Proclamation of Major John E. McMillan of Knoxville, Tennessee, taken from Knoxville Journal and Tribune, September 1, 1919, 1.
To the people of Knoxville:
After the terrible experiences that have confronted us during the past few hours—when reason seemed to be dethroned and law forgotten and overridden—I appeal to your reason and conscience for counsel and aid that there may be quiet and moderation upon the part of all classes of citizens. A horrible crime (p.106) upon an innocent woman is well calculated to arouse the primeval passion of men and to lead to hasty action outside the law; but the majesty of the law must be sustained and the fair name of Knoxville and her wonderful history for law and order and for law enforcement must not be allowed to be tarnished and our good citizens caused to be shamed by any lawless element in our midst.
Passions and hates are the spirit of the mob and law defiance the black current underlying mob violence, but the laws of our state must be upheld against all odds and therefore, it behooves all our people, irrespective of race or color, to let reason and conscience resume their sway and control and to endeavor by every means to subdue and remove the passions of the hour and to stand as a bulwark for law and order against the lawless elements of both races responsible for the unhappy conditions and troubles thrust upon us.
Last night the Adjutant General of the state in command of the national guards encamped near our city at the request of county officials, and I am informed, brought officers and soldiers into our city and states that he will patrol our streets until order is restored. For all aid he may give the city our citizens will be thankful.
Last night the whole police force of the city were [sic] called out and on duty doing their [sic] utmost to prevent violations of any man’s property or liberties. This, Sunday afternoon, the board of commissioners have [sic] held a special meeting and unanimously voted to have sworn in 150 special policemen and large numbers are now being sworn in and the whole number will, before morning, be on duty to guard and defend your persons and property and to prevent repetition of lawlessness.
A few hours of quiet and sane counsel will restore order and rebuke lawlessness, and I beg that all classes of citizens cooperate with the officers of the law and in so far as possible remain at their homes or about their usual avocations and aid in preventing lawlessness and unlawful gatherings which may result in new disorders.
A heinous crime has been committed but that is no justification (p.107) for lawlessness though [it is] often made the pretext for mob violence and plunder of property and injury and insult to innocent and inoffensive citizens.
I appeal to you for aid that the orderly processes of the law be carried out and you may be sure that a Knox county jury will mete out swift and just punishment to the guilty.
Again I beg that you co-operate with the officials of the city to suppress all attempts to arouse feeling between any classes of our citizens regardless of race or color.
I call upon the cool, level-headed citizens of all races and classes to co-operate with me in the restoration of order, peace and safety and to aid officials, both city and state, to bring lawful and swift punishment to all who defy the laws of our state and bring reproach upon the name of our fair city.
This August 31, 1919.
Statement of W. L. Porter, editor of the East Tennessee News, a black newspaper, and local black leader. This statement was taken from the Knoxville Journal and Tribune, September 2, 1919, 2.
As the news of the crime committed in our city spread and reached the ears of the negroes of the community, it produced a great shock and was as much deplored by the members of the race as by the nearest relative of the unfortunate victim, especially since suspicion points toward a negro. The sentiment of the entire race is voiced when I state that crime should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, regardless as to whether the perpetrator of the deed is white or black and the statements generally heard coming from thoughtful members of the race favored inflicting the full penalty of the law as soon as the guilt of the accused is definitely established. Not only is there no inclination on the part of the thoughtful law abiding negroes to condone crime, but there are many of those in our city, among the leaders of the race who are continually waging a fight against the presence in the community of the crime-breeding dives where vulgar actions exist and plans for (p.108) crimes are born. The thought paramount in the minds of the law abiding negroes of our city, who are interested in the welfare of the entire populace, is to lend every assistance to the officials in suppressing crime and when any act is committed by a member of the race, there are just as many negroes who will give aid to the proper officials in apprehending the perpetrator of the deed, as of any other race. The friendly relationship between the races that has existed in our section can be attributed to the absence of just such deeds as has been committed and the negro citizenship is certainly desirous of retaining the same cordial feeling between the races as has always existed and that has gone so far in making our city one fit to live in. It is sincerely hoped, as terrible and deplorable as the crime may be, that the saner judgment will prevail on the part of all and that the law will be allowed to take its course.
Statement of Police Chief Haynes with reference to the hammerless thirty-eight calibre Smith and Wesson revolver found in the room of Maurice Mays, cited in Knoxville Journal and Tribune, August 31, 1919.
I have had some experience with revolvers and can say that a pistol [that] has not been used in some time will invariably have some lint, which comes from the clothing in the barrel. The Mays pistol had been recently fired as every evidence of this was visible at the time it was placed in my hands. The officers who found the pistol in the room say it smelled of fresh powder burns.
Statement of Adjutant General E. B. Sweeney to the crowd at the Knox County jail upon the arrival of his troops, cited in Knoxville Journal and Tribune, September 2, 1919, 2.
Men, those men on the hill (referring to the soldiers) have their guns loaded, and are ready to fire. But I have given instructions that no shot shall be fired tonight, and that no death (p.109) can be blamed on the soldiers. I have as much respect for a white woman as any man in the south. The negro who committed the murder this morning should be hanged. Hell is too good for him. I can promise you that when the man is tried that Governor Roberts will not extend clemency, but he will permit the full punishment of the law.
Editorial comment in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 3, 1919, p. 6, entitled “Punish the Agitators.”
If there be any one of either white or black skin anywhere in the south who is guilty of trying to arouse racial antagonism and strife such person or persons should be immediately ferreted out and punished for their traitorous crime. Any and all agitators to racial violence are infinitely worse than the poor deluded followers who are led to their own destruction. No motive whatever can serve in the least to extenuate the foul crime of such conspirators.
There is no disputing the fact that the races can get along in the south in peace and harmony if the baleful influence of the agitators is removed. Any and all persons who preach any sort of class strife in this country are traitors, not merely to the section where they operate, but to the whole country. They should be deprived of their power of evil, and they will be whenever they show their heads in the light.