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The Great Detroit Flood of 2014 resulted from the second largest downpour in Detroit history. It closed several expressways and poured into thousands of Metro Detroit basements. The 4.72 inches of rain was the highest daily recorded rainfall since July 31, 1925, when 4.74 inches of rain fell. What went wrong? Could it have been prevented?

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  1. #1
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    Default Willie Horton and the '67 Riots

    I've read and heard this about Willie's direct involvement in the 1967 riots in excerpts such as this:

    During the 1967 Detroit 12th Street riot, he tried bravely to restore peace. He stood in his Tiger uniform on a car in the middle of the chaos, pleading for calm. However, despite his impassioned pleas, the city burned for five more days.

    I know Willie has often talked about this in interviews and probalby in his book. But yet I've only heard it from Willie himself. Did this really happen? No, I am not calling Willie a liar but I find it odd that I've yet to come across a primary source covering this happening. My parents saved hardcopies of the Detroit dailies from the riot period and I don't recall seeing any coverage in them about a Tigers player--in full uniform, no less--in the midst of the riot zone. One would think such would be highly newsworthy. Here and there I've done internet searches on this subject and only find Willie's own account or others simply rehashing the above.

    Does anyone know of a primary source, other than Willie himself, that covers this happening?

  2. #2
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    "He stood in his Tiger uniform on a car in the middle of the chaos..."

    I've wondered about that myself. Regardless of what color you were, it seems like the last thing you would want to do is stand on a car in the middle of the chaos.

  3. #3
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    My Dad and I drove down to the Gratiot area and took Super 8 film of the burning and firetrucks with National Guard all over. So if Willie says he was there then he was there.

  4. #4
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    It's been common knowledge for 44 years that it happened - so it must have happened, I've never heard anyone doubt it. Probablly one of the reasons there is that bronze of him at Comerica.

  5. #5
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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My6nV7Iy_Rk

    always had a soft spot for willie

  6. #6
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    News wasn't like it is today. Reporters weren't out in the streets interviewing rioters or seeing first hand what was happening. It was really hard to get a real time report of what was going on. People didn't walk around with cameras taking pix of things and posting them for all to see. Cameras used film, and movie cameras were pretty bulky and hard to carry around too, so people in the neighborhoods didn't provide a lot of coverage, either.

  7. #7
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    I have no reason to doubt Willie's word if he says he was there.

    I recall seeing photos of John Conyers also trying to quell the rioting. He was down on 12th St. standing on top of a car using a bull horn, pleading with everyone to disperse and go home. He got his answer when the crowd started booing and pelting him with rocks and bottles. He beat a hasty retreat out of there and the rioting continued on as before.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary View Post
    I have no reason to doubt Willie's word if he says he was there.

    I recall seeing photos of John Conyers also trying to quell the rioting. He was down on 12th St. standing on top of a car using a bull horn, pleading with everyone to disperse and go home. He got his answer when the crowd started booing and pelting him with rocks and bottles. He beat a hasty retreat out of there and the rioting continued on as before.
    I too really want to believe Willie. He was one of my heroes while growing up in the 1970s. I'm just looking for confirmation other than Willie's own words. Surely some witness has spoken about this...but where is it documented? That is what I am seeking.

    I DO remember seeing coverage of Conyers' ill-fated involvement in the Detroit dailies of the time. Which makes the Willie matter even more mysterious--why did the press cover a blowhard politician but not a local hero's involvement? It wasn't as if the west side riot zone was so spread out making media coverage impossible. But yes, I do understand the pressure the media types were under with their own personal safeties at stake.

  9. #9
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    In his book, "The People's Champion", Willie spent no more than two pages discussing the riots and his actions. He basically stated that it was a failed attempt to quell the violence but he just wanted to do something to help. It's not like he's bragging or trying to state that he saved lives. I think to not take him at his word is a little ridiculous based on what others are stating about how news was reported at the time.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 401don View Post
    In his book, "The People's Champion", Willie spent no more than two pages discussing the riots and his actions. He basically stated that it was a failed attempt to quell the violence but he just wanted to do something to help. It's not like he's bragging or trying to state that he saved lives. I think to not take him at his word is a little ridiculous based on what others are stating about how news was reported at the time.
    i agree...not something to fib about

  11. #11
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    I didn't expect this to be a popular subject but as an historian or at least an amateur one, I'm striving for accuracy. As I've not been able to find anyone to substantiate this happening I've grown frustrated and thus raised the question.

    I've been corresponding with an authority on the matter off line. She has really opened my eyes as to possiblities as to why this has not been reported--all reasons for which Willie would not have been a direct party.

    This case is closed in my book. Sorry to ruffle feathers.

  12. #12
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    News wasn't like it is today. Reporters weren't out in the streets interviewing rioters or seeing first hand what was happening. It was really hard to get a real time report of what was going on. People didn't walk around with cameras taking pix of things and posting them for all to see. Cameras used film, and movie cameras were pretty bulky and hard to carry around too, so people in the neighborhoods didn't provide a lot of coverage, either.

    That's only half wrong. (Or half right.) Media certainly wasn't like it is today in a technological sense, but reporters were certainly out in the street during the riot, interviewing rioters and recording what was happening. Check out the archives of the Detroit papers and TV stations. The riot is where Bill Bonds made his name, for example, for his on-the-street reporting. The Free Press won a Pulitzer for its coverage.

  13. #13

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    Last week I transfered all of the Free Press riot articles from microfilm to computer disk for a friend. I saw no mention of Willie Horton. Seems like a reporter would be all over that, if it really happened.

  14. #14
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    well im sure if Charlie LeDuff were there, he wouldve had grade-A coverage of the Willie Horton incident, no doubt. completely objective too.

    though Charlie IS half black after all, so maybe he wouldve even been helping Willie quell the masses.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by WaCoTS View Post
    well im sure if Charlie LeDuff were there, he wouldve had grade-A coverage of the Willie Horton incident, no doubt. completely objective.
    If Chuckles were there, he would have made himself the story, since he is so good at promoting himself.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Detroitej72 View Post
    If Chuckles were there, he would have made himself the story, since he is so good at promoting himself.
    LOL! Oh, this is good... sorry, carry on...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by English View Post
    LOL! Oh, this is good... sorry, carry on...
    Are you manic?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Det_ard View Post
    Are you manic?
    Are you? I thought what he said was hilarious. But of course, this is DYes.

  19. #19
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    Just an FYI- the Reuther Library put up a gallery of over a hundred images from the riot last week.

    http://www.reuther.wayne.edu/image/tid/1225

    They also have the Tony Spina photos that helped the Free Press win the Pulitzer Prize up.

    http://www.reuther.wayne.edu/search/node/spina+riot

  20. #20
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    awesome pics!!

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