The Charlotte News

Tuesday, September 6, 1949


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in Camden, N.J., a 28-year old World War II veteran, Howard Unruh, had randomly, for the most part, shot with a German Luger and killed 12 people, including five men, five women and two young boys, along a busy street during a 45-minute period. Four others were wounded, one of whom would subsequently die. Three of the fatalities were members of a family living next door, with whom he had a quarrel about passing through their yard. The shootings had begun without warning. He then went back to his house and engaged in a shootout with 50 police officers from a second-story window until tear gas was introduced, driving him into the street apparently unharmed—though a bullet wound to his hip was later discovered. A mob which had gathered began exhorting, "Lynch him!" but made no effort to interfere with the police cordon formed around him as they took him into custody.

Police found at his house an arsenal of weapons, plus a firing range set up in his basement, along with a Bible, open to Matthew 24, which includes at verse 6: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars."

Neighbors described him as quiet and well-dressed, often walking with a Bible in his hand, but of whom otherwise they knew little.

Police said that they believed it was the worst mass shooting on a city street in the nation's history.

The killer's single rampage would next be matched by University of Texas student Charles Whitman, who used a high-powered rifle and telescopic sight to shoot and kill 12 people and wound 31 others, one of whom subsequently died a week after the shooting, after earlier killing his wife and mother at their homes, shooting from the top of the tower of the Main Building on the University campus in Austin on August 1, 1966.

In Cleveland, round-the-world flier Bill Odom was killed the previous afternoon during the Thompson Trophy race, part of the annual National Air Races. His plane, an F-51 Mustang, plunged into a house in Berea, killing two residents. Area residents then began protesting continuance of the flights at low altitude over their homes.

Cook Cleland of Cleveland eventually won the Thompson Trophy, with a record speed of 397 mph, and took home the $19,100 purse, including a $2,000 bonus for establishing the record. He had held the previous record of 396 mph, set in 1947.

The official accidental death toll, according to the National Safety Council, for the 78-hour Labor Day weekend had been 525, of which 394 had occurred in auto accidents and 48 from drownings. The figures reflected only about 80 percent of the final tally as many of the surviving injured would yet likely die. The total eclipsed the previous record of 428 deaths on Labor Day weekend of 1937 and followed the record 711 deaths for the July Fourth weekend of 1949. The all-time high in holiday period fatalities was the four-day Christmas period of 1936, at 761 accidental deaths. The numbers are provided by states, with California leading the pack with 47 total deaths, 35 of which were traffic related and five drownings, followed in order by Michigan, at 39, 33 of which were from traffic; Ohio, at 33, 23 of which were from traffic; Virginia, at 30, 26 of which were from traffic; Texas, at 24, 14 of which were from traffic; Pennsylvania, with 22, 11 of which were from traffic; Illinois, at 21, 14 of which were from traffic; New York, at 20, 15 of which were from traffic; Iowa, with 18, 13 of which were from traffic; North Carolina, with 18, 12 of which were traffic-related; South Carolina, with 16, 11 of which were from traffic; and Missouri, with 15, of which 10 were from traffic.

In Saginaw, Mich., four young children, ranging in age from 3 to 14, burned to death in an upstairs bedroom of their home while their mother vainly sought to rescue them. A fifth child jumped from a window and survived with second-degree burns. An exploding oil stove caused the fire.

In Helstedt, Germany, the Russians said that they had postponed the planned release of two American youths who had inadvertently wandered into the Eastern sector of Germany while on a bicycle tour in latter July and had been detained since that time. No reason was provided for the postponement. The U.S. had made several entreaties to release the boys, ages 20 and 18. Secretary of State Acheson had called the detentions "outrageous" as no spying had been alleged.

Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, dropped his threatened probe into Administration use of military planes, following Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson's denial of access to military planes by Senators and Congressmen seeking to hitch a ride on round-the-world junkets. Undersecretary of Defense Steve Early had promised the Senator that future flights aboard military planes would be limited to military business for all Administration personnel, including the President and Vice-President.

Frank Carey, Associated Press science reporter, reports on progress in treatment of arthritis and rheumatic fever. Rheumatoid arthritis affected some seven million people, young and old, in the U.S. The new treatments, developed at the Mayo Clinic, were either cortisone or ACTH. Cortisone caused dramatic improvement in subjects and after a month of treatment in one such case, discontinuance allowed most of the improvements to remain. In that case, the woman entered the Clinic barely able to walk and left able to perform regular household chores. Similar results had been achieved with ACTH. Most of the time, however, the treatment had to be continuous to maintain the results.

The treatments had also been effective against rheumatic fever, which led in two to three million subjects to rheumatic heart disease, ranking high among the diseases causing fatalities to children.

Cortisone also was found in some cases to increase mental capacity and provide a sense of well-being.

Neither remedy was yet available for general use because of undesirable side effects, such as growth of hair on lips and interruption of menstrual cycles in women. The remedies were also difficult to produce, cortisone coming from the bile of oxen, and thus scarce. But there was hope of producing cortisone faster and cheaper utilizing plants.

In York, Maine, Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge, 55, who would die September 10, was reported to be in better condition, emerging from his coma into occasional semi-consciousness. He had been in a coma since the previous Thursday.

In Strathaven, Scotland, comedian Sir Harry Lauder, 79, remained in grave condition from cerebral thrombosis. He would, as indicated, live until latter February.

Shirley May France, 17, of Somerset, Mass., finally attempted her English Channel crossing, put on hold since early August, but had to stop less than six miles from Dover after 10.5 hours of swimming. She was moaning when her coach ordered her out of the water, but was upset that she had been ordered to terminate the swim. She had been within sight of the white cliffs for more than two hours. She had swum an estimated 30 miles across the 19-mile wide Channel, taking the scenic route from Cap Gris Nez, France.

Next time, don't swim in circles.

In Harrisburg, Pa., two men won the national rivet-throwing championship with a caught heave of 125 feet. One man served as catcher and the other, tosser of the hot rivets. Both stood on a four-inch wide girder atop a metal tower. The contest was sponsored by the Structural Iron Workers, Local 104.

Bring your own rivets.

On the editorial page, "The Admissions Bottleneck" discusses the plan of the Charlotte City Council and Mayor Victor Shaw to try to get a pre-admission mental health unit for the city, as a wing for a local hospital. Presently, such patients had to be housed in the jail facilities, ill-equipped to handle them. They might stay for months at a time because of a waiting list in the State Hospital at Morganton.

The matter had been presented to Governor Kerr Scott and the State Hospitals Board of Control. The State could undertake to build several small pre-admission units in various population centers or it could speed up the admissions process for the State Hospitals.

"Off to a Good Start" praises two new Commissions of the City Council, the City Solicitations Commission, seeking to enforce the weak solicitations ordinance more strictly, and the Civil Service Commission, with a new ordinance in the making to state more specifically the procedures of the Commission. The piece praises Mayor Shaw and the City Council for making excellent appointments to these two Commissions.

"Symbolic Decision" finds that the defeat of an attempt by the dairy bloc in Congress to ban the use of margarine by the armed forces had shown that the discriminatory tax on margarine would be repealed if brought to a vote. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas expressed fear that the dairy bloc Senators would filibuster, holding up more urgent legislation, if he tried to bring the bill to the floor.

The South had more of a stake in the matter than any other region and the refusal to call up the bill, pending for decades, might, it suggests, be a form of chastisement to the region for opposing other Administration measures. If so, it finds it a callous attitude, affecting consumers.

Drew Pearson tells of his three-week vacation in California with his wife to see their infant grandson. He enjoyed the trip but everything was chaotic on his farm at home and Maj. General Harry Vaughan, his office told him, had been trying to put him in jail with his testimony before Congress. Otherwise, everything had been fine while he was away. But the fact that General Vaughan sought to put him in jail was not new as he had done so once before in 1947, when Mr. Pearson first started writing about the General's activities with John Maragon. At that time, he had sought to have Mr. Pearson prosecuted for criminal libel for reporting of Mr. Maragon's troubled past with the law. The District Attorney said that he would talk to Mr. Maragon but made it clear that no criminal libel case had been brought in the District since the Civil War. Nevertheless, the General persisted.

The District Attorney referred the matter to the Justice Department. When General Vaughan challenged FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to prosecute the case, Mr. Hoover told the General that his job was to investigate, not prosecute, and that if orders were given to him to investigate the matter, he would.

Shortly before this time, General Vaughan had voiced no protest when Mr. Maragon sought to violate customs regulations by smuggling perfume into the country without paying duties. General Vaughan continued to give Mr. Maragon White House credentials.

The Justice Department did eventually order the FBI to investigate, the result of which was that Mr. Pearson's claims about Mr. Maragon's arrest records were found to be accurate, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Maragon had denied to the FBI some of Mr. Pearson's contentions. The criminal investigation was dropped.

Finally, Mr. Pearson and his wife had decided to come home from Santa Barbara, not because of General Vaughan's contentions, but because their dog had puppies.

Joseph and Stewart Alsop discuss, as had Marquis Childs the previous day, the new politics of labor. Organized labor wanted to defeat Senator Robert Taft in the 1950 Ohio Senate race. His opponent, selected by labor, would be Murray Lincoln, for several years the biggest influence in the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Labor had asked for DNC support and new chairman William Boyle agreed, telephoned the President who then made a direct appeal to Mr. Lincoln to run. If he accepted the offer, then labor would have flexed its muscle early in the coming election season. But Mr. Lincoln had been slow to accept because he was unsure of support by the Ohio Democratic organization.

Antagonism to Taft-Hartley had united labor on the political level as never before. Labor was even going into the South with the intention of defeating anti-labor Southern Democrats.

The labor effort in politics would continue regardless of failures. It was something, they urge, for the sponsors of Taft-Hartley to consider carefully and "perhaps a little ruefully."

Robert C. Ruark finds that the AMA had said that there was nothing which could be done about male pattern baldness and so he had resigned himself to it and sworn off suggested cures of one sort or another, including garlic. It had given him a sense of relief as he no longer needed to experiment with every hair restorer which came along.

He sees nothing unbeautiful about a "full, glowing head of skin on a man." A baby, after all, was admired when bald as an egg. Roberto Rosselini was nearly bald and yet had married Ingrid Bergman. Charles Boyer also was bald.

He decides to be done with the inferiority complex surrounding baldness. "To anything other than a female chimpanzee, we cueballs are probably the prettiest men alive."

A letter writer finds it disgusting that the State safety director had undertaken a campaign for safe driving by bus and truck drivers. He thinks they were the safest drivers on the road.

A letter writer responds to the killing of Mrs. E. O. Anderson on August 1, for which the defendant, who had admitted involvement in the killing but claimed it had occurred accidentally in a struggle for control of a shotgun which Mrs. Anderson had retrieved and pointed at the defendant with apparent intention to shoot, had been found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death the prior Saturday after short jury deliberations. The writer is glad that the "criminally-minded assassin" was convicted and was to be executed. He asks rhetorically who was safe.

He finds it significant that the defendant had "lewd pictures" of French women which he had brought back from France after his hitch in the Army. He objects that such pictures were on sale also in Charlotte.

He also objects to "indecent movies, harmful periodicals, and public dance halls" as "some of the bait the devil uses to catch thousands" of the young people—all of whom were therefore apt, no doubt, to become cold-blooded killers of unsuspecting white women living in nice neighborhoods.

He wants a purge of these bad influences from Charlotte.

You better get on about that campaign with urgency. You might be murdered before noon tomorrow otherwise by some disgruntled former servant with lewd pictures of French women, motivating him to do the devil's work.

As indicated, the defendant in the Anderson killing would be executed without the benefit of an active appeal, his defense counsel reprehensibly having failed to file any briefing whatsoever, an act which today, and for decades past, would not be tolerated by any appellate court, would be considered a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to have effective assistance of counsel on appeal, at least following conviction in a contested jury trial.

Whether the members of the North Carolina Supreme Court at the time should have been removed from the bench and disbarred or only the defense counsel assigned to the appeal disbarred depends on the unknown facts as to what precisely happened to deny an effective appeal to a defendant facing capital punishment. Such was what passed for "justice", however, and not just in the South, in 1949, little advanced from the old forms of prairie justice and the one-horsed circuit riding judge, only slightly removed from the lynch mob. As reported the previous August 18, a trial court in New York had forced a jury to render a verdict after deliberation over an entire night and after the jury had sought a recess merely to sleep, then finally rendering a guilty verdict, upheld on appeal, also resulting in execution of co-defendants for murder of a "lonely hearts" victim, lured by promise of companionship.

It would take the Warren Court finally to clean up the worst of the systemic abuses over the course of the ensuing twenty years, starting in 1953, though some of it, especially the pretrial phase, regarding police coercion of confessions and some Fourth Amendment violations, had been addressed by the Supreme Court during the 1930's and 1940's.

In 1967, Anders v. State of California, 386 U.S. 738, an opinion delivered by Justice Tom Clark in a 6 to 3 decision during his last term on the bench, would establish the right to have effective assistance of counsel on appeal of a felony conviction, in a situation as this one where appointed appellate counsel had asserted no issue on appeal but in Anders the lower courts also having denied the appellant's request for appointment of new appellate counsel.

Justice today in the courts is far from a perfect state, but it is a positive world away from its state in 1949, when executions were held in capital cases within months of the crime—a barbaric state of affairs to which many of the blood-thirsty gorillas of our society would wish to return.

In any event, insofar as the letter writer's points are concerned, all that Bible reading and teaching sure worked well on Howard Unruh. He, incidentally, would be found legally insane and committed for the rest of his days to a mental hospital, where he would die in 2009 at age 88.

A letter writer wants all thinking people to congratulate Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson for his effort to cut military establishment costs by firing 135,000 civilian employees built up during the war years.

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