At the unanimous request of a group of fifty community leaders, however, Governor Moody declared martial law at 10:30 P.M. on May 10.
Suspects were rounded up. Martial law officials formed a military court of inquiry with the power to present information to a grand jury in cases considered worthy of further investigation. Under martial law, soldiers were ordered to shoot anyone attempting to set fires or otherwise damage property owned by Blacks in Sherman. Investigators searched for the individuals responsible for posting threatening placards in the Black section of Sherman and later arrested a number of high school boys for questioning. Investigators also sought the parties responsible for threats against the property of White contractors who employed Black workers.
By the evening of May 13, thirty-eight men and one woman had been arrested.
The next day Justice of the Peace W. M. Blaylock charged eight men with inciting to riot and one with posting threatening placards. He dismissed three of the charges the same day. The number of national guardsmen in Sherman declined, though troops stationed at the school for Blacks continued guarding the building. The school, which had been closed for several days, was reopened on May 14. On May 19, the military court of inquiry gave its evidence to the Fifteenth District grand jury. On May 20 the grand jury returned seventy indictments against fourteen men in connection with the riot. Lynching was not named in the charges.
On May 22, Judge Carter changed the venue to Criminal District Court No. 2 in Dallas. Thirteen of the suspects were sent to Dallas on May 23, and one was released on bond. Of the fourteen men indicted for the violence at Sherman only two had been convicted by October 1931, one for rioting and the other for arson. Both received two-year sentences. On May 24, Governor Moody lifted martial law. Maj. Dupont B. Lyon succeeded Col. McGee as head of the peace patrols.
During the first few days of martial law 430 national guardsmen and nine Texas Rangers had been in Sherman; fifty were there on May 23. The Sherman Daily Democrat lamented the lawlessness, property damage, and notoriety that the incident had caused but expressly did not lament Hughes’s death. Soon afterward, lynchings followed at Honey Grove, at Benchly in Brazos County, and at Chickasha, Oklahoma. Several more lynching attempts—one, in Brownwood, against a White man—were thwarted.
Want more detailed descriptions and links to more reading?