Crime of the Century: Slaton, Texas 1932

The land continued to bake in the hot sun.

The ground’s topsoil had withered down to a concrete-like substance of clay earth. The wind maintained its dry heaving howls and, in 1932, rain continued being a rare occurrence in Slaton.

… As did murder.

It was not the familiar sounds of train whistles that cut through the azure West Texas skies on the Tuesday afternoon of Oct. 13. It was the sharp thuds of gunshots that ricocheted across the cordial Slaton Town Square, according to a 1932 article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that reported the trial of murder suspect, R.L. Tudor.

“Oh, please don’t shoot,” Dr. Sam Houston Adams begged.

Shots rang out multiple times, striking Dr. Adams in each arm and once in the abdomen.

“Please don’t shoot me any more,” Dr. Adams pleaded.

It was too late. The adored pioneer doctor quickly lost blood.

Moments later, J.W. Nesbitt, a close friend of Adams and Tudor, stood motionless on the sidewalk outside of the doctor’s office. He saw Tudor walking toward him with a gun.

“My God, Lee, what did you do?” Mr. Nesbitt asked.

“He killed my boy and I shot him,” Tudor stated.

Nesbitt later said, on cross-examination during the trial, that he saw children near the physician’s office when he first heard the shots.

Across the street, Precinct Two Constable Ragan Reed crossed the street at the sounds of, what he described as, “a car backfiring,” and made his way to the doctor’s office. He, too, saw the gun in Tudor’s hand.

Outside, Reed said Sheriff Tom Abel approached Tudor.

“I killed Dr. Adams, I reckon. I tried to,” Tudor told Abel.

“He [Tudor] hesitated a little then turned the gun over to Mr. Abel,” Reed said in court.

Reed testified that he saw two little girls run away from near the front of the doctor’s office. He said they appeared to be trying to look through the plate glass window of the office.

Reed then rushed into Dr. Adams’ office to find Joe Stokes and F.J. Hilders aiding Dr. Adams to his feet. “Get a towel and stop the blood,” Adams said before he fainted.

“He revived when Mrs. Adams took his head in her arms,” Reed said in the trial.

“Then what did he say?” a defense attorney later asked.

“He was abeggin’ me and her [Mrs. Adams] to help him live,” Reed said.

According to a 1932 issue of The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, two twelve-year-old girls, Brooksie Nell Echer and Georgia Mae Yeager, were walking home from school when the shooting occurred. “We were walking down the alley back of the doctor’s office when we heard the first shot,” Echer said.

In a crowded courtroom, in front of both the Adams and Tudor families, as well as members of the press and court officials, Echer bashfully testified to what she saw the day the two girls peeked through the window panes of Dr. Adams’ office.

“I looked and I saw smoke and the figure of a man,” the young girl said. “I glanced in, but I don’t know whether Georgia Mae did or not,” she continued, “and I saw a man standing there. I heard a voice and it said, ‘Oh please don’t shoot, please don’t shoot me anymore.’”

“We heard the shot and started running,” Echer’s playmate, Georgia Mae said. “We heard someone say, ‘Oh please don’t shoot me,’” she said.

The two ran towards the bank and when they got to the corner of the bank, east of the doctor’s office, Echer said, “We turned around and I saw Mr. Tudor give Mr. Abel a gun and he said, ‘I shot Dr. Adams.’”

Inside the office, F.J. Hilders, a farmer renting Dr. Adams’ farm, was making his way into the office at the time of the ordeal. He said he heard the defendant say, “You killed my boy.” He got to the door and heard Dr. Adams call out to hold him.

“The doctor was on his all-fours on the floor,” Hilders said. Hilders then telephoned another doctor and helped Adams get to a seat.

When Reed made his way into the office, after witnessing Tudor hand over the gun to Sheriff Abel, Dr. Adams’ wife, Julia Ann, arrived shortly after to help console her dying husband. Reed said Dr. Adams continued begging them to keep him alive.

“What were his exact words?” Defense Attorney J.E. Vickers asked.

“He said, ‘Keep me to live long enough to kill the b—–,’” Reed said.

Reed claimed Mrs. Adams reprimanded the doctor for his remark.

“Don’t die with that in your heart, Doctor,” Mrs. Adams rebuked.

Dr. Adams rested in Julia Ann’s arms as blood flowed from his body and onto her, the woman he met many years ago, years before the two knew they would be spending the rest of their days in a town that had not yet existed.

The same woman Dr. Adams saw from across a crowded room during a church meeting in 1905 held him in the chaos; she peacefully assisted in calming her husband as he freed himself from the dry lands and baked countryside, to find solace in death.



About slatontx

The ramblings of one of the few remaining small town newspaper reporters left in the world!
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5 Responses to Crime of the Century: Slaton, Texas 1932

  1. Jacque Davidson says:

    I enjoy your stories James. Most people probably will not know this, but the 12 year old girl in the story, Brooksie Echer, was actually Brooksenell Ecker Davidson, my mother-in-law. She told this story to me one or two years before she died in 2002 and remembered every detail just like it had happened yesterday. My husband, John Craig, said that she did not like to talk about this and rarely mentioned it. We had been married about 34 years before I ever heard the story!

    • Melody Harbour says:

      My cousin who raised me, Dorothy Jones Reed, told this story to me many times throughout the years. She was working across the street at the telephone company when someone came through the door yelling, “Mr. Tudor just shot Dr. Adams!” She said everything stopped and everyone ran outside to see what was happening. Dorothy was friends with John Frye who was the nephew of Mrs. Adams. Dr. Adams and Mrs. Adams were raising John as their own child because his mother had died. This is the version of the story that I remember, or the reason for the killing in the first place. Mr. Tudor’s son had been in some sort of an accident and needed medical assistance, Mr. Tudor had made the remark that his son was allergic to some type of medication but Dr. Adams gave him the medicine anyway, and it was believed by Mr. Tudor that because Doc Adams gave him the medicine that was the reason his son died. Mr. Tudor blamed Dr. Adams. I always thought it was a very interesting bit of Slaton History, a tragic event for both families who lived in this small community and very sad and unpleasant memories for all of the people involved…….a sad day in Slaton

      • slatontx says:

        The next blog entree, “Tudor’s side of the story,” goes into RL Tudor’s reasoning for that day of violence on the square. Very interesting events, indeed. Thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review: Not too shabby! | Slatontx's Blog

  3. John A. Johnson III says:

    Slaton has a history of many bad memories and many good memories.

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