The tornadoes that swept through White County in 1952 caused one of worst disasters in Arkansas history. Judsonia was struck the hardest. Among the community’s 1,100 residents was former editor William Ewing Orr. His description of the storm is the most vivid first-person account written. Following is an excerpt from “That’s Judsonia,” a book published in 1957 by Orr, who later served two terms as president of the White County Historical Society. Two years before his death in 1997, he told a local historian that the following description was still hard for him to read because of the tragic memories involved.
Fate is the prankster-playwright. It made Joan of Arc out of a peasant maid; it selected an unknown Austrian paper-hanger to bathe the world in blood. It has created comedy & tragedy with equal skill & impartiality, and its scenes have been even more unpredictable than its characters.
Fate had planned a new production that night of March 20, 1952. It had selected a villain whose fury & strength dwarfed the puny powers of the little people who stood in its way.
"We will give them one weapon to oppose this monster," said Fate. "We will give them courage."
So, with the whole nation as an audience, the curtain was raised, and there was Judsonia!
Time: March 21, 1952
________ ________ ________
There are those days when men arise in the morning knowing that history is in the making. In others destiny explodes without warning. March 21, 1952, belonged to the latter classification.
That Friday was drab & colorless all through the morning and afternoon. Clouds filled the sky & the sun made only short & infrequent appearances. Of those who thought about the weather, perhaps the high school juniors & seniors were the most concerned. The annual Junior-Senior banquet was to be held that night. A group of younger students watched the clouds with interest, too. The 6th grade softball team was to play Morris School For Boys in the afternoon. All year they had been crowded out by the schedules of the older competitors. Today was their day - they were going to represent Judsonia High School.
There wasn't much that was new in the Little Rock papers. The evening Democrat arrived. The Korean truce negotiations were still deadlocked - General MacArthur was coming to Little Rock Sunday - a probe of the state highway operations had been opened by the Pulaski Grand Jury. A Democrat editorial writer had selected that day to speak a good word for the place of winds in the scheme of things, under the head, "The Winds Have Made Arkansas". The weather report was at the lower right hand corner of the front page. Judsonia readers gave it a casual glance.
"For Arkansas - Mostly cloudy this afternoon, tonight & Saturday. Occasional thundershowers this afternoon & tonight. Colder tonight & Saturday."
By the time most of the subscribers had read their papers the ball game on the school campus was over. The 6th graders were jubilant. Led by Edward Chapman, 12, they had defeated the Morris youngsters. Young Chapman had pitched the game & he had done a nice job of it. The sky in the southwest & west was getting darker now. Brother Cyprian Hill hustled his charges into the big, yellow academy bus & started back to Morris. The spectators & the Judsonia players hurried a little faster than usual on the way to their homes.
Down in the business district Judsonians were still unconcerned. Glenn D. Young had completed his work at the bank & stopped in at Mrs. W. H. L. Woodyard's before going across Judson Ave. to his home. He & Gypsy Woodyard had been married a month before. After visiting with his wife & mother-in-law for a time, he strolled across the street to where his sister, Mrs. Myrtle Parker, was talking to Mrs. Claude Marsh of Searcy. He jokingly gave the car a shake as he went by, and pointed out the gathering clouds to the women. Mrs. Marsh drove off to Searcy, and the others, now joined by Mrs. Park's son, Ralph, who had been at the ball game, went into the house. Inside the Young living room, Glenn D. lay down on a couch to rest. His mother, Mrs. T. H. Young, sat in her wheel chair, where she was recovering from a broken hip. Wayne, Ralph's brother, was also at home.
In Roy McAdams' barber shop John Jordon sat down in a chair for a hair cut. It was a new shop, set up in one of the buildings on the east side of the business block between Jefferson & Madison Streets. Mr. McAdams had lost his place of business by fire only 4 months before, when his shop was ignited from the old Eastland Pharmacy blaze. Mr. Jordan watched the clouds as the clippers hummed around his head. Finally he decided that he had better not wait until the work was completed. Hastily he paid Mr. McAdams & rushed out the door to his car.
Around 5:25 o'clock Ernest Abraham, working at Howard McInturff's filling station, remembered that he had to take some groceries home for supper. On his way down the street to Harvey Holme's Grocery he glanced in the pool room, where several players were happily engaged in tests of their skill & repartee. Across the street, 2 or 3 of Mrs. Allen Brown's lunch car customers were having their evening meal. It was sprinkling as he made his way to the store, and, as he waited for Mr. Holmes to wait on Bernice Roth, the rain started falling in sheets. It came down so hard that drivers parked their cars & waited. Ray Parish, ready for the Junior-Senior banquet, stopped his truck in front of the Beals building. L. E. DeLaney was on he inside of the building, getting ready to close up the shop for the day. At 5:54 (this was to be verified by the much-photographed Briggs-Kinney electric clock) the lights went out.
Then, in a few minutes, Judsonia heard the roaring ------------------------------.
Wayne Parker heard it, and thought it was a diesel railroad engine. He left the other members of his family in the front room of the Young house, and went to a back window to see if he could see a train over the tracks. It was too dark, however. Ernest Abraham & Bernice Roth talked about it as they stood in Harvey Holmes' Grocery. Ernie said it was a train. Bernice shook his head ----- no, it wasn't a train................
And suddenly it was on the town ------ howling like a multitude of madmen; covering its feeble opposition in the fury of its din; sucking the giant oaks up by the roots & sending them sprawling with crashes which were not to be heard above the bellowing of the ten thousand demons seemingly unleashed at the end of the world. Brick buildings disintegrated from the pressure of their interiors, and settled as do the little mud houses children make & then destroy with the touch of their hands. Frame dwellings separated piece by piece. Each board became a part of the deadly barrage of planks & bricks, which whistled like bullets through houses still on their foundations.
Ivy Johnson had joined the three in the Holmes store as soon as the lights went out. Suddenly the glass in all the windows shattered. Ivy went out the door. They saw him enveloped in a cloud of inky blackness, much as if someone had showered him with a tub of soot. The building began to shake. Mr. Holmes dived under the meat block.
"We've got to get out of here," Ernie shouted to Bernice. It was strange that they could hear each other even though they seemed to be buried in noise. Abraham pulled the door open. Roth grasped the back of Ernie's coat in both hands. To their horror they saw Waller's store, directly across the street, crumble into a pile of broken bricks & concrete. A sign, fully 5 feet long, came hurtling up the street & struck Abraham in the chest. Then, like an animated object in a movie cartoon, it instantly changed its course & sailed out of sight over the top of the two-story Farmers & Merchants Bank. Bernice, yelling above the storm, asked Ernie if he had been hurt. Ernie screamed back that he didn't think so. They grabbed the power line pole, only to have it sucked from their grasp & vanish. Then Ernie saw the hydrant. They fell toward it grasping it with all their strength. As they hugged their stubby haven what was left of the Holmes building fell over them. Ernie heard Roth say that he thought his back was broken.
They could not have known as they lay there of all of the others within a few feet of them who had had parts in Fate's three-minute tragedy. They did not know that the old Electric Theatre part of the Beals building's second floor had fallen on Ray Parish's car, killing the boy who had been on his way to the banquet ---- that Mr. & Mrs. Billy Waller & their two children were under the store they had seen collapse ---- that Dr. & Mrs. Felts were injured & imprisoned in the wreckage next door to Waller's ---- that the bank was down ---- that Mr. DuLaney and his daughter had watched Mrs. DuLaney come to the window of the store, wave to them & then die as the building fell in on her. They did not know that the pool hall players had been saved as the sturdy legs of the tables defied the weight of the debris that piled over them ---- that Ivy Johnson had miraculously walked through the storm across Jefferson Street to the Bus Station Cafe, where he crouched under the brick concrete counter with the others who were there ---- that all up & down Main Street men & women, who a few minutes before had only been concerned with the little tasks of a routine day, were now hurt & dying under the scattered ruins of their town. They did not know these things because their world was reduced to two inhabitants, themselves ---- and a cold but immovable fire hydrant that represented all the safety left in a town gripped by a nightmare.
At that moment Ralph Parker lay pinned between a washing machine & an icebox, with the wreckage of the Young home piled around him. It was only three minutes before that Glenn D. had risen from his couch. Mr. Young had made a habit all through his life of combing his hair immediately after getting up from either a night's sleep or a short rest. Perhaps it was to calm the others that he did it then. When he had finished he quietly suggested that "they had better go down to the cellar." Mrs. Parker helped her mother out of her chair. They started back to the cellar stairs, but only Ralph made it to the stairway door. As if under a giant knife, the house separated into two parts. Mrs. Young was torn from her daughter's grasp & hurled to a spot near Ralph. He could not get up, and as he lay there the neighborhood he had known since childhood was swept away. Later he was to learn that his uncle was fatally injured, that his grandmother was dead & that Edward Chapman, the little pitcher he had watched that very afternoon, had lost his life on the same day that he had pitched his sixth grade teammates to victory.
And suddenly it was over........................
Ernie Abraham shook off the boards around him & stood up. Bernice had an injured back, but it was not broken, as he had first feared. Together they gazed about them in horror.
Afterward they were to remember the silence ----- that & the eerie, yellow twilight. All over the stricken town people felt the clutch of that silence, almost as fearsome as had been the roaring a few minutes before. There was not a bird's call; not a human voice, not the sound of an automobile. It was like the stillness of a huge tomb, whose occupants had belonged to another age. Then it was broken ----- then came the sound effects for the dirty dusk. A woman screamed, slashing the silence like a blade.
The next day Lin Wright used the following lead paragraph in his Arkansas Gazette story:
"One thing can be said with certainty about last night in this area --- it was hell."
Wright's definition of hell was not limited to the 3 or 4 minutes of the tornado. Hell was at its height a few minutes after the roaring had passed on. The survivors, dazed & crazed with fear for their relatives & friends, scrambled from their hiding places. They climbed aimlessly over the massive piles of timber & bricks, which lay in the streets. They tripped over the fortunately lifeless power lines. Many of them were injured, & these dragged themselves along like zombies, eyes wide & staring.
The business section was a shambles. Women ran up to confused & speechless men, begging them to dig for husbands they feared were under the wreckage where business houses had been. Families, separated during the gale, found each other & cried hysterically with relief. Some of the injured stood staring into piles of rubbish, and seemed not to realize that a hard rain had begun to fall. Someone said that the Methodist Church building was still standing, and people began to stagger in that direction, some helping others who were not able to get there under their own power.
When Ernie Abraham & Bernie Roth had emerged from the debris that surrounded the hydrant they tried to find Harvey Holmes in the wrecked store. He had already gone, heading as fast as he could for his residence in the depot section. The damage defied description in "Depot Town". The dead and injured were everywhere. Those who were able improvised stretchers from doors which had been torn from their hinges, and carried casualties to shelter from the rain. Mr. Holmes found that his wife had been among those who had lost their lives & that his daughter was badly injured.
Over the railroad tracks an automobile was jammed close against one of the oil cars parked on the siding. The rear wheels reached high up the side of the railroad car, and its headlights were a few inches above the gravel of the track bed. This was John Jordon's automobile. Despite Mr. Jordon's hasty exit from the barbershop, he hadn't made it. He had a broken leg and other injuries.
The immensity of the disaster had begun to dawn on the survivors by this time. The town had been struck by 2, possibly 3, tornadoes at the same time. A six-block area from north to south through the central part of town had been the worst hit. Both the old Prospect Bluff section & the streets north of the school had taken an intense beating, but their wounds were nothing to those through the very heart of Judsonia.
"Why don't people get here?" groaned more than one Judsonian. "We've got to have help!"
They did come. Within 30 minutes after the storm the highway bore a constant stream of traffic. Ambulances dashed up to the Methodist church building, were loaded & sped away to return again & again. Hastily organized rescue teams went deep into the shapeless piles of ruins, sometimes directed by the voices of those buried underneath. That was the way it was where the Waller store had been. Mr. & Mrs. Billy Waller & their 2 children had been in that building. She had talked with Billy until he died. An hour after the walls & ceiling had covered her, she & Mike, her small son, were brought out, injured but alive. The little girl, Jeanette, had perished with her father.
The rain-splashed rescuers brought 4 bodies from what was left of the little frame cafe that had been crushed under the two-story Mason's Lodge building. They found Claude Bennett lifeless under his crumbled stone walls. They discovered that Mrs. Ben Huff, one of the town's oldest citizens, had gone from this life at the same time as had little Linda Carolyn McAdams, one of the youngest. All night long it was like that ---- until death & suffering became all that life had left to offer & still another broken body added nothing to a numbness that could not be increased.
It was almost as bad in Searcy. The hospitals had been filled within a short time after the injured started coming in from the stricken areas. Then the bloody stream of suffering humanity had taken on endless proportions; so they routed to Harding College dormitories, the Legion Hut, Armory & private homes. Doctors from 3 counties & volunteer nurses worked feverishly through the long night. Scores of people went from place to place, gazing into one pain-racked face after another as they sought missing relatives. The length & the breadth of the disaster became apparent. Men & women lay groaning on pallets, hastily thrown on the floors of hospital corridors --- people from Bald Knob, Kensett, Doniphan, Georgetown, as well as Judsonia.
During the night another tornado rumbled high above Judsonia. At 4:00 a. m. units of the National Guard began to arrive.
The town presented a picture of desolation the next morning. There had been so little time & daylight after the storm that many property owners had not had time to fully appraise their losses. Now, in the cold sunlight of the morning after, they scrambled about like rats in a garbage heap, salvaging pitiful little remainders of a once-ordered life. (skipping a bit, here)
It was cold ---- a penetrating, bone-chilling cold which even the sunlight could not diminish. Most of the homes still standing had no gas, and all were without electricity. When Saturday night came the National Guard sentries built fires on the street corners, using the plentiful supply of boards & splinters which were everywhere. It was Judsonia they were burning -- and the shadows cast on the ruins moved over the gutted walls as if they were spirits from happier days which the town had known, ghosts from the past seeking some still intact vestige of the village in which they had once loved & laughed.
It was the first of the miserable nights which those left behind after the sun went down were to know & dread. A portable power plant gave light to the Methodist educational building. Men drifted in & out of the darkness to drink coffee as they talked quietly with others also drawn there by the promise of heat, light & companionship. They told each other of their own experiences during the terrible twilight of the evening before, of the unbelievable things they had seen. Some had been there when they had helped Mrs. Maud Fisher down from the roof of the house next door to the one she had occupied when the storm struck. Someone had heard that never before had a city water supply tank been blown down, yet Judsonia's lay a mass of twisted steel. Tom Young's dog had been found unhurt under the masonry of the Young store hours after the building had fallen. A book in the school yard had been found open at the chapter head "In the Typhoon All Men Are Brothers". They counted the dead ---- Mrs. Frank Lane & her son, Carl; Lindsey Johnson, Walter Rumble, Albert Bryant --- it seemed that each newcomer knew of someone else who was gone....(skipped a bit, again)
Eleven of the 44 storm victims of Judsonia's immediate area were buried in a mass funeral that morning......... In the Baptist tent, under what Mr. Neil (reporter for the Ark. Gazette) described as "a wind-ruffled magnolia tree" were the bodies of Mr. & Mrs. D. N. Law, Mrs. Ben Huff, Miss Bertie Conley, Claude Bennett, Walter Rumble & Lindsey Johnson. In the Methodist tent were the bodies of Mrs. Charlie Teague, Luther Barr 4 year old Linda Carolyn McAdams. The body of Mrs. T. H. Young, whose funeral had been held in Searcy the day before, lay in a third tent.
Memories of Jack D. Strawl of Memphis, Tenn.: (hometown Judsonia)
My wife and I lived in Memphis along with our son, Danny, who was almost four at the time of the Judsonia tornado of 1952. It was really storming and a friend called and spoke with my wife, Mary, and said, "Isn't it horrible?" My wife thought she was speaking of the storm here and replied that yes, it certainly was raining hard. The friend said, "No. Haven't you heard that Judsonia was wiped off the map by a tornado?"
My parents, Ira and Virgie Strahl, lived in Judsonia along with many aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. We couldn't find out anything so the next morning a coworker and friend drove us to Judsonia. I had no idea what I would find once we reached it. Although the town looked as though a bomb had hit, my parents and other family members survived. Mother was in the hospital getting stitches on an injury caused by flying glass. Dad was wandering around in a daze on the property. The house was completely destroyed. Dad was already in his 70's but did rebuild the house. This time it was smaller brick home rather than wood and a storm cellar was added, I think, to everyone's house who lived there! Dad lived 12 more years and mother 14 more. They were indeed lucky.
Another vivid recollection via Sam Womack:
The late in the afternoon it was about as dark as night where I lived about 9 miles out in the Providence Community. The cloud was the blackest I have ever seen and appeared to have a green tinge to it. Sometime later someone drove by and yelled that a tornado had hit Judsonia. We had relatives there and immediately set out for there. I was almost 10 at the time; but I remember the trees, wires and houses down all over the place. My Great Aunt Maudie McDaniel Fisher lived in a small house behind a two story one. She was found on the roof of the two story house. The next few days were the coldest I think I ever knew at the time. Entry into an out of the town was thru checkpoints of the National Guard. Some say they felt 3 gusts of wind or three shocks..as if three hit one after the other or the same one hit three times!! I remember hearing that a boy, and for the life of me cannot remember the family name; but they owned a small grocery/station across from Judsonia High School. Their house was next door and they were sitting in the living room when it hit. It took the roof off their house and their son from the living room and he was killed. They were unhurt. This is small to what some of those that were there could tell..
NEW YORK TIMES, Saturday, Mar. 22, 1952:
DEATHS REACH 116 AS TORNADOES RIP ACROSS ARKANSAS
Injured Total More than 200 as Violent Winds Also Hit in Tenn. & Mo. Hardest Hit is White Co., Northeast of Little Rock, With 62 Known Dead.
Little Rock, Ark., Mar. 21 - At least 116 persons were killed by tornadoes that cut a long swath through Ark. & hit neighboring areas of Tenn. & Mo. late today.
More than 200 others were injured. There was tremendous property damage. 99 were known dead in Ark. alone in one of the worst disasters to ever strike the state. 11 were killed in Tn. & 6 in Mo.
Hardest hit in Ark. was a White Co. area of several communities about 50 miles northeast of Little Rock, capital city, located in the heart of the state. That White Co. area reported 62 known dead.
27 bodies of White Co. dead were taken to Searcy, the county seat. 13 bodies from Bald Knob were taken to Batesville & 9 from Bald Knob to Newport.
HEAVY LOSS IN ONE TOWN
13 other bodies were counted in Judsonia also in White Co. The town marshall at Judsonia estimated that at least 20 more dead would be found in the depot section of the community which was wiped out.
James Meadows, veteran reporter for the Little Rock Ark. Gazette, said from Judsonia tonight, "This is the worst scene of desolation I've ever seen."
The Red Cross reported 2 known dead at Marked Tree.
All told, about 25 towns & rural communities were hit by the twisters. They hurled houses off their foundations & tossed victims about like match sticks.
The death-dealing winds hopscotched across Ark. from the southwest to the northeast, and hit the West Tenn. & Southeast Mo.
Reports of new disaster areas & additional dead come so fast it was difficult to keep the casualty counts up to date. The tornado reports started late in the afternoon & continued late unto the night...
Mrs. Ellis Huff, wife of the editor of the Jackson Co. (Ark.) Democrat said she saw 4 bodies on the US Hwy. 67, near Judsonia. She said they were killed when twisting winds tore a house from its foundations hurled it onto the highway...
NEW YORK TIMES, Sunday, Mar. 23, 1952:
GIRL FOUND DEAD IN RUINS
Judsonia, Ark., Mar. 22, (AP) - Glenda Fern Eadie was found dead early today after 5 hours of digging in the wreckage of the Holmes Cafe.
15 year old Glenda Fern had come to Judsonia late yesterday afternoon with her parents, Mr. & Mrs. W. E. Eadie, and her brothers, Ed & Bobbie, & Bill Brown, to peddle strawberry plants. The Eadies lived at Providence, Mr. Brown at steprock. When the storm approached Mr. Brown & the Eadie family ran into the cafe.
A moment later the tornado struck, turning the brick structure into a jumbled pile. Mr. Eadie, 43, & Bobbie, 20, were pulled out critically injured. Mrs. Eadie and Ed were dead.
The rescuers worked in relays under the light of old barnyard lanterns and automobile lights to reach Glenda Fern's body.
NEW YORK TIMES, Sunday, Mar. 23, 1952:
TORNADO DEATHS PASS 200; 2,500 INJURED IN 6 STATES; TOWNS RAZED, WIND ROARS ON
Losses in millions. Houses, Farms Ruined Along Wide Sweeps Began in Ark. Truman Orders US Aid. Directs 2 agencies to Survey Needs-Rain, Hail, Floods Plague Refugees in South.
The death toll from the waves of tornados that swept 6 Mississippi Valley states had passed the 200 mark earlier today. An estimated 2,500 persons were injured.
Earlier estimates had place the total dead at more than 250, but officials revised their figures as records showed duplications and some persons were found alive after being reported dead.
Most of the deaths were in Ark., Tenn., Missouri, Kentucky, Ala. & Miss. Hospitals in the stricken areas of these states were reported filled with those injured in 2 days of storms.
Three new tornados struck in Ala. yesterday, leaving 6 more dead.
The big black funnels of wind plunged into Ark. Friday, smashing a path of destruction as they raced across the countryside in a northeasterly direction.
The winds, spinning at velocities of several hundred miles per hour, picked up people as if they were leaves, shattered buildings with explosive force & tossed automobiles about, according to reports from correspondents of The New York Times, The Assc. Press & the United Press.
OTHER AREAS WARNED
A warning was sounded late last night that more tornados might plunge into the stricken areas & spread into Georgia & the western end of SC.
An earlier weather advisory issued in Washington & warned that additional tornados might strike again in Tenn., Al. & Ky., and spread into Va. & W. Va.
The chief damage by states follows:
Arkansas - 112 dead, 700 injured, 2,000-3,000 homeless. Greatest losses in rural White Co, near Little Rock, state capital.
Tennessee - 60 dead, 100 injured. Damage centered in W. Tenn. near Memphis.
Missouri - 13 dead, 91 injured, all in cotton-growing area in southeast section.
Mississippi - 11 dead in northern part of the state.
Kentucky - 7 dead, in western part of the state.
Alabama - 4 dead, scores injured.
The tornados were reported to be the most violent in the United States since 268 were killed in Alabama in 1932. The deadliest on record was in 1925, when 719 perished & 3,000 were injured seriously in Missouri, Illinois & Indiana. Friday's were the worst tornados in the history of Arkansas, where the record had been 86 dead in 1916.
DAMAGE IN THE MILLIONS
Property damage from Friday's storms could not be estimated immediately, but was expected to run into many millions of dollars in the 6 states. In rural areas whole towns were leveled. Besides homes & farm buildings blown down or damaged, livestock was reported killed, power lines & communications cut, and factories, shops & other buildings were damaged.
President Truman last night to marshall Federal resources to aid the stricken areas. Specific relief measures were expected within 24 hours, a spokesman in Washington said....
The plight of the homeless was aggravated by heavy rains & hail, thunder & lightning, floods & fire that followed the tornadoes. Hospitals were crowded & first aid stations were set up in schools, churches & Nat'l. Guard Armories.
Shivering, rain-soaked men, women & children stood on the roads. Traffic was jammed up with trucks & cars taking refugees to cities & villages to find shelter. Funeral homes & morgues were filled. Other buildings were turned into temporary morgues.
Rescue workers, especially doctors, nurses, teachers & policemen, hunted victims in the darkness, muck & debris...
Friday's tornadoes began about 3 P. M. and lasted until after midnight. It is not known how many separate tornadoes struck, but there appeared to be 3 major fronts in a 100 mi. wide area.
The first tornado struck at Dierks, a small lumber town in the southwest part of Ark., 110 miles from Little Rock. It cut across the state at a 45 degree angle, following past storms "tornado trail" from southwest to northeast.
It wrought its worst fury in the strawberry-growing area of White Co., whose seat is at Searcy which has a population of 6,024 & is 50 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Searcy, the home of Harding College, a coeducational institution of the Christian Church, & of cotton gin & pecan shelling plants, was hard hit itself. It provided a hospital & morgues for the surrounding farm county.
Governor McMath, arriving in Searcy after touring the surrounding towns & villages, said the ruin & suffering were "terrible, terrible". He ordered in 440 National Guardsmen, doctors, nurses & other relief workers.
Marvin Crittinden, director of relief services for the Ark. Welfare Dept., said, "The damage & human suffering are terrific. The whole highway south from Searcy looks like picture show scenes of battlefields. It's awful."
J. V. Satterfield Jr., president of the Peoples Nat'l. Bank in Little Rock, said, "This is the worst thing to hit this state since 1927." (This was the year of the big flood in Ark.)
Ray Stephens, an Assc. Press reporter & a war veteran who went to Searcy, said the scene in and near that place resembled war.
"Refugees are streaming into Searcy from all directions," he said. "An army detachment is directing traffic & won't let anyone through except emergency vehicles. Traffic is packed tight for miles on US Hwy. 67 south of Searcy. People are walking the streets in a daze. Some had lost everything but their lives."
The courthouse at Searcy was converted into a morgue. 250 injured from 6 nearby communities were treated in Searcy's temporary first-aid stations.
Jack Hogan, an Assc. Press photographer, said he had flown over towns near Searcy that had been almost wiped out with families warming themselves around open fires made from the wood from their own houses.
TOWNS NEARBY DESTROYED
The towns of Judsonia & Bald Knob near Searcy were almost destroyed. Judsonia, in the heart of the White Co. strawberry country, normally has a population of 1,011. Bald Knob, with a population of 2,022, is a trading center on a low ridge that was a landmark for travelers, and has strawberry packing plants, saw mills & cotton gins.
In Judsonia, the only building undamaged was the Methodist Church. D. C. Phipps of Little Rock reported that he had been driving a truck near Judsonia when a house had come flying into his truck. Only slightly hurt, he hitchhiked to a nearby town. A father, mother & 3 children went to Judsonia from their home to sell strawberry plants. When they saw the storm coming they ran to a brick building but it was blown down. The mother, a daughter & a son were killed; the father & a son were pulled from the wreckage, badly injured.
When the tornado struck the hamlet of England it sounded like "a hundred B-36's flying low"" and was "the most perfectly shaped funnel you've ever seen," according to Omer Henley, a truck driver.
At the town of Marked Tree, Henry Wilkins, a 77 year old blind man, sat unhurt while his house was blown down over his head, but his wife was injured seriously.
22 were killed in a hamlet of Cotton Plant, which has a population of 1,383. There were 9 deaths in the towns of England, 7 in Dierks, 5 in Center Point, 3 in Hazen, 2 each in McCrory, Carlisle, Marked Tree & Hickory Ridge, & one each in Manilla, Trumann & Wattersaw....
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