Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

April 13, 1948

On April 13, 1948, the Philadelphia Tribune reported that Lucille Serrell filed a lawsuit against Norfolk & Western Railroad Co. after her husband, George Serrell, was shot to death by a railroad detective. George Serrell was a veteran who served in the Pacific theater during World War II and was twenty-three-years-old when he was killed. “Serrell and his wife were traveling to the veteran’s home in Virginia when they were required to change trains at a junction near Charles Town,” the Tribune reported. “A row over jim crow seats resulted and the couple were put off the train, arrested and driven in the detective’s car along a highway to a destination they never learned. During the ride, a fight developed and Serrell was shot down before his wife’s eyes.” 

The shooting took place on Valentine’s Day in 1948, and the the Tribune first reported on the story on March 6, 1948. “Public indignation in the murder of the young veteran, who was discharged from the Army in 1946 after serving on Iwo Jima, has swelled and sparked protests from numerous groups in this city,” the Tribune noted. “It is apparent to many that the shooting of Serrell was one in a widespread reign of terror in Southern States against Negroes admittedly in protest against President Truman’s civil rights program.” The newspaper also reported that “Mrs. Serrell was not permitted to attend the funeral for her husband on Feb 18, but was confined in the jail. Serrell was not afforded even a military funeral, she said because officials refused to consider his veterans’ status or examine discharge papers.”  

The Baltimore Afro-American later reported that the detective who killed George Serrell was tried and acquitted and that Lucille Serrell’s suit was dismissed because she had not been legally divorced from her first husband.


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