Type to search

Sam Waltz

The madness in Dallas could happen in Delaware

Avatar photo
Sam Waltz

Sam Waltz
Founding Publisher

SMH – that digital acronym our kids use for “shaking my head” – has to be the reaction so many of us felt when hearing the painful stories from Dallas and elsewhere about African-Americans setting out to slay white cops as “payback” for injustices, real and perceived, simply because they were white cops.

What an awful thing!

And what an awful society we’ve become!

Injustice in the name of justice surely is as wrong as injustice for the purpose of injustice.

And where does this latest painful episode in recent American race relations bring us?

In particular, what does it mean to us here in Delaware? And what, too, are the implications for the civic and business leaders who may be reading this?

We kid ourselves if we don’t realize that the shootings of 12 uniformed officers, five of them fatal, that happened July 7 in Dallas could not have happened anywhere. Yes, indeed, it just as easily could have happened right here in Delaware.

As a young reporter, I covered for the News Journal papers in August 1975 Delaware’s last-ever “race riot,” as we called it then. It followed the arrest and charging of a young white man who had shot and critically injured a young black teenager, who subsequently died.

John H. Bailey, 24, had bought a house in town which he was fixing up to live in, at some great cash and sweat equity expense to himself. Thieves and vandals regularly damaged his property at nights when he was not there, often stealing materials as well. Despite his complaints, police never apprehended anyone.

Staying overnight at the property Aug. 17, he heard vandals in a fruit tree adjacent to his house. He fired a random shot in that direction and Sheila Farrell, 13, one of four or five kids reportedly stealing from the property, dropped to the ground with what proved to be a fatal gunshot wound.

Arrested and charged with attempted murder, he posted the $30,000 bond set by Municipal Judge Carl Goldstein. Black community leaders were outraged, and Goldstein raised the bail to $130,000, to which Bailey posted property. In about a week, the young woman died, while Bailey remained free on bail, and the criminal charge was not immediately raised to murder.

Some seven people were arrested over the course of week of public protests that brought great disorder and even some property damage.

Although I was stationed in Dover, editors John Taylor and Harry Themal asked me to come up and assist in coverage, because I had previous experience in anti-war and campus riot coverage in Illinois.

I recall that I walked shoulder-to-shoulder with a police line – they in tactical riot gear with helmets and face shields, me in a sport jacket and tie, with pencil and paper – as the Wilmington Police Department one night faced bottle and rock throwing as they pushed a crowd of protesters back up North Market Street.

While I lived with no delusion that any utopia of racial harmony had arrived, I guess I’d felt that the work that so many of us had done as young progressives in the 1960s through the 1970s, that tended to erase structural racism under color of law had accomplished much, actually much of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had asked.

But I never had kidded myself that racist feelings and emotions could be as easily fixed, nor could they necessarily be extricated from how people work and live.

Today, we face the consequences of the reduction of the issue of structural racism to more abstract forms.

And, worse, today, at least in Delaware, we seem to be going into the battle against this evil with neither the strategy, the arms nor the tools to make progress.

Our Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, for a couple of decades a powerful instrument for people of good will, has not yet been brought back from the atrophy it suffered under a recent executive director. The Rotary Club of Wilmington has set a 2nd Century Initiative to make Wilmington a “world class city,” but it’s a volunteer effort with limited resources and reach.

For too many others, it’s seen simply as a Public Safety issue to be managed.

At its heart, in our city, and in our state, on one side, it’s a social pathology of single-parent families, poverty and joblessness, gangs where the drug industry seems too lucrative to ignore, recidivism, and a failure not only of education, but of aspiration.

And, given the anti-social way in which such situations often manifest themselves, given the inevitable concentrations of minority populations in dense areas, it’s too often seen through a Public Safety lens as an issue of race.

I’ve written before, and I’ll go to my grave saying, this is an issue too big and too important for the Business Community to ignore. It must be part of the solution – a solution yet to be defined.

Frankly, until we arrive at a new chapter, we likely need to add another new acronym. SMHT – Shaking my head in tears!

Get the free DBT email newsletter  

Follow the people, companies and issues that matter most to business in Delaware.


You Might also Like


  1. Avatar photo
    gl July 23, 2018

    They were not vandals they were twelve year old kids picking peaches from his peach tree at 6.50pm on a summer evening. According to court records he chased that little girl down the street and shot her in the back. HE WAS TRIED AND CONVICTED

    1. Avatar photo
      Stacey Jones September 3, 2020

      Yes. And he stayed the night there. Yeah right. And so he decided to shoot someone. He killed her. End of story!!! In this story subsequently died… Ok. You just wanted to write a story. And it’s boring and not true…..

  2. Avatar photo
    dt July 24, 2020

    I know this story is old but it’s filled with inaccuracies. John Bailey chased a 12 year old girl for stealing peaches from a fruit tree in his backyard. He shot her in the back purposely. He then stood over her and told her her would kill her. He was a murderer. He then lied and blamed his crime in a black bystander. He was also a racist coward.

  3. Avatar photo
    WC Dave October 18, 2022

    Sam Waltz may flatter himself as a progressive, but what he says here could not come from a progressive’s mind, lips, or keyboard. Focusing on the shooting of white cops to the exclusion of the many, many, many more numerous slayings of innocent black people — like poor young Sheila Ferrell — represents a shameful skewing of reality. When Waltz writes, “Injustice in the name of justice surely is as wrong as injustice for the purpose of injustice,” he misses the crucial point that over the years, almost all of the injustice has been dealt out to black people by whites, not the other way around.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Premier Digital Partners

© 2024 Delaware Business Times

Flash Sale! Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%.

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.


Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%