Henry Hauser

Background

Henry Hauser, 35 years old, was beaten to death while in the custody of officers from the 7th precinct in New Orleans, LA. The officers began beating him after arresting him for drunkenness on March 22, 1944. Bernice Alford and her mother Maud Alford, white neighbors of Hauser’s, witnessed officers Lester Bach and Lloyd O’Brien beat Hauser while he was handcuffed in the patrol car. Bernice’s father, Taylor J. Alford, who was also arrested for drunkenness, witnessed the officers continue to beat Hauser as they transported him to jail.

An unconscious Hauser was taken to the 7th precinct jail and placed in a cell. Officers doused him with a bucket of water to revive him and then beat him with fists, feet, rubber hammers, and blackjacks. Hauser was released on bond after a night court hearing, crawled to the Magazine Streetcar, and was assisted to his home by a friend. He was taken to Charity hospital, where he died four hours after surgery. The death certificate described the cause of death as bronchial pneumonia (contents of stomach inhaled into lungs), plastic peritonitis (inflammation of stomach lining due to trauma and infection), perforation of ileum (intestines ruptured), and septic hepatitis (septic shock).

Legal Status

New Orleans NAACP President, Daniel E. Bryd, referred the Hauser case to Thurgood Marshall. On April 29, 1944, Marshall forwarded affidavits from Hauser’s family and witnesses to Attorney General Francis J. Biddle. Under the direction of Herbert Christenberry, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the FBI conducted an investigation. The Bureau declined to pursue prosecution. Christenberry concurred and reported his findings to Tom C. Clark, Assistant Attorney General. The DOJ file suggests the Alfords were prepared to testify to what they witnessed, but nevertheless, on December 18, 1944, Clark closed the investigation because, he stated, there were no witnesses to support a prosecution.