Paul Hardwick

Paul Hardwick’s image in the Chicago Defender in 1922.

Born: 1868
Occupation: Waiter
Killed: July 29, 1919
Cause of death: Bullet-wound

Paul Hardwick was a Black man born in Georgia in 1868. After moving to Chicago, he worked as a waiter at the legendary Palmer House hotel. Paul’s wife Laura (b. 1875) was also from Georgia. At the time of the riots, they owned a house at 6730 S. Langley Avenue.

On the morning of July 29th, Hardwick ate breakfast at the cafeteria chain Thompson’s on 350 N. Clark Street. Accounts of the ensuing violence differed: the Chicago Commission Report described “a mob of white civilians, soldiers, and sailors” that had chased, beaten, and robbed Black Chicagoans in the Loop for two to three hours throughout the morning before entering the Thompson’s on Clark. The report stated that the mob assaulted Hardwick in the restaurant, but he escaped and made his way eastward toward Adams Street. The crowd chased him, at which point one person fired at Hardwick with a revolver and killed him.

An article published in The Chicago Defender March 4, 1922, on the other hand, claimed that the mob targeted Hardwick while he was walking to work at the Palmer House. According to their report, a white man named Roy Freedman drew attention to Hardwick, leading a mob of about 30 people who pursued him to the corner of Wabash and Adams. When Hardwick turned to confront the mob, someone in the crowd shot him, hitting him in the chest. Hardwick died at the scene after being further assaulted and robbed. In September 1919, a grand jury indicted Roy Freedman for felony murder, but he was later acquitted. A second member of the mob, Edward Haines, was indicted on February 19, 1920 and imprisoned.

Paul Hardwick was buried on August 2, 1919 at Lincoln Cemetery. In 1922, Laura Hardwick filed a civil suit against the city of Chicago seeking damages for her husband’s death. She was eventually awarded a settlement of $5,000—the largest award of all the civil cases that followed the riot. Hardwick’s attorney, William J. Latham, represented other victims and victims’ families as part of a wave of lawsuits resulting from the violence. By the end of 1922, the city had paid these families over $81,000. After she was widowed, Laura Hardwick took in boarders at her home on Langley Avenue for income. On July 30, 1920, she penned a tribute to her husband that was published in the Chicago Defender.

It reads, in part, “If I had seen you at the last and held your dying hand and heard the last sigh from your heart, I would not feel so badly. I did not know the pain you had, I did not see you die; I only know you went away and never said good-by. But let this little token tell that I will always think of you only. God knows the sorrow that is in my heart.”

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