Weaver H. Baker to Stevenson, June 16, 1943
The summer of 1943 was a violent one in the United States. Bloody race riots broke out in Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Mobile, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Baltimore, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. On June 15-16, Beaumont joined the list of American cities rocked by racial violence.
As a shipping and manufacturing center, Beaumont had boomed during the war, with 18,000 newcomers in 1942-43 alone. Because of the overcrowding, segregation could not be enforced. For the first time, whites and blacks found themselves living in close quarters, rubbing elbows on crowded buses, and competing for the same jobs. In the summer of 1943, those of both races also had to deal with severe shortages of meat and canned goods. And, to make matters worse, the Ku Klux Klan had invited thousands of their members to Beaumont for a regional convention, just as thousands of African Americans from East Texas were arriving in town for Juneteeth festivities.
Finally, two alleged rapes set off mob violence. On the evening of June 15, a disorganized crowd of 4000 whites marched on City Hall, then went on a rampage, wrecking black businesses and neighborhoods. More than 200 people were arrested, 50 were injured, and two people were killed. Mayor George Gary called in the National Guard. Governor Stevenson was out of the state on business, but was kept apprised by telegrams such as the one shown below. Acting Governor A.M. Aiken declared martial law in Beaumont in his absence.
A National Guard force of 1800 troops, along with state police and the Texas Rangers, sealed off all roads to the city. All public gatherings, including Juneteenth, were cancelled. The city remained under martial law until June 20.
Weaver H. Baker to Stevenson, June 16, 1943, Records of Coke R. Stevenson, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.