The Crime

Media Accounts and the Coroner's Inquest

Cleveland's African-American Community

Homicide Trends

Sources

by Mary Demmy

 

Media Accounts and the Coroner's Inquest

On the day after the murder, April 18th, 1912,both the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Cleveland News had small articles covering the incident in their back pages. The Plain Dealer's piece appeared on the second page of the sports news with a fairly large caption. It is written more in a story form than the much smaller Cleveland News item, which mainly recites the bare facts. The Plain Dealer refers to the two as Negroes, whereas The Cleveland News identifies Lewis Halleck as colored and does not state anything about the race of Inez Williams. Maybe her racial background is assumed. It might be leaping to conclusions, but in this era a black man killing a white woman would probably be a larger news story. In both stories they state Halleck's occupation as a bellboy at the Hollenden Hotel, but the Plain Dealer identifies him as the The Hollenden Hotel, 1890bellboy Captain. The disparity in the media coverage between the races is exemplified by the size of the article on another murder/suicide by a white farmer in Parma. That story not only rated the whole left-hand column of the front page of the Sunday Plain Dealer, April 14, 1912, but also had pictures of the deceased and elaborate diagrams of the scene that took up a half-page in the first section of the paper. It is only fair to note that the Inez Williams murder occurred only a few days after the Titanic disaster, which monopolized much of the newspaper copy. However, no matter where the story was placed in the paper, the amount of copy was miniscule when compared with the coverage of the white Parma farmer who, while drunk, killed his wife and himself with his shotgun.

During this period there was an African-American weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Gazette, which had been publishing since August 25, 1883. It is evident from viewing a number of their four-page issues that the main purpose of this paper was to serve as a vehicle to both uplift the race and present African Americans and their achievements in a most positive light. A full quarter of the front page of the April 20, 1912 issue is filled with a fashion section featuring pictures of spring hats. Another prominent front-page article's caption reads, " Colored Man Guided Great Violinist to Fame." The second page contained sports, local and Ohio news and assorted announcements. This page would be a logical place for the Inez Williams murder to be covered, but it was conspicuous in its absence. The story did not appear anywhere else in the paper. The third and fourth pages were filled with a women's section that covered sewing and recipes, a Sunday School lesson, classified ads and advertisements which prominently featured a number of hair pomades. It is obvious that this journal to not want to feature stories that negatively reflected on the black community or that might feed racial stereotypes.

The next sources of information are the witness statements and documents from the Coroners' Inquest. The murder took place in a boarding house room on Blee Court. Louis Hallick shared this one room with Mr. Hughes, another employee at the Hollenden Hotel. Blee Court was a one-block street off of 12th Street and consisted of a few frame houses facing the back of some Chester Avenue commercial buildings. According to the 1910 census, it was a tiny, working-class neighborhood of boarding houses where mainly service industry workers lived in close proximity to their jobs. Although predominately white with a fairly even mix of Italians, Polish, Irish and Natives, there is one address that seemed to have exclusively housed older black service industry personnel, such as maids, cooks and waiters.

Louis Hallick worked at the Hollenden Hotel, which Russell H. Davis in Memorable Negroes in Cleveland's Past claimed "opened as Cleveland's finest in 1888... the gathering place for Cleveland's business and political leaders, lawyers and bankers." The Captain of the Hollenden bellboys would be a relatively high status job for an African-American male of the period. The Hollenden Hotel was located on 6th and Superior and would have been an easy walk from Blee Court.

Cleveland's African-American Community