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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Loy Connelly Cloniger, June 18, 1980. Interview H-0158. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Shooting at the 1919 streetcar strike in Charlotte

Cloniger describes the shooting at the 1919 streetcar strike in Charlotte, North Carolina. The shooting started when the chief of police tussled with a striker. Other strikers began to run, and the police began to shoot.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Loy Connelly Cloniger, June 18, 1980. Interview H-0158. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
What do you remember about the strike?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
I had charge of it at night.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Of the car barn?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Yes. And I was standing right in front of the streetcars; they was all in the barn. The policemen had cushions out of the cars, down between the streetcars, sitting on them. I was standing right in front of the guns when the shooting took place. They killed an engineer. Found him down there at that laundry. Another boy was killed in front of the streetcar. Found him under a big tree over there. There used to be a big two-storey home; a Lethco had it and owned the laundry. I forget how many was killed that night.
ALLEN TULLOS:
About five all together.
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
I was standing right there when them guns went off.
ALLEN TULLOS:
The police were on the outside?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
The police was between the streetcars, only they had cushions out of the streetcars, setting on them.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They were outside of the barn.
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Yes. They were right in the front. The ends of the streetcars were right in the front of the barn. They were setting between there. That was a mess, I'm telling you, boy.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where were you, exactly, in front of the policemen?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Standing right in front of a streetcar. And shooting .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Who started the shooting?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Walter Orr was chief of police, and a fellow Wilson from north Charlotte-I think he was kind of a rough guy-was out there, and some policeman knocked him down with his gun. When he did, why, there was a crowd around the lightpost in front of the barn there. Chief Orr said, "Get back, every damn one of you." And they commenced running, and the police commenced shooting.
ALLEN TULLOS:
So the police started the shooting first.
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
They was the only ones [that] shot, as I know of. Wasn't nobody [that] shot out there; they run.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They were running away from them.
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Yes. Getting scattered out.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why did the police shoot them?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
I don't know. To break it up, I guess.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What did you do when all that was going on?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
I just stood there right in front of a streetcar. Some of the police that was in the car had the windows down, shooting in windows. They'd lower them windows. [Interruption]
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why was it that the Wilson man came to the car barn?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
He come out of the crowd out there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why did he come over there?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
See, we had strike-breakers back there, too.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where were they from?
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
Oh, all over the North somewhere.
ALLEN TULLOS:
They weren't from around here.
LOY CONNELLY CLONIGER:
No. They had regular strike-breakers at that time. And they slept in the paint shop back there and [would] eat up in the powerhouse. The powerhouse was right next to the streetcar barn. A lot of people wanted to say they done the shooting. It wasn't them; it was the police done the shooting, because they was back in the paint shop.