T. J. Told You

Let me put you on to a story some people say, has no hero’s.

In the mid summer of 1917, the Third Battalion of the 24th Infantry was sent to Camp Logan in Houston, Texas (which is now current day Memorial Park) to assist with guard work. The all black platoon of soldiers were nervous to head to the Jim Crow South but military orders are orders right?

Camp Logan over modern day Houston

They arrived in the city on July 28th from New Mexico, for what was only scheduled to be a seven weeks trip. It didn’t take long for the townspeople of Houston to make it clear, soldier or not, they would receive no respect.

The soldiers were subject to segregation laws, daily verbal and physical abuse. More than anyone, from the Houston Police Department.

Two officers in particular, Lee Sparks and Rufus Daniels were the worst of them all and patrolled what is now parts of downtown and Montrose, but then known as the San Felipe district.

One day, August 23rd to be exact, rumor spreads that Charles Baltimore, a well respected corporal, has been killed by Sparks and Rufus.

Fake news was clearly a thing back then too.

Camp Logan, World War I

At this point the soldiers have been putting up with crap for weeks so tension was already high. They later are able to debunk the rumor when Baltimore shows up to camp. Injured but alive nonetheless.

His story about the encounter gets everybody hype and 1st Sergeant Henry tries to get everyone organized to ride out and have civil talk with the police.

Roughly 100 soldiers left camp and Henry could not control them all. Soldiers rode through town and fired randomly on white by standers and police officers as they made their way towards the city jail. This moment would come to be known as the #HPDRiot1917.

The 4 mile uproar resulted in the deaths of 17 people and 21 injured (per the Houston Chronicle headline but the numbers have varied depending on where you look). Henry shorty after committed suicide and his body was found the next morning.

The largest murder trial on record soon came to follow. As consequence, 110 out of 118 men were charged with at least one crime.

Per usual, the government was up to some sneaky stuff so these court proceedings were considered a secret.

On December 10th, 13 participants in the riot were transported to an area at Camp Travis near Salgado Creek. They were hung at 7 in the morning , simultaneously, from scaffolds built near the bathrooms.

The evidence was quickly dismembered and the supplies returned to Fort Adam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Only the sheriff and army officers witnessed this execution.

In January of 1918, a second court martial, referred to as the “Washington” case resulted in 15 men being tried and 5 being sentenced to death. A new court ruling was in place at this time and the executions could not be carried out.

By March of 1918 the third and finial court martial known as the “Tillman” case, 40 more soldiers were tried. 23 total were found guilty. 11 of the soldiers were sentenced to death while 12 were sentenced to life.

In late August of 1918, President Thomas Wilson granted clemency to 10 soldiers and converted their execution to life sentences.

So BOOM, there you have it. Some historians will have you believe that a group of black savages lashed out on innocent white bystanders.

Pure bullshit.

No one will tell you about the abuse or mistreatment that pushed them over the edge.

So when you tell the next, make sure you tell them T.J. taught you!

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