Richard was a 15 year old paperboy in July of 1967. He remembers the impact that summer had on his and his brothers' lives.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


My brother Rene' and I (Richard) were the Detroit News paperboys that historical morning in '67, going about our delivery business that included the intersection of Clairmount and 12th street--the exact location where the afterhour club was located, that set-off the riot of all riots in '67. Imagine, I'm 15 years old, and my big brother had turned 18 years old a month earlier. He graduated from Central High School a month earlier with aspirations of becoming a Federal Agent, three years of studying Russian language in public school, and grades that would have gotten him into most any university of his choosing. Instead, in less than 90 days he would become a combat soldier, that included serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. Our older brother Robert, had only returned home 18 months earlier, after having sat off the shores of Cuba on a U S Navy battleship during the missile crisis. Now, he found himself armed and guarding the Jupiter Department Store he managed at Joy Road and Grand River, for the next two weeks alongside the military servicemen deployed here to protect property and citizens. Incidentally, that store was neither looted nor burned, because the "Brother was the Boss", where he employed the people in the community.

Our neighborhood was a beautiful place to live back then. Brady, Hutchins, Durfee Northern and Central, were the finest schools in the community. We took full advantage of all it's offerings too, nearly 1000 Detroit News customers, sold the Jet, Muhammad Speaks, The Michigan Chronicle, and Detroit Shopping News paper routes. Not to mention, my brother and I, shined shoes along Linwood and 12th street for every pimp, hustler, prostitute, cop, preacher and Motown entertainer, who didn't go to Red's on Oakland Ave. We had the neighborhood "sewed up" in those days. We even sung Christmas carols in front of the homes on Taylor, LaSalle Blvd., Atkinson, Edison, Longfellow Chicago and Boston Blvd. Then, the riots made it all go away.

I vividly remember standing in the middle of 12th street watching looters take all they could hold on to and many used grocery baskets or car trunks to shuttle goods home, and then come back for more. It was dangerous to be out there. That day we did not complete delivery of our newspapers. That hot July evening, we kept all the windows shut to keep the smell and smoke from burning buildings out of the house. It did not work. At midnight, the sky was a bright red and yellow from fires burning in all directions. Then, a soft breeze carried cinders throughout the neighborhoods, the community, and the city was all ablaze and out of control. Westside to the Eastside, fires, smoke and destruction. And then the troops arrived.

Soldiers rolled into the city and set up base on the playing fields at my Central High School. Once they received their orders, and moved into the neighborhoods, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE!!! The 1st Airborne did what the Detroit Police and the National Guard could not do for three of four days of rioting. Many of those soldiers, primarily white, had recently returned from Vietnam, and arrived in Detroit in full battle gear with "finger on the trigger." When a tank rolled down the street ,it destroyed the concrete surface and vibrations felt like a freight train was coming through. We watched them from the porch by day, and by night they yelled, "ALL LIGHTS OUT" over loudspeakers. A warning some citizens lost their lives to, because the trigger-happy soldiers and police took the flash of light as that of gunfire and responded with automatic weapons and sometimes artillery that you could hear and feel half mile away. THIS WAS THE REAL DEAL!!! I can remember my younger brother, sister and I serving water and lemonade to soldiers on foot and in jeeps patrolling the neighborhood -- many accepted the offering, some did not. This all seems like only yesterday.

My parents tried to stay a step ahead of trouble in the city. It resulted in us moving 14 times from the Eastside to the Westside, Blackbottom, Hastings St., The Brewster Projects, The Northend, to an apartment, and into two family flats, with seven children. My Mother did an outstanding job with us, and for us. I look back through the years with a few regrets. Namely, the freeways of Detroit ruined nearly every neighborhood we lived in by forcing the residents to move. Now, not a single place we lived in growing up, stands today. Changed schools way too many times -- never got rooted. But I must admit, living in Detroit has given me an education not taught in any school, public or private.

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“Richard,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed April 13, 2021,

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