From the Annals of the Wildcatters – In 1901, the first Spindletop well came in near Beaumont. The site had been the object of speculation since the early 1890s, mostly by amateur geologist Patillo Higgins who was convinced there was a large pool of oil under a salt-dome formation south of Beaumont. He and his partners founded the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company but never brought in a successful well. In 1899, Higgins leased a tract of land at Spindletop to mining engineer Anthony Lucas. The Lucas well erupted on January 10 scattering the oil hands as drilling pipe was blown out of the hole, followed by mud, gas and a 100 foot gusher of oil. It took 9 days to cap the well. This started the Spindletop boom. Within a year, there were almost 300 active wells at Spindletop and hundreds of oil exploration and land companies operating in the area. Companies such as Exxon, Texaco and Mobil got their start at Spindletop.
From the Annals of the Race Riots – In 1943, an estimated 3,000 people marched on Beaumont City Hall after workers at the Pennsylvania Shipyard learned that a white woman had accused a black man of rape. Some 2000 workers and another 1000 hangers on surrounded City Hall. The woman involved could not identify the suspect among the black men held in the city jail. That did not deter the mob which dispersed into smaller bands and began breaking into stores in the black section of downtown Beaumont and terrorizing black neighborhoods in central and north Beaumont. Many in the mob carried guns, knives, axes and other weapons which they used to assault any black they could find. Several restaurants and stores were pillaged, a number of buildings were burned, and more than 100 homes were ransacked. Authorities arrested more than 200 people. Another fifty persons were injured, and three–two blacks and one white–were killed. Ultimately, martial law was declared with troops entering the city after most of the rioting had ceased.
The riot was the result of increasing racial tension caused by the rapid expansion of the city’s population during the World War II boom. The city was unprepared for the influx of workers and the strict segregation of the races had broken down because of inadequate housing, transportation and the need for workers in the wartime industries. Blacks were being put into to skilled labor positions which aggravated the white racists.
In addition to these factors, southeast Texas was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity and the local chapter was planning to host a regional convention on June 29. It was expected that they would attract 15,000 to 20,000 of their fellow racist scum from all over the South to hear Imperial Wizard William J. Simmons speak. The Klan meeting was widely reported and aggravated existing racial tensions. And at the same time, the black community was preparing for its annual Juneteenth celebration, scheduled for Saturday, June 19, when hundreds of East Texas blacks were expected to come to Beaumont.
Yes, not all race riots were started by minorities.
Photo from beaumontenterprise.com.