Dr. Sam Hyde, director of the Center of Southeast Louisiana Studies at SELU and author of Pistols and Politics, claims in the newest edition of his book that the culture of violence in historic Tangipahoa Parish remains today.
The second edition of Pistols and Politics was published in 2018. Hyde said it added four new chapters and an epilogue explaining how Tangipahoa Parish remains inordinately violent.
Hyde said that Tangipahoa Parish was nicknamed “Bloody Tangipahoa” because of the high rates of violence in the area from 1810-1935.
“This is the only region where every major European power that intruded into the North American wilderness had governmental authority,” he said.
Hyde writes about 5 different governing powers and all their conflicting orders. He said all of land grants distributed in the area and all overlapped.
Hyde said that the construction of the railroad through Tangipahoa Parish in 1854 caused the violence to accelerate. Because many of the people were cattle farmers and the new trains were running over their cows. He said that the establishment of fencing laws in order to protect cattle caused conflict over land borders.
“We had especially acute problems with an ineffective district attorney and an utterly incompetent and cowardly sheriff by the middle of the 1890s and that’s what let it spiral out of control,” Hyde said.
He said that most people were not involved in the violence, but the few who were intimidated the others so no jury would convict out of fear of retribution.
Hyde spoke about a notorious killing from the period, referred to as the Breeland murders.
He said that there was a family feud between the Kinchens and the Everetts. There was an argument between two Kinchen brothers and three Everett brothers in Tickfaw. One of the Kinchens shot and killed two of the Everett brothers. He said that one of the deceased Everett brothers was married to a young woman related to Buzzy Breeland. After the young man’s death, Buzzy Breeland and his wife went to pick up the young widow and her baby. On the way back, Garfield Kinchen and Avery Blount “bushwhacked” the three adults and abandoned the baby. Hyde said Blount was executed while the Kinchen brothers served little to no time in prison.
Dr. Clark Forrest, director of the Edward Livingston foundation and local historian said, “Many of the stories I heard growing up; I thought they couldn’t possibly be true.”
Forrest said that the people of the time were self-reliant. He said they solved disputes through violence.
Hyde said that things began to improve by the end of World War II.
“We sustain these high rates of violence even in a more developed period,” said Hyde.
According to the 2017 Crime in Louisiana Report conducted by the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice, the city of Hammond is the highest in the state for rape and robbery per 100,000 inhabitants. However, it is not highest for aggravated assault.
Hyde said that the culture of violence and acceptance of it is still pervasive in Tangipahoa Parish and some surrounding areas today. He said that it is partly due to the way children, in the Piney Woods area are taught to stand up for themselves.
“It’s the way we’re conditioned to respond to certain situations. It’s not that violence is just an accepted response, it’s an expected response,” Hyde said.
He said that it also has to do with the “he had it coming” defense.
According to Hyde in his book Pistols and Politics discussing district attorney Scott Perrilloux, “Perrilloux believes that juries tend to be less sympathetic to victims who were engaged in bad behavior themselves and are thus less likely to make the hard decision to lock someone away for years when the victim may have, at least partially, brought it on themselves.”
Hyde said that for the Tangipahoa community to end the pattern of violence, there would need to be an increase in education, accountability and resources. He called this the EAR plan.
In Pistols and Politics, “It requires of the public an investment of time and courage. Though burdens few enjoy, there must be a commitment for regular jury service from all quarters of the community and a willingness to testify honestly…”