Friday, April 4, 1968
On this day in 1968, Maywood and surrounding communities were engulfed in the national wave of shock and grief following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., but the western suburbs experienced very little of the massive rioting and social disruption that had swept cities across America. Through looking at microfilm Proviso Herald archives stored in the Maywood Public Library, current residents of Maywood and Proviso Township old enough to remember can relive those times. For those not yet born, the archives provide a richly textured portrait into the past. The following are excerpts from various articles published in the Herald on November 11, 1968, more than a week after the assassination.
Suburbs Spared Major Disorder
Sandy Dudley — Incredibly, the western suburbs remained free of violence during the riot-mad weekend which brought death and destruction across much of Chicago.
The rampage that swept across the nation after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King in Memphis Thursday, blazed across the city and stopped just short of this area.
For the most part, Sheriff Joseph Woods’ riot squad was unneeded in the western suburbs during the blazing weekend.
The violence that flamed through Chicago for two days flared only occassionally in the tense Proviso and Montclare communities.
But Woods was ready to extinguish any spread of the disorders this week.
All suburban police chiefs and police personnel were deputized as members of his department.
“I have no intention of tolerating insurrection,” he declared to the HERALD Monday. “My men have orders to fight force with absolute force–and the rioters know it.”
Wherever a tense gathering was reported, Woods said, he deployed 20 to 30 men–”and the riioters dispersed fast.”
From a command post at Bedford, Woods put all his regular forces to work in two divisions on 12-hour duty shifts and assigned additional manpower to duty from dusk to 6 a.m.
His 200-man riot squad, “all fully trained deputies,” were on at night.
The number of arrests made by his police, he added, have filled Bridewell and the county jail.
Monday, he surveyed Soldier’s field to determine its suitability as a possible detention area.
“If need be, we can use the dressing and locker rooms and keep a couple of thousand there,” he said.
Suburban police copied Woods’ example, putting men on 12-hour shifts, calling in all off-duty policemen or putting all men on stand-by status.
MAYWOOD, scene of repeated racial disorders during the year, remained comparatively quiet during the weekend until 9 p.m. Sunday.
At that time, Maywood police moved it to disperse several persons, holed up in a building at 10th and St. Charles, who were throwing bricks and bottles off a balcony.
“We blocked the area off,” Maywood police capt. Berner Kellough said, “and asked the sheriff for a van to cart them away.”
“They quit throwing things when they saw the area blocked off and the van coming.”
Otherwise, the community was “fairly well-behaved,” he said. Ten windows in the business and residential community were smashed, some in a “smash and grab operation, but we’ve had a wave of broken windows here lately,” he said.
Reportedly, a group of Negro boys were stopping motorists at 19th ave. and St. Charles on the Melrose Park border and insisting that the drivers turn on their car lights in reverence to King.
Police trail youth bands here in wake of bombings, damage
Large groups of boys roamed Maywood Tuesday night, according to the police capt. Berner Kellough.
“All my men were on duty,” he said, “and a squad car followed each group of five or more boys.”
Kellough said two fires were set, one at 139 S. 11th ave. and one at 10th and Oak. Garbage cans in front yards along 9th st. between St. Charles and Washington were set ablaze.
Bricks and rocks were thrown at firemen putting out the blazes, Kellough said.
Several windows were broken, including a big plate glass window at Heinz Mueller co., 1306 Madison.
Monday night the Maywood police dept. had 40 men on duty, supported by county police, Kellough said.
“We saw known agitators driving around and we followed them,” he said.
A series of five firebombs (gas filled pop bottles with wicks) were thrown about 9 p.m. Monday. Three exploded starting fires at Perry Graf. Corp., 15th and Madison; behind Burroughs at 19th and Madison, and in a garage at 15th and Washington.
No damage estimates were available from the Maywood fire department.
Behind a broken window at Irving school a firebomb was found that had failed to go off. Another one was found at the dist. 89 board of education building at 8th and Green.
Maywood leaders pay tribute to King; comment on future
Proviso clergymen and civil rights leaders paid tribute to the slain Rev. Martin Luther King this week.
Father John Tredrea, of Maywood’s Holy Communion Episcopal church, former member of Maywood’s Human Relations committee and now on the new Proviso Human Relations committee, said, “I hope the gospel he preached and lived will be lived by all men.”
At a loss for words to express his feelings, Rev. Wallace Sykes, of Second Baptist church, 446 S. 13th, said he felt the tragic death would have no effect on future disorder. “By that time, people will hold his death in a more sensible way. There will perhaps be riots, but they will be caused by those who are far removed.”
“If they do (riot), it probably won’t have anything to do with the death of Martin Luther. By the summer, people should be looking at his death in a more sober manner,” Rev. Sykes said.
The pastor of Maywood’s First Christian church, Eighth and Madison, Dr. K. Everett Munson, said King’s death was very tragic.
“My own personal feeling is that our country has responded to his message, the mesage of life and endeavor.”
Dr. Munson said, “The irony has gotten through to the majority of people. Many of my Negro friends here in Maywood feel despair at his death. I personally feel a great deal of hope in the coming together of races. I Believe we’re farther along in social help. The rebellious people have already acted.”
“The rest want to nail down their demands. They won’t be satisfied until they see action. I believe they must see a symbol of justice for the man who killed Martin Luther King,” Dr. Munson said.
“Press, churches, synagogues have come together in a feeling of constant change. I know the city of Chicago has already begun plans for rebuilding.
“I recognize a threat in many instances that says these people will not let it happen unless they can hold a guiding hand in the rebuilding. Unless they can feel this, I’m afraid they will not let it happen.” VFP