After 91 years, it's time to remember
After 91 years, it's time to remember
09 May 2021
Commissioners Court of Grayson County
Judge Bill Magers
Mr. Jeff Whitmire
Mr. David Whitlock
Ms. Phyllis James
Mr. Bart Lawrence
100 West Houston Street
Sherman, TX 75090
Dear Judge and Commissioners,
cc: Judge Magers (100 W Houston St, Ste 15, Sherman, TX 75090); Commissioner Whitmire (1312 Vietnam Veterans Parkway [East FM 1417], Sherman, Texas 75090); Commissioner Whitlock (9631 Hwy 56E, Sherman, Texas 75090); Commissioner James (300 Locust St., Whitesboro, Texas 76273); and Commissioner Lawrence (221 County Facility Dr., Denison, TX 75020)
The undersigned individuals and organizations, from across the general political spectrum, and individually focused upon a wide range of civic issues, write to urge you to take up the favorable consideration of a Texas Historical Marker, memorializing the Sherman Riot of 1930, to be installed on the grounds of the Grayson County Courthouse.
On 9 May of that year, an unruly mob set fire and destroyed the 1876-era Grayson County, Texas Courthouse in our nation’s worst race riot since the 1921 devastation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. National, and international, newspapers covered the incident which resulted in both the extrajudicial lynching of a black man accused of assaulting and raping a white woman, as well as the wholesale destruction of the black business district in Sherman Texas. As the courthouse burned, the mob cut the firehoses laid down to fight the blaze and then turned on the local sheriff, as well as Texas Rangers and National Guardsmen brought in to deal with the riotous throng destroying the city’s black neighborhood. The body of accused George Hughes, locked in the courthouse’s two story vault to escape the mob menacing him during the trial, was dynamited from the smoldering ashes of the courthouse, dragged through the black neighborhood, and then mutilated, hanged, and burned amid the remains of the destroyed city’s black business area.
Yet among the current twenty-four monuments and tokens of remembrance surrounding the courthouse, including eight Texas Historical Markers, none reflect the atrocities which occurred that day on the courthouse grounds, or the disastrous impact it had on our local black community.
On 9 March 2021, your Grayson County Historical Commission (GCHC) sent the Grayson County Commissioners Court a letter detailing the events of their publically held, open meeting of March 6. In the letter, the GCHC Chairman outlined the generic process for erecting a Texas Historical Marker and informed you, that in their opinion, the proposed Sherman Riot of 1930 Historical Marker met the Texas Historical Commission’s requirements of being historically significant and that the 6 March public session met your requirement to discuss this topic as an Agenda Item in open session at a GCHC meeting. In addition, during the following week, several citizens of Grayson County also petitioned Commissioners Court members to put the request to erect a Historical Marker at the Grayson County Courthouse on the Grayson County Commissioners Court Agenda for a favorable endorsement of installation on the current courthouse grounds. Sixty days later, we all are waiting for a court session to address this topic.
Our local history of racial injustice needs to be acknowledged and this atrocity and abuse must be recognized and remembered before our community can fully recover from the effects of this historic, but often ignored, overlooked, or discounted event. We collectively feel that as a local population, we must first recognize, and then faithfully concede, there has been a problem with racial injustice in our community in the past. Ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Due to current national awareness on this general topic, until our county comes to grips with the fact this kind of horrific event specifically occurred, and that it happened at the center of our county’s symbol of justice, we can’t go forward as a whole-cloth community of equals. We can’t collectively act like a race riot and lynching didn’t happen in our county, and then not have our children, and their children, educated and saying, “I’ve never heard of this.”
Experts tell us that public memorialization plays a significant role in both prompting, and promoting, community-wide reconciliation. A Texas Historical Marker, on the Courthouse lawn- exactly where this horrific event began, would be an appropriate remembrance towards faithfully achieving this desired end state. The rest of the world is watching in disbelief as we collectively continue to pretend that our nation is racially whole. Let’s show that we here in Grayson County, Texas know how to begin the healing process.
We therefore urge you to place the topic of a Texas Historical Marker memorializing the Sherman Riot of 1930 on the Commissioners Court Agenda, and favorably consider its installation on the Grayson County Courthouse grounds.
1930 Historical Marker Chairperson
Pastor Lander Bethel
Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church, Sherman; First Presbyterian Church, Denison
Genna M. Bethel
Pastor Alton Blakely
Senior Pastor, Mt. Olive Baptist Church
Rev Charles Brown Jr.
Senior Pastor, New Birth Cathedral of Praise
President of Sherman Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (SIMA)
Lisa M. Brown
Grace United Methodist Church
Lifelong Sherman Resident
1930 Historical Marker Member
Concerned Citizen of Denison
J. Wesley Evans
Rector, St. Stephens Episcopal Church
Precinct Chair, Activist
Vice President, Grayson County NAACP
President, Grayson County NAACP
Raised in Sherman
Janet M. Kamras
Patricia McGraw-Sharkey, M.D.
Glenn T. Nix Jr.
Secretary, Grayson County NAACP
Born and raised in Sherman, Concerned Citizen
1930 Historical Marker Member, Downtown Merchant
Florence Tingey Tracz
Grayson County Sheriff