Black People : The Last Lynching in Paris Texas - the Family left and Moved to Chicago

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Hey brotha oldsoul, I wonder if you heard of the Arthur family or Ervin Hill. That's some history you might want to check out.

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Arthur lynchings in Paris were 87 years ago
Staff reports
Special to The Paris News

Published July 6, 2007
It was July 1, 1920 and the circumstances which were to produce the last lynching in Paris, were rapidly unfolding.

By July 6, 1920 — 87 years ago today — it was done. History records the details of what happened.

Herman Arthur, a black World War I veteran of combat in France had convinced his 18-year-old brother, Irvin, the family should not continue to sharecrop because of the constant debt necessitated by advances from the landlord. The family — Scott Arthur (who was born into slavery), his wife Violet, the brothers and two sisters — were planning to move.

The landowner, Will Hodges and his father, JH Hodges, had a different view of the sharecropping Arthur family. The Hodges perceived the Arthurs to be lazy and "slack about work." The Paris News accounts from the time indicate a conflict had arisen about the failure of the Arthur family to work the Saturday prior to July 1. The Hodges family became concerned the Arthurs were preparing to leave town owing them a huge debt on advances made under the sharecropping system. They decided to confront the Arthur family.

On July 1, Will Hodges and his father appeared at the shack of the Arthurs on Stillhouse Road and forced their way inside. The only persons present were the women. The Hodges kicked over the cook stove and food and said they said they would return the next day to talk to the brothers.

Return they did with guns exposed. Herman and Irvin Arthur were at home, and the conflict erupted into gunfire. Different accounts say one side starting shooting before the other did, but at the end, both Will and JH Hodges lay mortally wounded.

Herman and Irvin knew they would not be treated kindly or tried fairly. So, they fled town, leaving the family behind and journeyed toward Oklahoma. Word of the shooting spread quickly, and the events were carried on a daily basis in The Paris News. Armed posse spread out across Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma searching for the Arthur brothers. The well-respected farmers, Will Hodges and JH Hodges, were eulogized July 3 and buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The frenzy and frustration grew with each passing day as stories and rumors of the hunt for the Arthur brothers saturated the news. The balance of the Arthur family was taken into custody to prevent any communication with the brothers as rumors of a lynching began to spread throughout the region.

Years later, in an interview, the Arthur family recalled "the whole county was stirred up and started talking that if they couldn't find the boys then they would just kill the rest of the family."

Finally, on July 6, a posse assisted by a black man named Pitt McGrew located and arrested the Arthur brothers in Oklahoma. Against great advice, Herman and Irvin Arthur were returned to Paris and placed in the Lamar County Jail, where a crowd began to gather.

From the courthouse steps, District Judge Denton requested the crowd to disperse, and asked there not to be a lynching. His plea was ignored. The crowd, using sledge hammers, broke into the jail, removed Herman and Irvin, and took them to the fairgrounds, where the place of execution had been prepared.

Before a crowd of about 3,000, the brothers were tied to a stake and burned to death. With the bodies still warm, the mob chained them behind a pickup and a caravan proceeded to drive them through the streets and yards of the black sections of town.

Two intense days of near-riot conditions followed. This was the summer after the Red Summer of 1919, which saw race riots across the United States, including Longview.

The Paris News reported rumors the "Negroes were assembling and would seek revenge with miscellaneous shootings throughout the evening."

On the evening of July 7, the town square filled with dozens of armed white men. Hardware stores throughout the city were looted for ammunition and guns. Finally, the men were organized into squads using Pine Bluff as a black/white dividing line and ordered to stop all movement across the line.

Paris Mayor Crook was busy on both July 7 and 8, going from place to place attempting to quiet the situation.

By the evening of July 8, there was still indiscriminate gunfire in the black sections of town, so 200 white people were deputized to patrol the streets under a proclamation issued by Crook.

The July 8 edition of The Paris News noted: "soon after the lynching, the rumor from an unknown source that the Negroes were holding meetings with the purpose of attacking white people, gained wide circulation and the consequence was that soon the streets were filled with armed men and youths, each under his own command, some having obtained the weapons by breaking into hardware stores.

Messages went to many homes for the able bodied men to come to the business section, armed, and to get the women and children to places of safety. This added to the excitement. Automobiles with armed men dashed through the streets and there were some desultory firing of guns in various blocks, though whether there were fired a people or just let off in the air, could not be told."

Survivors of the Arthur family were released from custody and slipped out of town with help from the Black Masonic Lodge and a few sympathetic white citizens. An exodus of black residents followed, and many of those that remained avoided the fairgrounds for years.

The Arthur Family made its way to Chicago, where Ervin Hill, a nephew, 6 at the time of the lynching, was interviewed in 1980.

The Paris News reported the bodies of Herman and Irvin were recovered separately, one the night of July 6 and the other July 7. Both are buried at undisclosed locations in Lamar County.

One account indicates that five people were indicted for participation in the lynchings, but all of them were found not guilty.

Now 87 years later, there is no formal recognition of the last lynching with a marker or memorial at the fairgrounds.
 

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