Seventy-two years ago, 19 men were killed in a tragic accident on U.S. 77. The Daily Light published gruesome photos of the horrific crash that will now be remembered forever by the community.
Members of the community gathered at Freedman Memorial Park on the anniversary of the crash with shovels in hand to commemorate the 8/47 Memorial that will soon recognize all 19 individuals who died.
The display will honor the 19 lives lost when a 1942 Chevrolet truck traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 77 collided head-on with a fuel truck — 18 of the men were from Waxahachie, and the driver resided in Ft. Worth.
Ellis County African American Hall of Fame Executive Director Dr. Jamal Rasheed opened the ceremony Monday, using a shovel to pinpoint the area where the monument will be erected.
"So, this is where we are, and let's hope we get to where we need to be," Rasheed said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The memorial will be built on a slab across from the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame, located at the corner of MLK Jr Boulevard and Wyatt Street.
Community member George Cole told the Daily Light, "I think that Dr. Rasheed wanting to put the marker here, marking the event of the people being killed is a great idea to bring attention to it."
"We're just glad that it's coming along and happening," Waxahachie Park Board Vice Chairman Ginger Cole added. "We pride ourselves on history, and it should be everyone's history, not just white history, not just Black history, it should be everybody's."
A passerby will notice the cement peeking from the grass. In fact, this remnant once housed Priscilla Wallace Hospital for African Americans. Rasheed shared that the hospital acted more like a clinic, and the overflow of patients would be seen in the second story of the Masonic Lodge, the now Ellis County African American Hall of Fame. The bottom floor was the mortuary.
Rasheed previously told the Daily Light, "When the accident happened, all 19 victims were brought to that location."
The monument would be built on top of the 12-by-24-foot slab. The hands on the memorial will represent the 19 victims reaching up to heaven. Two-foot tall by two-foot round stools line a sidewalk that will lead up to the monument with each victim's name engraved.
The 19 that were reported dead included Andrew Jackson Arrington Jr., John Benson, Carmen Blunt, J.B. York, Frank Pittman, Herman Fraiser, Jack T. Montgomery, Ludie Henry Scroggins, Charles Greenwood, Antone (Pegleg) Turner, Welton Mayes, Johnnie B. Simpson, Morris Charles Robertson (driver), Geroge Lindsay Taylor, Robert Charlie Dixon, Louis (Shorty) Huckleby, Cardell Grigsby, Isom Green and the driver of the tanker, Marvin L. Wallace of Ft. Worth.
The youngest boy on the truck was Mayes, who was 16 years old. Those who survived included William Tulsa Jackson, Alfonso Brewer, T.J. Kelly and Sam Williams. Two people were not accounted for.
An exhibit in the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame displays original photographs of the 1947 accident previously printed in the Daily Light. People also related to the victims presented photos of the deceased to Rasheed to showcase as well.
When the Waxahachie Parks Board approved the project in July 2018, Rasheed shared to members that the faiths of the victims were researched and that all attended three churches in town that included Joshua Chapel AME Church, New Mt. Zion — now referenced as Greater New Mt. Zion — Samaria Missionary Baptist Church.
Eighteen of the bodies are buried in the Prince Hall Fraternal Cemetery — five of them with grave markings.
The structure is expected to be completed within a week.