Cold Case - Beaumont, Texas 1938

Mercy triumphs over judgement - My grandfather's murder.

NameJames Reeves

You may be wondering why anyone would post such on a church site. I’m kind of wondering that myself. Rhonda tells me that as we grow older we lose our filter. We say things that ten years earlier we would have never said. Perhaps there’s something yet inside of me that just can’t let go. The torch has been passed and I feel the responsibility to carry their load. To seek justice for what took place.

There’s no one alive today that really knows the whole story. I’ve heard two versions. One seems to be the truth and the other a more palatable version for the family. Does it really matter? The end result is the same.

My mother grew up in the depression era. Just like Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” her family made the journey from Oklahoma to California in hopes of work and a better life. In those days men traveled great distances to find work. Most of the time it was not with their families. The 1930 Federal Census shows my maternal grandfather and my mother’s eldest brother Eustace doing iron work in Pennsylvania. Mom had five siblings, four were born in the same place; (2) Tupelo, MS -  (2) Ft Worth, TX – Erick, OK - Wink, TX. One of the jobs my grandfather took on was building oil storage tanks. He would use leftover or scrap wood from the site to build a shelter for the family.

I never met my maternal grandfather so I have to rely on what I’ve been told. Mom says he was a great story teller and could play the fiddle. I imaging him to be somewhat like my Uncle Buddy who would absolutely captivate us kids with his worldwide adventures. Uncle Buddy was an iron worker and worked for many years overseas in Iran. He shared a story once about how his nose had been broken and rather than fix it he just took the money.

The building of Buchanan Dam brought my mother’s family to Central Texas.  After the dam was completed in 1937 my grandfather once again sought work. I don’t know what transpired between 1937 and 1938.

My grandfather had taken on a new position as a foreman in Beaumont, Texas. The family version of what took place is that he was carrying the payroll and was beat over the head and robbed. I didn’t know until a couple of years ago that it was actually two men who assaulted and murdered him. That tidbit of information came when I was viewing an old newspaper from San Antonio. Poor as they were, there was no money for a burial. But fortunately, my Uncle Buddy knew someone from the little town of Cherokee, Texas who said my grandfather could be buried there. My mom was ten years old when this all took place. It just so happened that many of the people from Cherokee were kin to her future husband. They were good and caring people. People with a heart.

The police searched for the killers but as far as I know they were never found. In 1993, I went to see my Uncle Eustace just before he died. He surprised me by revealing the name of one of the assailants. It was like he was passing the torch. He had searched for the men responsible for my grandfather’s death but never found them. So now I’m left with this name. It just so happens that the murder’s surname was the same surname of a young man I had ministered to back in the early 80’s. I’m sure there was no relation but who knows. Just as mercy triumphs over judgement, that name will die with me. I will leave those men to God. May He have mercy on them.

The absence of a breadwinner made life extremely difficult for my grandmother and the five children who were still at home. She would sew and wash clothes to make ends meet. My uncles found work on Mansfield Dam. The family lived in a tent with no running water. But God provided for their needs and life went on.

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