Remembering the Raleigh Riots, April 1968

Created April 16, 2018
Updated April 22, 2018

Change log:

  • Added more excerpts from log books.
  • Added excerpt from 1971 street map, showing more accurate street names and configurations.
  • Added section of fire department log book excerpts



  • Introduction
  • Summary Chart
  • Rioting in Raleigh
  • April 4 to April 12
  • Fire Department Notes
  • Fire Calls Research
  • Interactive Map
  • Street Map From 1971
  • Newspaper Front Pages
  • Stories Not Told
  • Sources


April 2018 marks a grim anniversary: fifty years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. He was shot at a motel in Memphis and pronounced dead at 6:05 p.m. EST.  Riots soon erupted across the state* and nation**. It was the greatest wave of social unrest in the United States since the Civil War, notes Wikipedia.

In Raleigh, rioting started a few hours after the announcement of Dr. King's death. It resulted in fires and property damage over a number of nights in south Raleigh. This page presents an overview of the emergency response to the riots and particularly about fire and police department activities.

*See this blog archives posting which recounts riot-related incidents faced by fire departments around the state and a subsequent state training curriculum that was created.

**Rioting impacted over 100 cities across the country between April and May 1968. Over 45 people were killed and over 2,500 people were injured. Over 15,000 people were arrested.

News & Observer, April 6, 1968

Summary Chart

View the chart

Rioting in Raleigh

Beginning on April 4, the Raleigh Fire Department responded to dozens of reported fires over several days, and most of which were intentionally set. They were assisted and protected by the Raleigh Police Department. Every available on- and off-duty officer was deployed, along with dozens of North Carolina state troopers, and other local law officers including Wake County deputies and state ABC officers. The North Carolina National Guard also responded, with 1,200 soldiers eventually patrolling city streets.

Daily curfews were enacted and enforced until April 10.* The city also declared a state of emergency, which prohibited the sale of firearms and ammunition, and prohibited parades and demonstrations. It ended April 12. The Governor also enacted a statewide ban on selling alcoholic beverages. It ended on April 11.

Four days after the violence started, City Council adopted a special ordinance aimed at arsonists. Making or possessing fire bombs, or the materials to make them, was made illegal. Violations were punishable by $50 fine and thirty days in jail. They also increased the reward amount from $500 to $1000, for information leading to arrest and conviction of anyone setting a fire in Raleigh.

Some 350 or more people were arrested through April 13, for curfew violations and other charges relating to the rioting and destruction of property.**

*Curfews were enacted statewide, in cities and towns including Cary, Charlotte, Concord, Durham, Farmville, Franklinton, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Lexington, New Bern, Plymouth, Wake Forest, and Wilmington.

**Reported arrest totals included 293 (as of April 8) and 333 (as of April 9). However. as of April 13, one newspaper reported a total of 266 arrests. Were the totals revised downward? Did they mean 366 arrests? Did they mean curfew violations only? To be determined. 

News & Observer photos

April 4 to April 12

April 4 - Thursday Night


At about 9:15 p.m. on Thursday night, a group of 50 to 75 black students from Shaw University started marching north on Fayetteville Street. They were chanting and yelling and marched "some six to eight abreast." They smashed store windows, shattered windows of passing cars, and overturned automobiles at the Harmon Motor Company.

Police officers confronted the rioters, using nightsticks and mace. They pushed the protestors back toward the university, while "rocks and bottles showered over the fence at police and bystanders." After a number of repeated confrontations, police pulled from the campus and reorganized.

They made plans to patrol the perimeter around the university. They cordoned off the area around the Shaw campus, and called the State Highway Patrol to reroute all northbound traffic into the city to Saunders Street, to keep vehicles off Wilmington Street. (Officials also considered cordoning off St. Augustine's College.)

After a lull of about 30 minutes--during which time Shaw President Dr. James E. Cheek was attempting to talk to the students in the school gym--they "poured out of the Shaw gymnasium" and into the nearby Weaver Brothers car lot around 10:45 p.m.*

"Autos in the lot were banged by the angry mob wielding iron pipes, steel fence posts, cement blocks, and sections of bed railing." Within minutes, "some 50 policemen armed with riot guns" lined South Street facing the campus. Another 50 were stationed at the Wilmington-South street intersection, at the car lot.

By 11:00 p.m., Police Chief Tom Davis had left the scene, and was planning to request the National Guard. By 11:15 a.m., the State Highway Patrol had placed another 20 troopers on scene. (By Friday, more than 50 were assigned to Raleigh.) Police officers were also posted at every entrance to City Hall, located at McDowell and Hargett streets, and admitted only those "who could prove they needed to enter the building on official business."

*Raleigh police officers did not respond onto the Shaw University campus. They let campus police handle all incidents at all the colleges.

Police activity:

By 10:00 p.m., the city's entire police force was called downtown, including off-duty members and some 15 auxiliary policemen fresh from a basic training course. By 11:25 p.m., when the Police Chief returned to the station, city department heads had started reporting to City hall, to "round up and dispense all vehicles normally assigned to their department."

State prison busses were brought to the police station for use as needed. By 10:30 p.m., one of the gray busses had been "battered." It was filled with "women prisoners who had been picked up from their place at work" and had been "mobbed by an angry group" of protestors.

A green truck carrying armaments and manned by a state trooper idled in front of City Hall. At 12:05 a.m. on Friday, a half-dozen troopers in riot helmets arrived to receive shot gun shells. "They departed to waiting patrol cars and drove off in the direction of downtown Raleigh."  (The city of Rocky Mount also "called to offer bright lights in areas where police deem them necessary.")

Noted one newspaper account, "reports coming in to the [police] dispatcher's office were short and to the point, and dispatchers had 'no time for simple questions'." They reported that "a thin trickle of Raleigh's white citizens came down to the police station. Some were confused, some just mad, as a harried cadet took reports of cars being attacked, windshields smashed with bricks, and side windows broken with rocks as they drove" past groups of protestors.

At 1:00 a.m. on Friday, the Mayor issued the proclamation of a curfew and state of emergency. Within another hour, "the streets of Raleigh were relatively quiet." At the police station, however, "radios were still crackling and local officers prepared to stick it out for the rest of a long night."

News & Observer, April 5, 1968

Major fire:

Fire destroyed the Raleigh Rescue Mission warehouse at Blount and Lee streets. Engine 2, Engine 3, and Truck 7 were dispatched at 11:48 p.m., for Box 224 at Blount and Lee streets. The one-story frame structure was used for storage and contained furniture, clothing, appliances, and other supplies. The burning building collapsed around midnight. Arson was suspected, as the fire was burning in three separate locations. Loss $45,500.

Fire also spread to a dwelling at 217 Lee Street. The one-story frame structure was damaged [destroyed?] with a $10,500 loss. Engine 1 was special called at 11:49 p.m. to assist with both fires. Car 4 requested Engine 10 and Truck 6 as relief companies at 4:12 a.m. On April 7, Engine 2 returned to the scene at 5:55 a.m. to extinguish smoldering debris.

Shaw University students helped extinguish the fire(s) on Lee Street. The warehouse fire also apparently "severed power lines" as the Shaw campus was "blacked out" after the fire.

Three young men, ages 18 to 20, were later arrested and charged with arson, with a fourth sought by the FBI. A night watchman in the building told police that he saw a group of "young Negro males" break through the front door, smash furniture, pour gasoline or kerosene over the floor, and set the building afire.

Run card:

Date Dispatched Alarm Received Unit Cleared
4/4 11:48 p.m. Box 224 E2, E3, T7 5:15 a.m.
4/4 11:49 p.m. Radio, Car 4 E1 1:35 a.m.
4/4 11:52 p.m. Box 234 Car 4 11:54 p.m.
4/5 4:12 a.m. Car 4 E10 T6 8:40 a.m.
4/7 5:55 a.m. Telephone E2 6:53 a.m.

April 5 - Friday Morning


  • 12:34 a.m. - 4/5/68 - Weaver Brothers Rambler - Fayetteville and South
    Engine 4 dispatched 12:34 a.m. as requested by Car 2. Three or four automobiles were burned on the car lot. Loss $550.
  • 1:58 a.m. - 4/5/68 - Dixie Motor Parts - 902 S. Wilmington Street
    Engine 1 and Engine 4 dispatched 1:58 a.m. Police reinforced firefighters, who were bombarded with rocks and other objects. Raleigh fireman H. K. Hodges was injured, struck in the head by a thrown rock. It struck "with enough force to split the helmet he was wearing and raise a big knot on his head." Another object "was pitched hard enough to knock the steps off a fire truck." Also injured was volunteer fireman Bobby Mitchell, who burned his left arm and hand at the fire. Building sustained a $1,000 loss. Started by fire bomb.

Fire bombs:

  • Midnight - 4/5/68 - A&P Grocery Store - 505 Newcombe Road
    Fire bomb was placed inside store, around midnight on Friday. Police answered a burglar alarm and officers found that a hole had been knocked in a window, and a fire bomb placed in a trash can filled with debris. They extinguished the fire before it could cause any damage to the store. Engine 4 responded at 12:05 a.m. by request of police.
  • 2:42 a.m. - 4/5/68 - Thomas Food Market - 602 E. Hargett Street
    The business was described as a "white-owned store." Not recorded as a fire call.
  • 9:00 a.m. - 4/5/68 - Thorne's Hardware Store - 416 W. South Street
    Thrown at building about 9:00 a.m. Police found that the bomb had "glanced off" the building, which had also "been hit at least twice by sniper's bullets." Officers were keeping a close watch on the building, because the inventory included "a veritable arsenal of firearms and weapons." Not recorded as a fire call.

Fire notes:

Reported the Raleigh Times that "a news reporter, surrounded by a few auxiliary policemen, regular policemen and state troopers waiting for further orders, commented on the glowing red sky to the southeast of Raleigh."

"'My God, they must be burning up Southside,' groaned a police sergeant. A half-block of South Blount Street and a couple of automobiles were on fire. It was minutes before the sirens sounded from Central Fire Station on Dawson Street.

Police activity:

Mayor Travis Tomlinson ordered a curfew for the entire city from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Friday, and declared the city in a state of emergency. The curfew prohibited the "sale of explosions, firearms, ammunition, gasoline, or intoxicating beverages."

Almost 1,200 National Guard members were called to Raleigh. The first alerts to members were made about 10:00 p.m. on Thursday. Guard members began arriving in Raleigh shortly after midnight on Friday morning. They began patrolling the streets at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, after city and guard officials conferred at 3:00 a.m.

Guard members were assigned to patrol the streets for two four-hour shifts each day. They also received two eight-hour off-duty shifts, though they remained on standby status.

At dusk, three platoons of soldiers, about 150 men, were stationed at places such as Memorial Auditorium across from Shaw University, the city water plant off South Wilmington Street, and Moore Square.

As of 1:00 a.m. on Friday, fourteen people had been treated at Rex and Wake Memorial hospitals for "injuries connected with the violence." Most were minor and only one was hospitalized overnight.

April 5 - Friday Afternoon


Noon time brought a peaceful march of singing and shouting down Fayetteville Street to Memorial Auditorium, with some 400 to 500 black students then marching in return to St. Augustine's College. That afternoon, large groups of demonstrators formed in two locations: New Bern Avenue at Tarboro Road (near St. Augustine's) and Wilmington and South streets (at Shaw University). Guard members and police officers were dispatched to both locations.

About 1:25 p.m. at Wilmington and South, some 30 soldiers with gas masks and "fixed bayonets" dispersed about 150 students from Shaw and St. Augustine's who were blocking traffic. They had formed "double rows" at the point where Highways 401, 70, and 50 were "funneled" into Wilmington Street at Memorial Auditorium.

After refusing to leave, the Guard members formed a skirmish line and advanced. Most demonstrators then sat down in the intersection. The soldiers fired four "tear gas shots," which sent the protestors running onto the Shaw campus. No injuries were observed except newsmen who got faces full of tear gas."*

Officials then talked with community leaders at the scene, and those leaders persuaded some of the other students who were "milling on the sidewalk" to move back onto the campus. By Friday afternoon, some 500 to 700 National Guardsmen had been deployed in the city.

Most incidents of "property damage, rock throwing, and apparent arson" centered around the area the Shaw campus, south of the auditorium. But "tension also mounted" around the St. Augustine's campus in east Raleigh.

*Guard members had been instructed to use "any force necessary" to stop looting and arson and "deadly force" against snipers.


County employees were released from work at 4:00 p.m., instead of 5:15 p.m. State employees were also released from their duties at 4:15 p.m., to help "cooperate fully" with the curfew. The federal courthouse also closed about 4:00 p.m.

Wesley Williams, manager of the Raleigh Merchants Bureau, told business owners to close at 5:30 p.m. and "forgo late night Friday hours" and regardless if a curfew was imposed.

News & Observer, April 6, 1968

Raleigh Times, April 5, 1968


  • 12:44 p.m. - 4/5/68 - Thomas Food Market - 602 E. Hargett Street
    Engine 10 dispatched 12:44 p.m. Grocery store fire. $400 damage. Caused by rioters.

Fire bombs:

  • 8:57 p.m. - 4/5/68 - Fire bomb in street - 416 W. South Street
    Engine 2 dispatched 8:57 p.m. Out on arrival.
    Note: Engine 2 log cites west South Street. Fire ledgers and Raleigh Times cite east South Street.
  • 10:15 p.m. - 4/5/68 - Joe Lowe's grocery -  Fayetteville Street near the Southern Railway crossing
    Tossed into the store about 10:15 p.m. Officers quickly extinguished the "kerosene bomb" and prevented damage. Not recorded as a fire call.


  • Police reported that relatively light damage occurred on Friday night. There were five vehicles damaged, three businesses with a broken window, one business broken into, and four people injured.
  • Four or five policemen were injured on Friday. The most seriously hurt was Officer Wade Sapp. He was riding his motorcycle and leading the student parade from St. Augustine's college when he was hit in the head by rocks thrown by the students. He was knocked from his motorcycle, and admitted to Rex Hospital with a possible concussion.

April 6 - Saturday

Raleigh Times, April 6, 1968


  • 5:07 a.m. - 4/6/68 - House - 116 Kipling Street
    Engine 7, Engine 3, Truck 7 dispatched at 5:07 a.m. Mattress and door burned.
  • 11:50 a.m. - 4/6/68 - House - 905 Williamston Street
    Engine 6 dispatched at 11:50 a.m. Grease fire on stove.
  • 7:50 p.m. - 4/6/68 - House, vacant - 515 S. West Street
    Engine 1, Engine 2, Truck 6 dispatched 7:50 p.m. as reported by police. Engine 5 (8:05 p.m.), Engine 2 (12:46 p.m.), Engine 1 (8:23 a.m.) returned for reports of smoldering debris.

Police activity:

  • A total 1,340 members of the National Guard were assigned to the Raleigh area, reported the newspapers, an increase of yesterday's estimated 700 men. The Guard members were used to "saturate downtown Raleigh." This also freed city police, county sheriff's officers, and state troopers to man "roving patrol" cars. Some of the patrols were designated for Cameron Village, North Hills, and other shipping areas. All city- and county-owned vehicles "normally not used for police work were pressed into service."
  • Additional police equipment had been brought to Raleigh [either Friday or Saturday] by the Air National Guard from Lexington, KY, and consisted of two mobile searchlights mounted on vehicles.
  • Between 5:00 p.m. Friday night and 6:00 a.m. Saturday, 51 people were arrested, 46 for violating the curfew. Magistrate Brooks Poole told the Raleigh Times that those arrested for curfew violations "were placed under $25 bond which could not be posted until 6:00 a.m." that morning. They were "released under [their own] recognizance" and allowed to post their own bonds.
  • Saturday night was quiet for police activity, perhaps "imposed to a great extent by the driving rain." One car collision was reported at 11:47 p.m. The yellow taxi was "forced from the road" by a "group of Negro men." It crashed into a parked car. The driver was taken to Wake Memorial Hospital and listed in satisfactory condition.


  • A new city ordinance also took effect on Saturday, prohibiting demonstrations and parades on the city's "public ways."
  • Another curfew was planned for Saturday night. Noted the Mayor, it was citywide and "allows a minimum of movement of people in and out of the city. Primary, only health personnel such as doctors and nurses are permitted free movement." Also all stores, restaurants, and business were closed during the curfew. "Basically, he explained, it means stay at home."
  • C. C. Thorne, the owner of Thorne's Hardware and Sporting Goods on South Street, told the Raleigh Times that no ammunition nor firearms were stored in his store. He contradicted a report that the store was being "watched closely" because it was an "arsenal of firearms." They returned their stock to their suppliers and finished the packing and shipping on Friday morning.

April 7 - Sunday

Major fire:

Fire destroyed Green Brothers Seed Company warehouse at 1431 S. Blount Street. Dispatched 4:38 p.m. for Engine 2, Engine 3, and Truck 7. The one-story building measured 220 by 110 feet with 24,200 square-feet of floor space. The building was filled with lawn, garden, and field seed. (This was the company's busy time of year.) Fire also spread to tractor-trailer trucks at the R-C Motor Lines yard next door. Flames and heat also damaged the state-owned Textile Research Services building at 1501 S. Blount Street. 

Flames also threatened "two large and highly explosive chemical tanks" at the Ralston Purina Company plant on the west side of Blount Street. Police and National Guard closed Wilmington Street at South Street to keep people away from the blaze. Some of the 3,330 people attending the memorial services at Memorial Auditorium tried going to the fire, after the service.

The fire resulted in a $450,000 loss. Arson was suspected as the company manager noted that no electricity was in the building. He had entered the building at 4:00 p.m. and saw smoke. He told reporters that he wasn't surprised by the fire. "I had a man staked out in the building all Friday night."

Wayne Upchurch (left) and News & Observer (middle, right) photos

Raleigh Times, April 8, 1968

Run card:

Date Dispatched Alarm Received Unit Cleared
4/7 4:38 p.m. Telephone E2, E3, T7 8:15 p.m.
4/7 4:46 p.m. Radio E1 8:20 p.m.
4/7 5:06 p.m. Radio E5 8:08 p.m.
4/7 7:22 p.m. Radio T6 12:05 a.m.
4/7 7:32 p.m. Radio E4 12:20 a.m.
4/7 11:50 p.m. Car 2 E7 7:00 a.m.
4/8 8:02 a.m. Chief Puryear E7 12:39 p.m.
4/8 12:21 p.m. Chief Godwin E2 2:30 p.m.
4/9 4:28 a.m. Police telephone E2 4:50 a.m.
4/10 10:29 a.m. Telephone E2 10:58 a.m.
4/11 6:53 p.m. Telephone E2 9:40 p.m.

Fire bombs:

  • 8:50 p.m. - 4/7/68 - M and H Grocerteria - 620 W. South Street
    Thrown onto building at 8:50 p.m. Building suffered minor damage to the roof. "The bomb burned itself out before firemen arrived." Engine 1 dispatched 8:51 p.m. Arrived 8:55 p.m. Cleared 9:01 p.m.
  • 9:25 p.m. - 4/7/68 - Jeffrey's Grocery - 500 E. Martin Street
    "Molotov cocktail pitched into [the store]." Extinguished without serious damage. First of two bombs thrown at the building. Engine 3 dispatched 9:26 p.m. Arrived 9:27 p.m. Cleared 9:31 p.m.
  • 9:45 p.m. - 4/7/68 - Jeffrey's Grocery - 500 E. Martin Street
    Extinguished without serious damage. Fire department response (if any) not recorded.
  • 9:45 p.m. - 4/7/68 - Playboy Club - 410 S. East Street
    Thrown into club at 9:45 p.m. Someone inside the club threw the bomb back outside before "any more than slight damaged occurred." Engine 3 dispatched 9:47 p.m. Arrived 9:49 p.m. Cleared 9:55 p.m.

Bomb threat:

The 3:30 p.m. memorial service at Memorial Auditorium was interrupted by a bomb threat. It was received about five minutes after the service started, as telephoned "through the fire department switchboard." The Mayor ordered a search of the building basement as soon as he received word of the threat. He also informed the event speakers "so they could 'step up their speeches'."

Though no bomb was found in the basement, he had the building evacuated as a precaution. "'We realized that there was still a possibility that a bomb could have been brought by someone in the audience who could have left it next to his seat and then department."

Over 3,000 attendees were evacuated and the service continued on the lawn. Police and fire officials found no bomb anywhere in the building.*

*Numerous bomb threats were reported at schools and other facilities during the week. Note: Fire department responses to bomb threats were not recorded in the Daily Report of Fires.

Police activity:

  • Between 7:00 p.m. Saturday and 7:00 a.m. Sunday, there were 89 arrests, 74 for curfew violations.
  • Reported the Raleigh Times, "police had a breather [Sunday] morning. From 6:33 a.m. until 9:58 a.m., there were no calls except those from car to car."
  • In addition to the four fire bombs, two incidents of property damage were reported Sunday night. Bricks were thrown through the windows of the Red and White Grocery on Fayetteville Street and Thomas Food Market on Hargett Street.
  • One officer was injured, D. W. Martin "of the investigative division." He answered a "fight call" and suffered an injured leg and torn clothing while attempting to arrest a man. He was treated and released at Rex Hospital.

April 8 - Monday

Forty fires had been reported by midday on Monday, Fire Chief Jack Keeter told a newspaper. Most were blamed on fire bombs or other deliberate acts.

Arrests continued during curfew hours. Police arrested 20 people overnight.

Also overnight, police had checked out some 57 reports, including "rank and file traffic reports and disturbances, suspicious people and reported 'gatherings' of groups of people during curfew hours." Also, numerous gunshots were reported to be heard, and police found only one to be "founded." From 2:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday morning, "conditions were completely quiet."

Raleigh Times - April 8, 1968

April 9 - Tuesday

Major fire:

Fire destroyed an apartment building under construction in the 700 block of St. Mary's Street. Dispatched at 6:15 p.m. for Engine 5, Engine 1, and Truck 6. Original address was 740 E. Smallwood Drive. Engine 5 was first-arriving. Four-person crew. They used two 2 1/2-inch lines off their engine. Engine 1 brought a feeder line to Engine 5, and Engine 6 boosted the pumping from the Ligon Building on St. Mary's Street. Engine 6 used 1,150 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and pumped for 300 minutes.

The Shamrock Apartments "were bounded" by the Broughton High School gym, the Raleigh Apartments, and Wedgewood Apartments. The fire destroyed one of two buildings under construction. Loss $100,000. The units were within three weeks of completion. Each contained 16 individual apartments. Fire was investigated as a possible arson, as no electricity was present, no welding was being done, and no other type of fire was being used inside the building. The flames had also spread rapidly and had "enveloped the building within five minutes after it was discovered."

Run card:
Date Dispatched Alarm Received Unit Cleared
4/9 6:15 p.m. Telephone E5, E1, T6 8:53 p.m.
4/9 6:20 p.m. Radio E4, T5 8:25 p.m.
4/9 6:30 p.m. Radio E6, R1 12:37 a.m.

Bomb threat:

The Rex Hospital nurse's home on St. Mary's Street received a telephoned threat about 9:15 p.m. About 75 student nurses, resident staff members, and house mothers were evacuated after a female caller reported that a bomb had been planted in the building. No bomb was found after a search by police, firemen, and National Guardsmen.

Alcohol ban:

The Raleigh Times reported that the statewide alcoholic beverage ban has had a "profound effect" on the workload of the emergency room at Wake Memorial Hospital. Said one official, the hospital handled only one "act of violence" during the past weekend. Normally, the emergency room would handle 18 to 20
stabbings or other injuries resulting from "altercations in which drinking was involved." It also noted that Rabbis in the state have appealed to the Governor for temporary suspension of the ban, so Jews can buy Kosher wine for their ritual Passover meals. One Raleigh rabbi estimates that there are around 9,000 Jews who will need four cups of wine each.

April 10 - Wednesday

No fires and no firebombs were reported in the city during Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

No further curfews were enacted after Wednesday night.

The only reported property damage overnight was a broken door at the ABC store on New Bern Avenue. It was reported at 10:18 p.m. Tuesday. No sign of entry or damage to goods was observed. After a morning inventory, three cases of bourbon were discovered missing.

April 11 - Thursday

State ban on alcohol sales ended.

Last of National Guard troops were released Thursday night. Some 4,637 troops were activated "to help quell rioting" in six cities. Another 3,911 Guardsmen were on standby duty at local armories around the state.

April 12 - Friday

City state of emergency discontinued. Two bans were lifted: prohibiting sales of firearms and ammunition, and prohibiting parades and demonstrations.

Rewards remained in effect for information about arsonists and persons "perpetrating bomb hoaxes." The rewards were good until May 31.

Fire Department Notes

Off-Duty Called

Two companies of off-duty firefighters were activated during the riot, Chief Keeter told the Raleigh Times. Each consisted of five firemen. One was activated on Thursday night, April 4, when the Raleigh Rescue Mission burned. "We were running all over the city" for actual fires and false alarms, he said.

Another was activated a week later, for the fire at the Shamrock Apartments on April 11. They staffed a reserve pumper. What about overtime pay, asked the paper? Chief Keeter said he'd "include the overtime work in a report to the city manager." After that, any overtime pay was "up to him and the discretion of the City Council."

From Friday night forward, the fire companies had protection from the National Guard. [ Need details. Did they get escorts?] Also, three active firemen "had to leave their jobs" to report for Guard duty. "No real emergency point" was reached, however, noted Chief Keeter. There were enough available personnel for the volume of fire calls.

Chief Keeter also assisted with answering calls on the first night. On Thursday, April 4, at 11:58 p.m., Chief Keeter was called or marked en route to Station 1, to assist with calls. He arrived at 12:10 a.m. and cleared at 5:25 a.m.

Log Book Entries

Select entries from the fire department log books, related to operations, activities, and incidents that week:

  • 4/4 - Sta 3 - 0800 - Roll call – Joe Ray off on K day.
  • 4/4 - Sta 4 - 0800 - Roll Call – Watkins K. day off – N. E. Conyers working relief, Griffin sent to Station 9 to fill in; Hodges & Griffin back from Vacation.
  • 4/4 - Sta 5 - 0800 - Roll call. C. J. Stephenson [with] K.D., Adams and Gill back off vacation.
  • 4/4 - Sta 6 - 0800 - Roll call. J. R. Foy has Keeter day. J. R. Marshburn out sick.
  • 4/4 - Sta 4 - 0830 - Sunshine laundry picked up 10 sheets, 11 pillow cases, and 17 towels.
  • 4/4 - Sta 6 - 1000 - Mowed lawn.
  • 4/4 - Sta 2 - 1831 - Responded to 1100 blk. Fay. St. Grass fire. No damage. C. R. Boseman, R. S. Moody, K. R. Lane, R. Davis.
  • 4/4 - Sta 3 - 2202 - Box 143 – Fisher & Booker – False alarm
  • 4/4 - Sta 2 - 2225 - Responded Box 243 – Bloodworth & South – False - C. R. Boseman, Moody, Lane, Davis
  • 4/4 - Sta 3 - 2236 - Box 241 – Martin & State – 10-97 11:38 p.m. – False alarm
  • 4/4 - Sta 2 - 2348 - Responded Box 224 – Blount & Lee – Raleigh Rescue Mission Warehouse – Blount Street – Damage unestimated - C. R. Boseman, Moody, Lane, Davis.
  • 4/5 - Sta 3 - 0412 - Eng 10 went to S. Blount to release men at scene of warehouse fire.
  • 4/5 - Sta 6 - 0413 - Truck #6 goes to Blount & Lee to relieve Truck #7 at Rescue Mission Warehouse. Box 224
  • 4/5 - Sta 3 - 0800 - G. Godwin called in to National Guard.
  • 4/5 - Sta 3 - 0855 - Eng 3 responded to telephone call to Ambassador Theater with Hamilton, Chappell, Boyette, Bradford, Grice, found call to be false.
  • 4/5 - Sta 3 - 0930 - Sent to Station 3 to relieve men who had been fighting fire were Capt. Frazier, Partin, Gates [?], Whittington, Giles [?] to ride Eng 3. Boyette stayed on duty. Capt. Hamtilon, Chappell, Bradford went home to return at 6:00 p.m.
  • 4/5 - Sta 4 - 1205 - Eng 4 ans. call to 505 Newcombe Rd. A&P Food Store. Investigate riot damage. Damage unestimated. 12:13 a.m. Eng. 4 10-8.
  • 4/5 - Sta 4 - 1234 - Eng. 4 ans. call to Wilming. & South St. Weaver Bro. used car lot. 10-97 at 12:37 a.m. Auto on fire set by rioters. 1964 Ford. Total loss. Extinguished with booster hose. 10-8 at 12:55 a.m.
  • 4/5 - Sta 3 - 1244 - Eng 10 responded to telephone call to 602 E. Hargett St. with Hamilton, Chappell, Bradford, M. King, B. King found fire in rear of Thomas Grocery Store. Extinguished with booster. Damage unestimated. Cause set afire by party unknown.
  • 4/5 - Sta 2 - 17:15 - Reported 10-8 - Also house burned 217 Lee Street – Howard Thomas owner – House complete loss – Value _____ - Contents ______
  • 4/5 - Sta 4 - 1800 - W. S. Griffin work at fire station #4 from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. for help to #4 Co.
  • 4/5 - Sta 2 - 1900 - Returned to quarters – Fire bomb in street – [Security] officer O. C. Pratt had fire out on arrival.
  • 4/6 - Sta 2 - 0805 - Tested radio – OK – William Glover working 24 hrs. this station. J. M. Smith called to active duty with Nat’l Guard.
  • 4/6 - Sta 3 - 1941 - Tel. call to 900 blk. of Wilmington Terrace. Dumpster. No damage. 10-97 7:47 p.m.
  • 4/6 - Sta 2 - 1950 - Responded tele – 515 S. West – Look [to report from] Engine 1 – C. R. Boseman, R. S. Moody, Ken Lane, W. M. Glover – C. R. Boseman hurt left knew.
  • 4/7 - Sta 2 - 0555 - Responded tel. 900 S. Blount – Wet down burned out building – no damage – Boseman, Moody, Lane, Glover
  • 4/7 - Sta 6 - 0800 - Roll call. R. D. Truelove K-day, J. T. Ward working relief, L. W. Beck K-day, J. M. Dew vacation.
  • 4/7 - Sta 6 - 0900 - Eng 6 & Truck 6 went to Station 5 for Sunday School.
  • 4/7 - Sta 2 - 1157 - Tel. call on railroad track between Lake Wheeler and Kirkland Road – With W. R. Mabry, J. E. Carroll, R. J. Upchurch, C. B. Edwards, W. J. Sykes – Woods fire, no damage.
  • 4/7 - Sta 2 - 1638 - Tel. call [to] 1431 S. Blount St. – With Mabry, Carroll, Upchurch, Edwards, Stanley, Sykes – One warehouse burn down and two adjoining bldg. caught fire – Damage estimated
  • 4/7 - Sta 5 - 1706 - Eng 5 ans. to 1431 S. Blount St. With Hailey, May, Mitchell, Moore. Carried in two 2 1/2” lines off Eng. 1 at the corner of City Farm Rd. & Blount St. Placed lines into Research Lab adjoining 1431 S. Blount St.
  • 4/7 - Sta 4 - 1932 - Engine Co. 4 went to 1431 South Blount St., Partin, Burchette, Hunnicutt, Roy Moody, Harry Mimms.
  • 4/7 - Sta 3 - 2126 - Eng 3 responded to telephone call at Martin & East with Hamilton, Chappell, Boyette, Tuttle, Bradford. Found where fire bomb had been thrown at Jeffers Store. Minor damage. Out on arrival.
  • 4/7 - Sta 3 - 2147 - Eng 3 responded to telephone call at 410 S. East St. with Hamilton, Chappell, Boyette, Tuttle, Bradford. Found where fire bomb had been thrown through window. Extinguished with booster. Minor damage.
  • 4/7 - Sta 3 - 2215 - Eng 3 responded to Box 247, Hightower & Coleman with Hamilton, Chappell, Boyette, Tuttle, Bradford. Found Box 247 to be false.
  • 4/7 - Sta 3 - 2219 - Eng 3 returned to quarters after responding to Box 247.
  • 4/8 - Sta 6 - 0722 - Truck 6 went to 1431 Blount Street. Green Seed Co. to relieve Truck 7.
  • 4/8 - Sta 2 - 0805 - Tested radio OK – J. M. Smith called up by Natl Guard
  • 4/8 - Sta 5 - 0942 - Eng 5 to #8 Station to help clean up hose.
  • 4/8 - Sta 4 - 1030 - Hodges went to store.
  • 4/8 - Sta 4 - 1050 - Hodges returned to quarters.
  • 4/8 - Sta 2 - 1221 - Responded tel. 1400 blk S. Blount – Wet down previous fire – C. R. Boseman, Moody, Gill, Davis.
  • 4/9 - Sta 2 - ??38 - Responded tel. 1400 blk S. Blount St – Wet down previous fire – Boseman, Gill, Moody, Davis.
  • 4/9 - Sta 5 - 0800 - Roll call – D. F. Gay (out sick), Capt. Wall & W. L. Mitchell (KD). P. H. Perry off duty (National Guard). Capt. House (relief).
  • 4/9 - Sta 4 - 1432 - Eng 4 answered telephone call to 2709 Kittrell Dr. with Capt. Godwin, Partin, Burchette, Thornton. 1959 Volkswagon on fire inside. Used booster to extinguish. 10-97 2:46 p.m. 10-8 3:20 p.m. Back in station 3:25 p.m. Damage unestimated. Volks belong to [name, address, license plate].
  • 4/9 - Sta 5 - 1815 - Eng 5. Ans. to Raleigh Apts. Annex in rear 700 St. Marys. Apt. building destroyed. Used two 2 1/2” lines off Eng 5. Eng. 1 brought in feeder for our pump. Eng 6 boosted pump at Ligon Bldg. on St. Marys. Damage unestimated. With Hailey, May, Hicks, Moore.
  • 4/9 - 6 - 1815 - Truck #6 responded to Cameron St. Fire in new apt. bldg.. Complete loss.
  • 4/9 - Sta 4 - 1820 - #4 responded on 2nd alarm to rear of 700 St. Mary’s Street with Capt. Godwin, Partin, Burchette, Thornton. (Look to Eng #5)
  • 4/9 - Sta 5 - 1820 - Truck 5 responded to above alarm by radio with J. W. House, M. J. Frazier, Price [?]. Charlie Bradshaw responded to call off-duty. All personnel from Truck 5 were used to move a 2 1/2” hand line off Eng. 5.
  • 4/9 - Sta 2 - 1830 - 1830 Responded by tel. [to] 1111 Walnut Terrace with W. R. Mabrey, J. E. Carroll, R. I. Upchurch, C. B. Edwards, R. A. Stanley.
  • 4/9 - Sta 6 - 1830 - Eng 6 responded to radio alarm on Cameron St. Used 1150 feet 2 1/2” hose. Pump time 300 min. Look to Eng #5.
  • 4/9 - Sta 4 - 2030 - #4 filled in at Sta #6.
  • 4/9 - Sta 4 - 2130 - #4 returned to quarters. Reload 2 1/2 hose, 1,400 feet at #1.
  • 4/10 - Sta 2 - 1029 - Responded Tel. 1400 block S. Blount St. – Wet down previous fire – C. R. Boseman, Moody, Lane, Davis
  • 4/10 - Sta 4 - 1215 - Jones went to Drs. to get a shot.
  • 4/10 - Sta 4 - 1240 - Jones returned to quarters.
  • 4/10 - Sta 6 - 1500 - Received 27 sections of wet hose.
  • 4/10 - Sta 3 - 1809 - Tel. call to 732 St. George Rd. 10-97 – 6:14 p.m. Gas fire, out on arrival, no damage. Kids playing.
  • 4/11 - Sta 3 - 0808 - Received new lawn mower this date.
  • 4/11 - Sta 5 - 1135 - Auto brought to fire station with back seat on fire. Ext. with bucket of water. Car belong to [owner name, address, license tag]. Corvair auto.
  • 4/11 - Sta 5 - 1725 - Eng 5 ans. tel. call to Raleigh apt annex. Insulation boards burning. Used booster to ext. With Walker, Dixon, T. A. Stephenson, Adams.
  • 4/11 - Sta 2 - 1853 - Engine 2 responded to tel call at 1431 S. Blount with T. W. House, Carroll, Upchurch, Edwards, and Stanley. Found trash burning from warehouse fire. Used booster [one] hour. No further damage.
  • 4/11 - Sta 2 - 2000 - Received call by radio to go to Blount & Lee, found trash burning there. Used 5 sec. 2 1/2” hose, 150 feet of 1 1/2” hose, 1 hour 10 min, used booster, and two hand lights, short pike pole.

Station 2

In 1968, Fire Station 2 was located in the rear of Memorial Auditorium. (It would be relocated one year later to Pecan Road, a more strategically located site about a mile south.) Their fire station was located just a couple blocks from where the riots started, and the members of Engine 2 took personal precautions while on duty. They moved their personal vehicles inside the station to prevent vandalism, for example.

Retired members recall answering a lot of the calls without any police or National Guard escort and "definitely without a chief's car in sight." One adds, "one morning I came to work and [a soldier] had someone spread eagle in the middle of the street beside the fire station."

News & Observer photo

Fire Calls Research

View chart (pdf) comparing data from the fire department and the Raleigh Times.

View compiled Raleigh Times data:

Interactive Map

View interactive map

Street Map From 1971

Newspaper Front Pages

Stories Not Told

There are many other stories that were told, in the coverage of these events, as reported by the News & Observer and Raleigh Times. Such as calls for peace and unity from local leaders. As well as their requests for reducing the presence of police and soldiers. Reactions to the death of Dr. King were prominent in stories during those first few days. Economic impact from the curfew was covered, as were the effects of the alcohol ban. There were personal stories of National Guard members, and even their wives. And more.


  • Raleigh city directories
  • Raleigh Fire Department records.
  • News & Observer (N&O) stories
  • Raleigh Times (RT) stories
  • Wikipedia, "King Assassination Riots"

Newspaper articles:

  • April 5 - N&O - "Negro Riot Brings Curfew in Raleigh"
  • April 5 - N&O - "A Riot Has an Ugly Face"
  • April 5 - RT - "Curfew to Be Here Again Tonight"
  • April 5 - RT - "Part of Raleigh Was No Man's Land As Word Spread"
  • April 5 - RT - "City Police Quick to React"
  • April 6 - N&O - "N.C. Guard, Curfew Curb Raleigh "“ Tear Gas Used on Mob"
  • April 6 - N&O - "Moore Halts Liquor Sales; King's Death Called Cruel"
  • April 6 - N&O - "Singing Negro Students March Here"
  • April 6 - N&O - "City Takes Steps to Curb Violence"
  • April 6 - N&O - "Guardsmen Got Little Sleep"
  • April 6 - RT - "Curfew Here Again Tonight"
  • April 6 - RT - "Damage Was Light"
  • April 6 - RT - "Raleigh Business Hurt by Tension"
  • April 6 - RT - "The Calls Came, Came and Came"
  • April 7 - N&O - "Rioting Brings N.C. Guard"
  • April 7 - N&O - "Scattered Incidents Mark Quiet Here"
  • April 8 - N&O - "Warehouse Burns in Raleigh; Curfew is Imposed"
  • April 8 - N&O - "N.C. Guard Sees Duty in 6 Cities"
  • April 8 - N&O - "Bomb Hoax Interrupts Services"
  • April 8 - N&O - "White Students' March Halted; Moore Aide Presented Petition"
  • April 8 - RT - "Curfew Continues"
  • April 8 - RT - "Embers Still Smolder"
  • April 8 - RT - "Curfew Hitting Raleigh Purses"
  • April 9 - N&O - "City Takes Steps To Curb Violence"
  • April 9 - N&O - "4,300 N.C. Guardsmen on Duty"
  • April 9 - N&O - "Damage Reports Pile Up"
  • April 9 - N&O - "Business Hurt by Curfews"
  • April 9 - RT - "Those Who Nip Would Settle for a Drop"
  • April 9 - RT - "Curfew Again Tonight"
  • April 9 - RT - "Ban Draw Reactions"
  • April 9 - RT - "All Quiet on Raleigh Front"
  • April 10 - N&O - "Loss Placed at $200,000 In Apartments Fire Here"
  • April 10 - N&O - "Curfew Hours Cut by Raleigh Mayor"
  • April 10 - RT - "Curfew is Lifted"
  • April 10 - RT - "Firemen Probe Apartment Fire"
  • April 10 - RT - "'I'm Not Angry With Anyone'"
  • April 10 - RT - "Police Arrest 29 Last Night"
  • April 11 - N&O - "Fire Probed For Arson"
  • April 11 - N&O - "Some Curfews Are Lifted"
  • April 11 - RT - "Raleigh Firemen Held Own"
  • April 12 - N&O - "N.C. Guardsmen Return to Homes"
  • April 12 - N&O  - "Imbibers Toast End of Booze Ban"
  • April 13 - N&O - "Three Charged Here With Warehouse Fire"
  • April 13 - N&O - "Emergency Declared At End Here"


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