Houston Newsmakers: Largest murder trial in US history one reason behind clemency efforts for convicted Camp Logan soldiers

Uprising in segregated Houston kills 17 and results in 19 hangings

The August 24th headlines tell the horrific story of what happened the prior night. (Houston Chronicle/Memorial Park Conservancy)

Largest murder trial in United States history

The trial of 64 Camp Logan soldiers remains the largest murder trial in U.S. history and this trial in combination with subsequent Courts Martials is one of the reasons behind efforts for clemency. “All 118 soldiers in these three back-to-back Capitol Murder trials were represented by one defense representative who was not a lawyer, said South Texas College of Law Professor Dru Brenner-Beck. “That was legal in 1917 but it certainly was not intended to be implemented in these types of trials.”

Law Professor Dru Brenner-Beck, South Texas College of Law (KPRC)

Brenner-Beck, along with author and Historian John Haymond has worked on the clemency petition now waiting for a decision by the Secretary of the Army. “Trying to write this is a delicate process because we’re trying to give resonance for voices from 105 years ago, whose stories have been either misrepresented or neglected altogether,” Haymond said.

Bishop James Dixon II, President Houston Chapter, NAACP (KPRC)

NAACP partners with South Texas College of Law for Clemency request

Eleven of those killed on the night of August 23rd of 1917 were White Houstonians. Some of the Camp Logan soldiers were surely responsible but advocates say the segregated and extreme treatment by Whites was the spark that caused it. Bishop James Dixon II, President of the Houston Chapter of the NAACP says the challenge then and now is to find a fair and legal way to treat the accused. We have the opportunity to do now is right the wrong in history on behalf of their families and their legacies, “ he said of the Camp Logan soldiers. “Their lineages have been forever tarnished by this American atrocity.”

Camp Logan descendent fights for clemency

Jason Holt was a little boy when he first heard the stories about his relative who had been hanged in Texas in 1917. As an adult and an attorney, he now is one of those fighting to clear the name of Private 1st Class T.C. Hawkins and the others convicted. “People now are beginning to understand that what took place on that fateful evening and the resulting trial and court martial really was a miscarriage of justice,” he said on Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall.

Attorney Jason Holt, descendent of Camp Logan hanged soldier Pvt. T.C. Hawkins (KPRC)

Holt is one of several descendants of Camp Logan soldiers who says the extreme segregation and treatment of Black soldiers in 1917 Houston led to violence and to the subsequent unjust trials. Hear more about what he and others are saying about the clemency process and hopes to right what they say is a wrong on this week’s Houston Newsmakers.

Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall--every Sunday at 10 a.m. right after ‘Meet the Press.’

· Dru Brenner--Beck, Law Professor, South Texas College of Law

· https://www.stcl.edu/news/dru-brenner-beck-to-join-full-time-stcl-houston-faculty-in-fall-2022-law-school-continues-to-expand-international-military-law-expertise/

· John Haymond, Historian-Author

· https://www.jhaymondhistory.com/

· Bishop James Dixon II, President Houston Chapter, NAACP

· https://naacphouston.org/

· Jason Holt, Descendent, Camp Logan solider, Pvt. Thomas C. Hawkins

· https://www.csglaw.com/biographies/jason-holt

About the Author:

Journalist, meteorologist, community leader and volunteer.