Sometimes the ‘Good Guys” turn out to be the “Bad Guys”
Because of the discovery of oil in 1906, Bridgeport grew overnight from a sleepy farming community to a boom town filled with oil field workers and the ‘services’ to accommodate them. In 1909 Joe Rodman and Luther Clark were the lawmen in Bridgeport and tried to maintain the peace.
The groans of men, the wails of women and screams of children mingled with the crack of policeman's guns aroused everybody in the city about 5:45 Monday evening October 18, 1909. Bridgeport Marshal “Big Joe” Rodman and Deputy Clark attempted to arrest a man for defrauding an innkeeper or as the charge was then known, ‘for beating a board bill.’
According to a newspaper reporter bad feelings existed between Rodman and Calley and Calley told
the Marshall to get out, further saying: “When I need you, I’ll call you.” Whereupon a fight commenced and raged between man and officer.
At this point the Deputy, Luther Clark, arrived on the scene and immediately took a hand assisting his chief in his efforts to handle Calley, who was being clubbed roundly. Mrs. Calley tried to interfere and was also maced clubbed) according to one observer.
Francis Bates interfered and in the process he was shot with a loaded revolver in the hands of Deputy Clark. The bullet passed entirely through the body, entering on the right side just low enough to penetrate the lower love of the liver.
Roy McCall, who was standing near Bates, was shot in the neck by a bullet. John Calley of Calley’s restaurant was also injured. Both Bates and McCall were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, each mortally wounded. The wounded men had previously lived in that city.
Threats were made against the two officers following the shooting. Clark claimed the shooting was in self- defense.
Rodman and Clark were arrested Oct 21 and taken to the Lawrence County jail by a sheriff and 2 deputies in an open carriage which was followed quite a distance by a jeering crowd. The warrant for their arrest was sworn to by Mrs. Calley, wife of John Calley.
By December, Clark and Rodman were out of jail on bond and back on the job awaiting trial. However, Bridgeport would once again been thrown into a terrible turmoil as a result of alleged high-handed methods by these guardians of the law. Coming so soon after the Bates affair, the citizens were not in a happy frame of mind.
The new trouble came at 11:00 Sunday morning December 4, 1909 when John Blair was discovered dead in his jail cell at the town hall, where he had been placed the night before by Officer Luther Clark.