Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Transcription Tuesday: Letter from A. C. Thurman, a Representative of the Black Community of Dallas, to Sheriff William Henry Lewis

Below are the scanned images and transcript of a letter, dated May 26, 1892, from A. C. Thurman, a representative of the Black community of Dallas, to Sheriff William Henry Lewis.

Context of the letter:

The letter was written in response to Sheriff Lewis’ actions in preventing the attempted lynching of an African-American man named Henry Miller. The information I have on this case comes from two main sources. One is my copy of an article written in tribute to Henry Lewis by Jack Hornady, husband of one of the children Henry and his wife Julia helped to raise after the children’s mother, Julia’s good friend Bettie Curtice Rosser, died. The other source consists of several newspaper articles, some transcribed at Jim Wheat’s Dallas County Texas Archives and others downloaded from the archives of the Dallas Morning News.

In 1892 Henry Miller was being held for the murder of Police Officer O. C. Brewer when a large mob, estimated at 2,500, attempted to seize and lynch Miller. According to Jack Hornady’s article, Dallas Times-Herald publisher Edwin J. Keist told the story of “how when he first reached Dallas as a young newspaperman out looking for a career, he got off the train and saw a large crowd surrounding the courthouse and jail. He worked his way through the crowd until he reached the gate to the jail yard. By then he realized that this was a mob bent on taking a prisoner from the jail and lynching him.

“Mr. Keist saw a slender little man sitting on the jail steps with a rifle across his knees. Then he heard this man say to the crowd: “I will shoot the first man who comes through that gate – even if he’s my brother.” And no one dared go through the gate because they knew he meant it. Soon the crowd dispersed.”

This is the event to which Mr. A. C. Thurman was referring in his letter.

Jim Wheat’s Dallas County Texas Archives also contains a reference to A. C. Thurman on a page of transcripts of newspaper articles on African-Americans in Dallas. There are also several other articles on the Henry Miller case that can be located by going to the Dallas Archives page and searching for “Henry Miller.”

United States Post Office,

Dallas County
State of Texas
May 26, 1892

Mr. Henry Lewis (Sheriff)

Sir your actions in the preventing the collard man Henry Miller the murderer of Policeman Brewer from being takend from Jail and hanged at the hands of an infuriated mob certainly meets the approval of all colared citizens of Dallas.

Not because the colared people desire for him to escape punishment but mainly because it is claimed, especially by men at the north that colored men here are mobbed without trial and the officers and the leading white citizens all in favor of mob law. Dallas put herself on record Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans all have alike let mobs disgrace their good names.

Allow me again to congratulate you and all the better element of our white citizens for the suppression of the mob.

Dallas should feel proud of so noble such an officer.

I am very Sincere

A.C. Thurman
a colard man


  1. Wow. What an amazing letter. It is heart-wrenching to think such things happened for so long, and good to know at least some men stood up for the dignity of their fellow human beings, regardless of race. Because even if Henry Miller had committed murder, he still deserved a fair trial. The Sheriff's actions show great integrity.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Wendy. This was one of the most amazing things I have found through my research, and it really helped foster an interest in Black history, as well.