Death in Black and White
White bigots hounded Bill Simpson; police say black thugs killed him
Not surprisingly, the newcomers were quickly overrun by reporters. DecQuir tried to avoid the press, but Simpson was more approachable and was besieged by reporters wondering what it was like to be a path breaker in the all-white town and how it felt to live in such a "notoriously hateful place." While he preferred to sit in his green easy chair, smoke his hand-rolled cigarettes and watch television, others sought to use him for their own means. The nadir of that manipulation occurred when an Australian TV network brought Texas Ku Klux Klan leader Michael Lowe to Simpson's doorstep, hoping to record a confrontation when Lowe asked Simpson why he wanted to live where he wasn't wanted. After listening to Lowe for several minutes, however, Simpson simply retreated into his home. His neighbors, the Dennises, say he spent that night with them "because he was afraid."
Cry for help. Simpson later submitted an affidavit to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development claiming that a neighbor named Edith Marie Johnson regularly hurled obscenities, racial taunts and threats at him. She pleaded guilty in April to a charge that she had slurred Simpson and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service. Simpson also wrote that he had "been called 'nigger' by people in Vidor more times than I can count." And in a letter to HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, he declared: "I must raise my voice in a cry for help. ... I fear for my own life and well-being." His only black neighbors, Brenda Lanus and Alexis Selders, were challenged by some local whites, and a group of teenagers paraded through the project screaming, "Get those niggers." Soon enough, all the blacks moved out.
Simpson's new neighborhood in Beaumont, a city of almost 123,000, of whom 38 percent are black, was a rough one. On many nights, especially during humid summer months, drug sellers and prostitutes plied their trade from street corners and the front yards of crack houses. Just last week, police reported a homicide three blocks from where Simpson was gunned down, a separate shooting one block away and the biggest marijuana bust in city history. Black teenage gangs have pushed the violent crime rate in the neighborhood to more than twice the level of the rest of the region.
Beaumont detective Sgt. Don Bailey says Simpson apparently was snared in this cycle of violence on the night he moved from Vidor. Bailey says Simpson and a companion, Lydia Faye Washington, were walking on the sidewalk with two others near the corner of Victoria and Royal streets. A car passed them, turned right and stopped, and two men got out. According to witnesses, the two men wore T shirts pulled up over their faces like bandannas. A brief, loud argument ensued between them and Simpson, and then one of the men began shooting. Washington was wounded in one leg, which was later amputated. Simpson was shot four times in the legs, once in the abdomen. An autopsy revealed he was legally drunk, but no trace of drugs was found in his system.