Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society
Two of Madera’s black community leaders, B.J. Robinson, left, and Rob Brummel, discussed the not-guilty verdict in the Rodney King trial 25 years ago. Robinson was quoted as saying, “It’s a known fact that we have a double standard here in the United States.”
25 Years Ago
Week of April 30, 1992
ORGY OF ARSON, VIOLENCE FOLLOWS VERDICT — Arson and looting erupted again today after nine people were killed in a nightlong convulsion of rage over the acquittal of four white policemen in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King. The nation is reeling from the verdict, which was handed down despite graphic evidence of King being beaten by four officers with clubs. King was struck at least 55 times during the incident. Nevertheless, attorneys for the defense convinced a jury in Simi Valley that King posed a definite threat to the policemen. Young men and women chanted, “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” outside police headquarters.
MADERA’S BLACK LEADERS CALL KING DECISION A “TRAGEDY” — Madera’s black community is expressing outrage and sadness over Wednesday’s acquittals handed to four Los Angeles police officers in the controversial Rodney King videotaped beating trial and the resulting violence which has ensued. While none of the local leaders advocated the riots, many said they could understand the frustration L.A. residents are feeling. Alfred Delt, president of the Madera chapter of the NAACP said he could only stare in disbelief at the jury’s verdict. “Those 12 people were not Rodney King’s peers; all they saw was a criminal,” Delt said.
LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SAY THEY WILL FEEL THE BRUNT OF THE VERDICT — Madera area law enforcement officials are grimacing with disappointment in the face of the Rodney King not-guilty verdict as they brace for renewed scrutiny of their respective organizations. Rich Owen, commander of the Madera area CHP, said he was surprised at the verdict. “What I saw on the video display didn’t coincide with the verdict,” said Owen. Madera Police Chief William Colson said he was disappointed the officers were acquitted but not shocked. “It’s tough to convict law enforcement officers in excessive force cases,” he said.
ROTARY PROGRAM GIVES INDIAN PROFESSIONALS AN OVERVIEW OF MADERA — When you are traveling 15,000 miles away from home, it’s nice to know you have open arms waiting when you arrive. A group of professionals visiting from India as part of the Rotary International Group Study Exchange program has experienced just that feeling in Madera. Five young businessmen are taking part in the program, and each of them will be hosted by local families. “The people are very nice,” said Mohit Chaudhary, a 26-year-old dentist from Dera Bassi. “They have been very hospitable,” he said. The coordinating host from Madera is Phil Benner of the Madera Sunrise Rotary Club.
FIDDLERS GET SET TO PLAY IN FAIRGROUNDS — With $2,000 in prize money to be had, dozens of people of all ages will not be just fiddling around this weekend. Or will they? Contestants from all over the state will once again converge on the Madera District Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday to compete in the California State Old-time Fiddling Championships in Hatfield Hall. The contest has been broken down into eight divisions, from kids under 9 to seniors. There may be as much fun outside the hall as inside. Traditionally, fiddlers like to get together for jam sessions.
50 Years Ago
Week of April 30, 1967
DEATH TAKES COMMUNITY LEADER TOM WARBURTON — Community leader Thomas Warburton died Tuesday in Dearborn Hospital at the age of 85. He came to Madera in 1916 from San Francisco. He immediately became involved in scouting and helped organize Madera’s first Boy Scout troop. The range of Mr. Warburton’s community service included a term on the City Council, the Madera High School board of trustees, and the Madera Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He was active in the Trinity Episcopal Church, in which he served as a lay reader and senior warden. Madera’s 50th anniversary celebration was led by Mr. Warburton.
YOUTH, FAST ON FEET, GAINS FREEDOM TWICE — Jerry Hill, chief of the Madera County Probation Department, is in good shape, but he found out Saturday that age does make a difference. A 15-year-old youth, Pete Gonzales, who had been booked in Juvenile Hall, cut his arm Saturday. Hill handcuffed him and took him to the county hospital. After his wounds were treated, Gonzales broke and ran — still handcuffed — toward town. Hill gave chase but had to give up after a four-mile run. The next day Gonzales was caught at his girlfriend’s house. When police called for him to come out, he did just that and kept on running. Officers gave a warning shot but when last seen, Gonzales was still running.
JEFFERSON JUNIOR HIGH ADOPTS DRESS CODE — The wearing of nylons, excessive make-up and jewelry by girls will be “discouraged” next year according to the new student handbook. Boys appearance will also come under scrutiny. Hair must be “reasonably well-trimmed, and shirttails must be tucked in at all times. A special ban has been laid down on bell-bottom trousers. The dress code states that “all students will be expected to keep their clothes and themselves neat and clean.” The new dress code comes with the approval of Principal Ben Barsotti who said, “Parents have been caught recently in a web of commercialism.”
LESS PRACTICE FOR GRADUATION AT JEFFERSON — Preparation for graduation will take a smaller bite out of class time this year. Instead of four or five weeks of practice, marching and other practices will be cut down to four or five days of school, according to principal Ben Barsotti. The problem, he explained, is “psychological. Once the students start practice and begin to think about graduation,” Barsotti says, “everything stops.” Elimination of graduation altogether was discussed as one of the possibilities this year, but other principals in the district favor retaining eighth grade commencements, according to Barsotti.
WELLS FILES ACTION AGAINST LOCAL SCHOOLS — City Councilman John Wells, who is a teacher at the Dairyland School, has filed a complaint against the Madera Unified School District with the local teachers association. The Madera Unified School District has denied him a contract for the coming school year without giving him a reason, Wells said. He claims the school board has classified him as “too militant” and a leader who would rally other MUSD teachers behind him. Wells has been on the teaching staff at Dairyland for two years and at Fairmead for 3 1/2 years prior to that. Wells served in the U.S. Army for nine years as a commissioned officer.