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Chapter 28. The Man in the Uniform

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy University of North Texas Press ePub

28

THE MAN IN THE UNIFORM

Clarence O. “Brad” Bradford grew up on a farm outside Newellton in Tensas Parish, Louisiana, near the Mississippi River, four hundred miles from Houston. He was one of twelve children born to the farm’s owners—a well disciplined African-American and his wife, a college woman dedicated to teaching her kids all good manners, hard work and the benefit of an education. Bradford also had five step-brothers and sisters. When the first son graduated from Newellton High School in 1973, he had his choice of five academic scholarships. Instead, he became an auto mechanic, attended Grambling State University and scored high on the state trooper examination.

Assigned to a cadet class that started in six months, Bradford decided to see if the Houston Police Department was interested. He arrived in the Bayou City in May 1979 and started HPD Police Cadet Class No. 88 in July, a Criminal Justice degree already under his belt. Bradford graduated on January 11, 1980, with Police Chief Harry Caldwell pinning the badge to his brand new uniform.

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Chapter 18. Conflict at Texas Southern

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy University of North Texas Press ePub

18

CONFLICT AT TEXAS SOUTHERN

Houston’s leadership kept violence and damage to neighborhoods and businesses to a minimum when compared to the Watts section of Los Angeles, Detroit and other scenes of rioting during the violent days of the Civil Rights movement. Accounts of what became known as “the TSU Riot” vary in their judgment of HPD and the city administration under Mayor Louie Welch. The number of persons arrested, wounded or killed never approached the toll of other riot-torn cities. Instead, Houston held a rare distinction: More white people than blacks met death in the violence. The only individual to die was a white Houston officer with hardly a month’s experience.

A department report detailing the events leading up to the “riot” itself said the groundwork was laid when the TSU Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee formed in October 1966. A “Snick” (SNCC) speaker, James Forman, addressed the subject of “Black Power—A New Religion?” that month, setting the stage for picketers of a campus speech by Mayor Welch on December 13, 1966. Further intervention by members of the W. E. B. DuBois Club—identified by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as an alleged Communist front organization—spawned increased discontent and led to demonstrations in March and April 1967.1 TSU students boycotted classes and left the campus cafeteria in shambles. Wheeler Street, the major campus thoroughfare, enabled gangs to harass motorists, throw rocks at cars and quickly flee.

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Chapter 9. The Prohibition Era

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy University of North Texas Press ePub

9

THE PROHIBITION ERA

Once Prohibition was legislated into reality with the passage of the 18th Amendment, it dawned on most observers, particularly in law enforcement, that it was virtually unenforceable. Although Prohibition would later be regarded as an unmitigated disaster for providing the opportunity for organized crime to thrive, it was not actually the total disaster that was popularly depicted. Nationwide, the Prohibition era saw a huge decline of public drunkenness; deaths and diseases from alcohol, such as cirrhosis of the liver, declined as well.

Alcohol prohibition had been an issue in Texas since the time of Sam Houston. Prohibitionists were active at state constitutional conventions and elections throughout much of the nineteenth century, with unsuccessful amendments attempted in 1887, 1908 and 1910. Baptists and Methodists were at the forefront of the temperance movement in 1900 and had also helped pass the Sunday saloon closing law in 1866. However, it was virtually impossible to enforce Prohibition along the Gulf Coast, as Galveston became a sanctuary for smugglers. Although anti-vice campaigns had shut down vice sections in Austin, Dallas and Houston in the 1910s, Galveston remained a “sin city” that flaunted its reputation as the “Free State of Galveston” for years.

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Chapter 2. Houston, USA

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy University of North Texas Press ePub

2

HOUSTON, USA

As German scientist Ferdinand van Roemer approached Houston in 1845, he recorded in his diary, “I found myself on the way to Houston, next to Galveston, the most important city of Texas.”1 However, upon his arrival in the Bayou City, he reported the houses on the city’s main street resembled the frame construction Roemer found in Galveston, but “looked somewhat dilapidated and less tidy.”2 Like most cities of this era west of the Mississippi River, the streets were unpaved and the mud seemingly bottomless. Most residents of early Houston could relate to one contemporary account of an unnamed southern city in which a citizen ran out to assist someone buried up to the neck in mud. The victim replied, “No need to worry, I have a horse underneath me.”3

Roemer saved his greatest accolades for Houston’s numerous saloons, which he found in some cases “really magnificent when compared to their surroundings.”4 Even in this early era, Houstonians had a reputation for enjoying a good time, more like New Orleans to the east, than San Antonio in temperament. Roemer found saloons displaying “divers [sic] kinds of firewater,” Cognac and brandy the most popular. The German scientist reported that business merchants would leave their shops unattended momentarily “to indulge in a fiery drink in the nearest saloon.”5

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Chapter 5. The Marshal Becomes the Chief

Mitchel P. Roth and Tom Kennedy University of North Texas Press ePub

5

THE MARSHAL BECOMES THE CHIEF

John G. Blackburn was the first head of the Houston Police Department to be referred to as chief of police rather than marshal, signalling another step in Houston’s advancement from town to city. Blackburn was born in Mississippi and moved to Marshall, Texas in 1871, where he resided until departing for Houston in 1887 to become a blacksmith for Southern Pacific Shops. For the next eight years he worked in this capacity. In 1895, he formed a partnership with W. F. Black and opened a private blacksmith business. Blackburn entered public service following his election as alderman in the spring of 1898. That December, Mayor Brashear selected Blackburn to fill the vacancy as head of the police department. In 1898, Blackburn was elected city marshal and upon re-election in 1900 took on the sobriquet of “chief of police.”1

An examination of police rosters over the preceding decade finds no mention of Blackburn except as chief. But this does not preclude that he was unaware of the dangers and challenges faced by the rank and file officer. In the following speech Blackburn outlines a number of themes familiar to policemen in any century:

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