Two Whites Dead in Race Riot

Tulsa Daily World/June 1, 1921

Race War Rages for Hours After Outbreak at Courthouse; Troops and Armed Men Patrolling Streets

Negroes Finally Driven into “Little Africa” where 1,000 Armed Blacks Are Reported at Bay with More than 500 Armed Whites Facing Them Opposite Frisco Tracks; Move to Lynch Bootblack Starts Trouble

There are two dead negroes at the Frisco depot.

After six hours of race rioting, extending over the entire city, two white men are known to be dead and about a score are known to be injured.

There are no known negro fatalities, though reports are that several were killed. One injured negro is at the police station and is expected momentarily to die.

Thousands of shots were fired during the rioting, crowds swarmed up and down the streets brandishing weapons and the greatest excitement prevailed.

Both of the white men known to have been killed were shot through the head.

The city, patrolled by 45 automobiles filled with armed men, while 500 armed men with their center on the Frisco railway station within a stone’s throw of an armed mob of 1,000 negroes, form the nucleus of the gathering white forces.

There was a furious outburst of firing in the vicinity of the Frisco tracks and Cincinnati about 2:30 this morning but whether there were any casualties could not be ascertained.

Some negro shacks on the north side of the Frisco tracks at
Boston were fired by white men at 2 o’clock. The blaze was spectacular and it was at first reported that “Little Africa’s” business district was burning. Firemen who responded to the alarm were at first kept away, but later extinguished the blaze.

Firing which for two hours was general over the city and centered in the north part of the business district following the first outbreak at the courthouse about 10:15 o’clock last night declined at 1 o’clock after a crowd of 30 negroes were driven from Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue.

In response to a call from Muskogee, indicating several hundred negroes were on their way to the city to assist Tulsa negroes should the fighting continue, a machine gun squad loaded on a truck, went east of the city with orders to stop at all hazards these armed men.

For three hours city officials, under direction of J.F. Adkison, police commissioner, and Charles Daley, inspector of police, with the assistance of part of the home guard company, formed armed white men into companies and these companies were marched to advantageous positions. Hundreds of cars were volunteered for use by the armed patrol of the city, and these were speedily detailed to prevent armed negroes from taking action except in the negro district of the city.

About 12:30 a.m., when an armed party of whites, scouring the vicinity of the Frisco station after an attack by blacks, at the corner of Second and Cincinnati, mistook a lone white man for a negro, and fired a round of at least 25 shots at the white pedestrian. Death was instantaneous and he was hit so many times his body was mangled almost past identification.

The last car containing white men through the negro district, which made the trip shortly after midnight, reported that at least 1,000 armed negroes were gathered north of the Frisco depot. One white man was badly beaten by negroes when he attempted to pass through the district.

Two companies of regular troops from Ft. Sill were ordered out by Governor Robertson, and home guard companies from surrounding towns ordered to mobilize and take immediate transportation to Tulsa.

Thousands of persons, both the inquisitive including several hundred women, and men, armed with every available weapon in the city taken from every hardware and sporting goods store, swarmed on Second Street from Boulder to Boston Avenue watching the gathering volunteer army or offering their services to the peace officers.

Intermittently throughout the two hours following midnight, shots were fired into the air by the white forces, but except for a few stray shots fired by whites at the Frisco depot and returned by the negroes, the city remained in quite. The armed cars containing negroes were driven from the streets before 1 o’clock, and the patrols continued scouring the city, arresting negroes and placing them in the city jail. Twelve were captured by the auto patrols before 1 o’clock. No attempt was made, however, to disperse the negro mob north of the Frisco depot.

Armed with weapons ranging from shotguns to .22 caliber target rifles, men filtered into the police station singly or in auto loads. Ammunition was scanrce and the entire supply of virtually every store in town carrying such goods was confiscated before midnight.

Thousands Line Streets

Crowds of thousands lined Second Street east of Main, the guard line established by the homeguards, and braved the occasional fire from revolvers and rifles in the hands of negroes, watching the formation of the volunteer companies. At least 500 persons, among them 100 women, watched the battle in which a crowd of negroes menacing the business district of the city was driven from Second and Cincinnati avenue.

About the police station hundreds of men carrying every description of weapon, with pockets bulging with ammunition, attired in clothing ranging from overalls to palm beach suits, gathered for three hours. Little conversation was indulged in but all wore an expression of determination to put down the uprising of the negroes. Old men carrying shotguns walked or marched sude by side with youths in white flannels, carrying target rifles or small bore shotguns.

Well in Hand Says Sheriff

“We believe we have the situation well in hand without further help from the national guards or state militia,” Sheriff McCullough told a World reporter about four hours after the riot had broken out, at which time he signed a telegram asking Governor Robertson for outside help to cope with the situation. The telegram was already signed by Chief of Police Gustafson and Mayor T.D. Evans. “While I do not feel the situation warrants help from the outside yet it is always best to play safety first,” McCullough said.

The sheriff was well entrenched in the jail and the elevator was put out of commission early in the evening. The only entrance to the jail was up a winding stairway which terminated in great steel bars. It was behind these that the county sheriff and more than eight deputies were firmly entrenched. Great difficulty was experienced in getting the telegram to the sheriff for his signature and the bearer was a stranger. It was at this time that a World reporter who was well acquainted with McCullough succeeded in getting the telegram to him for his signature.

Soon after the first few shots were fired around the courthouse in which one negro was wounded and one white killed the great crowd which had collected in front of the county building dispersed. The negroes running toward “Little Africa” and the whites scattering in all directions. A few knots of armed whites formed on all sides of the courthouse soon afterward and planned a reprisal on the negroes. These formed the most threatening crowd that collected at the county building.

Hardware Stores Emptied

At 10:30 o’clock a report was received at the police station that the hundreds of armed blacks were gathering at First and Cincinnati for another invasion of the business district.

The demand for arms became clamorous. While the police were endeavoring to secure the opening of the hardware stores by legal means crowds began to batter in the doors of the Magee sporting goods store, almost across the street from the station. The first guns began to arrive from the Bardon store on South Main. Armed men seemed to spring from everywhere. Within half an hour an army of about 500 men was being drilled for duty and coached for emergency. Practically all hardware stores were emptied of guns and ammunition. Some opened their doors voluntarily.

The arrival of Major Rooney and a bunch of national guard men on an army truck was a signal for cheers.

“Now let the niggers come if they dare,” the crowds shouted.

Armed guards were placed in cars and sent out on patrol duty. Companies of about 50 men each were organized and marched through the business streets. Much promiscuous shooting resulted with a very fortunate result that no one was hurt.

Policeman’s Life Is Saved

While the negroes were congregating at Second and Cincinnati about 10 o’clock, J.L. Wilson, a day patrolman, came into town in a jitney not knowing what the trouble was about.

The negroes saw him and in an instant he found himself in the hands of the mob.
“That’s one of them. Let’s lynch him,” they shouted.

But a negro preacher who has been shining shoes in a stand near the police station threw his arms around Wilson and pleaded so earnestly for his life that the blacks let him go.

Wilson kept admonishing the crowd during the evening to “let their conscience be their guide.”

Brakeman Shot Twice

A brakeman on an east bound freight train was shot twice by a negro at Madison and Frisco tracks according to reports. The brakeman was shot twice, once in the face and once in the chest.

It is reported that a negro sharpshooter who was stationed on Madison street aimed at a boy about 16 years old who was bumming his way on the train when the brakeman was shot. He was taken to a hospital.

The rioting followed a movement early in the night of a crowd of 150 white men to take Dick Rowland, negro bootblack charged with assault upon a white girl Monday afternoon, from the county jail. Sheriff William McCullough stationed armed guards in the jail and succeeded in cowing the mob temporarily.

More than 300 negroes, most of them armed with rifles, revolvers and shotguns, gathered at the courthouse at 9 o’clock with the avowed intention of preventing the threatened lynching. Both white and negro officers argued with the two mobs which intermingled at the south and west entrances to the county courthouse. The negroes were finally dispersed but continued to ride about the city in automobiles. The crowd at the courthouse numbering about 200 whites, at 10 o’clock refused to disperse on demand of Sheriff McCullough, and for half an hour waited at the south entrance of the courthouse heckling speakers who attempted to disperse them.

Motor Cars Volunteered

Owners of automobiles volunteered the service of their cars in which from two to seven armed men were placed and ordered to scour the city. In many cases prominent business and professional men remained at the wheel and piloted the armed men about the city. The patrols were sent out to prevent any sporadic attack in this part of the city by auto loads of negroes.

Two of the negroes wounded in downtown battle which opened about 10 o’clock were taken to the police station. This early throng began at Sixth street and Boulder avenue and as the three sections of whites went north, on Main Street. Boulder avenue and Boston avenue negroes were driven northward and three were wounded in pistol duels before they could escape. The firing continued northward, and the negroes made their first stand at Second street and Cincinnati avenue. They remained there for about an hour, when a crowd of armed white attacked them and drove them across the Frisco tracks. There the negroes made their stand and a mob estimated at 1,000 gathered behind the frame building north of the tracks at Cincinnati avenue and defied the whites. Many shots were exchanged between the belligerents, but no report of fatalities were reported to the police before 3 o’clock.

The Mob Separates

About 10:30 o’clock the mob separated those at the south of the courthouse running east to Main street and then north. At this time, the second half, numbering about 100 men, was gathered at the west entrance and after discussing the matter for a short while, several of the men fired revolvers into the air. This was the signal for general firing at Sixth street and Boulder ave.

At this time a crowd of negroes came north on Boulder avenue and in an exchange of shots a white man and one negro were wounded. Both were taken to the hospital.

The half of the mob which went east on Sixth street went slowly north on Main street, and a group of four who had gone north in the alley, pursued an armed negro north. In an exchange of shots at the alley between Main and Boulder on Fourth street a negro was wounded and fell to the street. Another negro was a few minutes later found dead in the alley 100 feet north of the place where the first negro fell. The mob did not apparently know of the presence of the second negro, who it is believed was killed by stray shots fired at the wounded negro.

Fighting Is Hot

One white and one negro were shot at the beginning of the fight at the courthouse when hundreds of shots were fired in the small time of three minutes. Andy Brown, negro, Highland addition, received slight flesh wounds by one of the first shots fired. According to Brown, he had promised to take the negroes who were under his leadership home when some person in the crowd shot him. Immediately afterwards firing commenced in earnest and an unidentified white man was badly wounded by a negro said to be Johnny Cole.

Deputy Sheriff McLean tried to disperse a threatening crowd of negroes that had gathered on the west side of the courthouse. Cole is alleged to have raised his gun and tried to shoot the deputy sheriff. McLean quickly knocked the gun to one side just as he fired and the bullet is supposed to have been the one which hit the white man.

When the mob formed shortly after 8 o’clock Sheriff McCullough, who had obtained rumors of the threatened lynching, stationed six guards in the county jail on the top floor of the courthouse and the sheriff himself, with Ira Short, county commissioner-elect, stationed themselves on the first floor and awaited the coming of the mob. Three men without masks entered the building and the sheriff without waiting for them to open the conversation immediately told them to get back with the crowed and disperse under penalty of death. The men left and went back with the mob, which deliberated for some time. It was at this time that the armed negroes appeared on the scene and the two mobs mingled. No shots were fired at this time, however, and the negroes were quite, obeying the commands of negro officers led by Barney Cleaver and left. But the white mob failed to leave and hooted commands made by the sheriff and others who spoke to them advising them to leave.