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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

1992 riots in Los Angeles seemed more threatening than those in 1965

In comparison to the Watts Riot in Los Angeles, the riots following the Rodney King verdict were more widespread, dangerous, and destructive of local property. Bowman was so worried about his white employees' safety that he allowed them to leave early that day. He noticed masses of people fleeing the city before rioters lit fires.

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Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. 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

But, to answer you question about the riots-that was um- we had no problems. You know, you see the things that were happening and I'd see the uh-I saw the white policemen pull people that were drunk-prop em up to the curb-people who'd broken in liquor stores and whatnot during the riots-prop em up on the thing and let em sober up. But, during the second riot-uh, my home in Los Angeles, is in the Baldwin Hills section it overlooks the city of Los Angeles. I could see the whole city and uh, I know when the Rodney King verdict came out, I got a call from Sacramento askin how I thought things were in the LA area and I told em and of course I immediately put my white staff-my janitorial staff-the white members of my janitorial staff-I had the supervisor to let them go home. I said, listen get em out-let em go because things may get a little rough later on and sure enough things did get rough. In fact, uh I had an appointment-an eye appointment that day and I was going out and I saw the other [unclear] - I saw the other people just leaving LA like the world was coming to an end. It was the streets and everything was jam packed. Like I said I turned back and had them to let the janitorial staff leave-but then, as I got home I could see fires breaking out all over the city. It looked like it was timed and was supposed to happen at a certain time. You see a fire here-a fire there-all over and-
It was not too far from your house where a lot of this was going on
Oh no, the bank right down the street from me-on La Brea-in fact, I had planned on going there that next day and uh to go to [unclear] to get a check cashed and that clock-you talk about the grandfather clock-I had seen the clock in the store and I was hesitating on getting it because of the cost- I said I wanted it, but maybe I'll wait and get it later. The riots broke out-I went back out after the riots and the clock was gone, of course.