Unsolved Murders, Unbroken Grief
It was a Sunday evening in October 1949. I remember the day because my sister, my brother and I had just gathered in the living room to listen to three of our favorite radio programs: "The Shadow," "Roy Rogers" and "Jack Benny."
I was 10 years old.
Our father entered the room, turned down the volume, and asked us, "Do you know a boy named Harrison McKinley Walker who lives down in Snows Court?"
Snows Court was an alley dwelling in Foggy Bottom, about three blocks south of our home at 24th and L streets NW.
We didn't know him. My father said Harrison, who was 8, had just been found "killed, down in the creek." "The creek" was Rock Creek Park, where we frequently played and sometimes fished during herring season. We were warned to stay away from the creek until the killer was caught.
News of Harrison's murder rapidly spread through the neighborhood.
But even before the story appeared in the next day's newspapers, word had already circulated throughout the community that Harrison had been horribly brutalized.
That didn't stop the Evening Star from publishing the gory details.
An excerpt from an Oct. 10, 1949, Evening Star account: "The boy had been stabbed 17 times on top of the head, in the eyes, cheek, throat, body and right side of the abdomen. One wound penetrated the liver. The boy's skull was fractured in four places."
The Washington Post also reported that Harrison had been sexually abused.
There was a flurry of police activity. We heard stories of men being pulled in for questioning. Rumors were rampant. One heard most often said Harrison was raped and killed by a gang of older boys who also lived in Foggy Bottom. There was a dust-up between the police and school officials over access to elementary school students for questioning.
A week later, the Evening Star reported that "a colored man . . . arrested about four blocks from where the colored boy's mutilated body was found Sunday afternoon under the Rock Creek Parkway bridge" had been cleared. "Every lead in the murder," wrote the Star, "appeared to have vanished."