Thomas Foster

Background

On March 22, 1942, a group of African-American soldiers stationed at Camp Robinson in Little Rock Arkansas, went to the black side of town to find off-duty entertainment. Private Albert Glover, a black soldier, appeared to be intoxicated and two military police officers sought to detain him. Two Little Rock police officers, Abner J. Hay and George Henson, joined the military police and beat Glover on the head with their nightsticks. After Glover was transported to Camp Robinson, Sergeant Thomas Foster stepped forward to ask the military police, who he outranked, why they had permitted the Little Rock police officers to beat Glover. An argument ensued between Foster and the military police, and Little Rock Officers Hay and Henson intervened.

The officers pulled Foster onto the steps of a church and struck him repeatedly on the head. As Foster laid semi-unconscious, the Officer Hay fired five shots, four in Foster’s abdomen and one in his right arm. After killing Foster, Officer Hay turned away, emptied the shells from his gun, and lit his pipe.

Legal Status

The Citizens Committee of Greater Little Rock and Foster’s fellow soldiers at Camp Robinson responded with a petition to Attorney General Francis Biddle urging him to launch a formal investigation and prosecute Hays. The Justice Department’s Criminal division sent a special prosecutor to Little Rock. But the Army allowed Officer Hays to join the service right before the matter came before a federal grand jury. In a 19 to 4 vote, the grand jury declined to indict Officer Hay for the murder of Foster.

On the Army form, “Application for a Headstone and Marker,” there is the following handwritten notation about Foster’s death: “death was not in line of duty and was result of own misconduct.”