- Beth and I were on a bus Saturday with 45 members of nine Episcopal Peace & Justice groups. We were there to learn about Fred Rouse, a Black worker at Swift & Company, a meat packing company in Fort Worth. Mr. Rouse could not join the union, now on strike, due to his race. He crossed the union line to work and to earn money for his family.
- Mr. Roush was severely beaten by white union members; most were members of the large local KKK. He was taken to the “Negro Ward, City and County Hospital” and placed in a bed in the basement to recover. So severe were his injuries, he was still in the hospital 5 days later. On December 11, 1921, at 11:00 PM, thirty hooded men came to the hospital, took Mr. Rouse out of his bed, drove several miles to the northside intersection of Samuels & 12th, near the Swift plant, to the” Killing Tree.” The KKK shot him multiple times and then hung Mr. Rouse from a hackberry tree. No one was arrested.
- This history of Fort Worth has had limited exposure. A local history professor, saw Mr. Rouse ‘s name, cause of death, and date while visiting the National Memorial for Peace & Justice in Birmingham, AL. With historical research this history professor uncovered the truth of the story. When contacted the grandson of Mr. Rouse, had never heard his grandfather’s story.
- Now, the place of the “Hanging Tree” has been purchased. The Tarrant County Coalition for Peace & Justice (TCCPJ) has plans for a Mr. Fred Rouse Memorial. A bill first introduced in 1922 in the U.S. Congress banning Lynching became law in 2022.
** My naive 1960’s hope was to change the world, make society better, healthier, safer for all both nationally and internationally. Thus, for elected members of Congress to say, “There is nothing we can do about children being murdered with assault weapons,” it is an individual and institutional sin. I say that because, I truly think about the 6 families and communities mourning this week for the senseless murders of the hopes and dreams of their loved ones.
- In 1958, Thomas Merton spoke at his Kentucky monastery, Gethsemani. He praised Gandhi’s practice of non-violence. A monastery superior told Merton “Non-violence would not work as it was not natural.” Merton replied, “No, I guess it is not. Yet, unless we practice non-violence, what will happen to our world.”
** In the midst of a heavy, tragic news week, just for fun. YouTube, Austin City Limits, 1992. John Prine’s “Jesus, The Missing Years.” (age12 to 30).
It is not easy standing with 45 others where a hanging tree once grew……..Roy