Little Rock, AR Reform School Fire Kills 21, Mar 1959

PROBE OPENS OF TRAGIC FIRE IN LITTLE ROCK.

21 BOYS TRAPPED BEHIND LOCKED DOORS.

Little Rock, Ark. (UPI) -- State police launched a full-scale probe today of the tragic reform school fire that killed 21 Negro boys trapped behind locked doors.
Gov. Orval Faubus, shaken and angered, charged negligence was responsible for the deaths and ordered state police to "let the chips fall where they may." He prepared to go before the Arkansas Legislature and ask for an emergency appropriation.
Faubus arrived on the scene of the fire Thursday at the Arkansas Negro Boys Industrial School, 12 miles south of Little Rock, in time to watch firemen cool debris that covered a pile of 12 bodies. They were heaped below a window they couldn't open.
Sight Sickens Governor.
Nine other boys were sprawled in ashes that once was a U-shaped brick veneer dormitory building. Faubus was visibly sickened at the sight.
Forty-seven other boys escaped by kicking out "escape-proof" wire mesh screens and climbing out windows.
"There's absolutely no reason reason [sic] for this to happen the way it did except because of negligence on the part of someone," Faubus said. He said the building had no fire alarm system and no telephone.
The fire was believed to have started from defective wiring.
"It was absolutely inexcusable that nobody was in charge of the building," the governor said. "There is supposed to be a man in each building to warn the boys of any such disaster as this."
Build Fireproof Building.
Faubus said he would ask the Legislature to provide money for a fireproof building and money to fireproof the other dorms. He said the Legislature has already passed a $198,000 appropriation for the school, but he hasn't signed it yet. He said $8,000 was for improvements.
Superintendent L. R. GAINES said the boys, all ranging in age from 14 to 17, were in for minor violations, such as hubcap stealing, or because they had no homes to go to.

The Morgantown Post West Virginia 1959-03-06

Names Of The Killed:
LINDSEY CROSS, 15.
CHARLES L. THOMAS, 15.
FRANK BARNES, 15.
R. D. BROWN, 16.
JESSIE CARPENTER, JR., 16.
JOE CRITTENDEN, 16.
JOHN DANIEL, 16.
WILLIE G. HORNER, 16.
ROY CHESTER POWELL, 16.
CECIL PRESTON, 17.
CARL E. THORTON, 15.
JOHNNIE TILLISON, 16.
EDWARD TOLSTON, JR., 15.
CHARLES WHITE, 15.
WILLIAM L. PIGGEE, 13.
O. T. MEADOWS, 13.
HENRY DANIELS, 15.
JOHN ALFRED GEORGE, 15.
ROY HEGWOOD, 15.
WILLIE LEE WILLIAMS, 15.
AMOS GUICE, 16.

Comments

Little Rock 21 boys burned to death in Wrightsville fire

My brother, William L.Piggee was burned to death in the fire at Wrightsville Boys Reform School.He was not homeless nor was he a thief as was the reason he was there. Supposed to have stole a Bicycle wheel. He was about to be released, because a white woman came forward and said she gave him the wheel.A tyrant for Governor, Orval Faubus, Negligent system run by the State of Arkansas, And the money amount given to my family for the life of my brother was LESS THAN $2,500.00 dollars...It killed my MOTHER AND MY FATHER.My parient died of a broken heart.My mother was spared having to identify the body of her son, bodys burned to the point of unreconizeable..My father could never forget that, he started to drink, he was never the same...it tore my family apart...The State Of Arkansas was my familys nightmare....I HATE YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID TO MY FAMILY, MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, YOU TOOK MY BROTHERS LIFE, HE WAS NOT GUILTY, MY MOTHER HAD 15 CHILDREN AND 6 CHILDREN SHE RAISED THAT SHE DID NOT GIVE BIRTH TO, STEP CHILDREN.. AND MY MOTHER WORKED FOR SOME OF THE WEALTHEST FAMILIES IN ARKANSAS. MUCH LATER AFTER THAT HAPPEN...Mrs Crow and raised her only daughter Hattie Boone Black, James Mason,CEO Riceland Foods, Mr &Mrs Gravis, Gravis Concrete, Dr and Mrs Northcutt, just a few of the families she took care of and raised their children, and she loved them and never abused not a one, and I believe their children loved my mother...When my MOTHER PASSED AWAY, there was so many WHITE PEOPLE there to say good-bye, and the church funeral was in Stuttgart Arkansas and she was laid to rest in Pine Bluff Arkansas, She was survived by 12 of her children at that time, We love our Mother and Father, RIH Mama...I love you, Your daughter Emma M. Piggee Adams