YESTERDAY We’ve heard threats and profanity at city hall and the County Commissioners Court, but history shows that the situation could be much worse, Forty years ago this month, blood flowed.
The ruckus was the result of a long-simmering feud between County Commissioner JOHN ROWLANDand fellow commissioner LEW STERRETTyes, the jailhouse Sterrett- over who would control the money spent on the county’s roads and bridges. On August 11, 1951, things came to a head when Rowland and his 260-pound son pulled Sterrett into a fourth-floor office and beat the daylights out of him, leaving him with a broken nose and a large gash over his right eye.
Word spread quickly, and as the Rowlands left the courthouse, Dallas Morning News reporter SAM F. HOLMES JR. and photographer LARRY GROVE came on the scene. Grove quickly snapped a picture, but the battling Rowlands were in no mood to appreciate the First Amendment. The younger Rowland rushed Grove and threw him against a door. Holmes tried to intercede but wound up on the floor as Rowland senior tried to stomp the photographer.
At this point County Sheriff BILL DECKERjoined the fray, smashing John Rowland in the face and breaking his own hand in the process. Order was restored, and Decker arrested father and son, only to release them soon after. Sterrett, who spent several days in the hospital, later said to Sheriff Decker, “I’ve been trying to tell you boys it’s rough out there.”