these reports always quote the line “God Almighty ordered this event or it could never have taken place.” I found that editorial. It appeared in the two-page Dallas Herald on May 4, 1865, along with detailed reports of the assassination.



The image resolution here is pretty bad (it is transcribed below), but, yes, this eye-poppingly vitriolic editorial did appear in the pages of The Dallas Herald — but it did not originate with the Herald (which is not to say that the Dallas editor wasn’t in agreement with the sentiments expressed). The editorial was reprinted from the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph (which had run it ten days previously, on April 24); its appearance in the Dallas paper is even clearly prefaced with the following: “The Houston Telegraph, in speaking of the killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, says…” — so it’s unclear why so many historians and authors mention this editorial as being the product of The Dallas Herald.

The editorial was unsigned, but it was probably written by William Pitt Ballinger, whose previous flame-fanning tirades against the president in the pages of the Telegraph must have caused even hard-core Confederate-leaning brows to raise. I’ve transcribed the full editorial below. For whatever reasons, the Dallas Herald omitted the first and last paragraphs — probably because of space limitations, but one would like to think that even a pro-Confederacy newspaper would think it best to leave out a phrase such as “The killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward may be more wonderful than the capitulation of armies.” Yikes. Imagine a mainstream newspaper printing something like that following the assassination of President Kennedy.

Below is the full astonishing text of the editorial that originally appeared in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph on April 24, 1865. The stark reality of historical events and the contemporaneous tenor of the times can look a lot different when seen from a distance of 150 years.


We publish to-day the most astounding intelligence it has ever been our lot to place before our readers — intelligence of events which may decide the fate of empires, and change the complexion of an age. The killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward may be more wonderful than the capitulation of armies.

With the perpetration of these deeds we can have no sympathy, nor for them can the Southern people be held any way responsible. While Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward had by their malignity created only feelings of detestation and horror for them in the minds of our people, and while in their death the finger of God’s providence is manifest, it is still impossible to look upon an assassin with complacency, even though he frees us from the threatened yoke of a tyrant. We look upon his as God’s instrument, and as such leave him with his maker, praying for infinite mercy to succor him in his hour of need.

God Almighty ordered this event or it could never have taken place. His purpose in it as His purpose in the surrender of Lee’s army, remains to be seen. The careful observer of the history of this war is struck with nothing more than with the fact that no great event has been foreseen by the actors, and that an Almighty hand has shaped the entire course of events. What this event will lead to no man can foresee. We are all instruments in His hands for the accomplishment of His purposes. The ways of Providence are inscrutable, utterly past finding out. It behooves us His creatures to look on in wonder and to act the part of duty according to the lights before us. That duty leads us to be true to our faith, true to our cause, and while it forbids our sanction to unlawful violence — to assassination — it commands us to accept all things as ordered by a Supreme Power, to bow to the exhibitions of that power, and to obey the manifest teachings of His will.

What will [be] the result of these tremendous events, no man can foresee. Theories will present themselves to every man’s mind. We have a dozen all equally probable, and all equally uncertain. Let us wait in patience for the next scene in this terrible drama.


Top image is an engraving of the assassination in Ford’s Theatre from Harper’s Weekly, April 29, 1865.

Editorial is from The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, published April 24, 1865 (Vol. 31, No. 13). You can view a scan of the original newspaper via the indispensable Portal to Texas History, here (it is at the top right of the page, last column). Reprinted without the first and last paragraph by The Dallas Herald ten days later on May 4, 1865 (Vol. 12, No. 36).

Editorial is probably by William Pitt Ballinger, a Galveston attorney. His editorial screeds for the Telegraph are mentioned in the just-published Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present, by John McKee Barr (LSU Press, 2014), p. 53 — read an excerpt here. Read more about Ballinger — the “brilliant attorney and political insider” — here.

An interesting article titled “The Last Newspaper to Report the Lincoln Assassination” is here. The article is about The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, but it looks like The Dallas Herald was even SLOWER to report the news.


“We received on Saturday last [April 29] the dispatches containing the assassination of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, by a letter from Maj. Stackpole to his family at this place, and published them in an extra. There was some little discrtepancy and an omission in them as published then, which we find corrected in the Houston Telegraph’s dispatches which we publish to-day.” (Dallas Herald, May 5, 1865)


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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