Bomb Explodes at Bluefield State College

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
November 25, 1968

Negro Leader At BSC Is Arrested

Conspiracy Charged In Bombing

Edgar James, a 26-year-old Negro Bluefield State College student, was jailed Sunday night in connection with the Thursday bombing of the BSC Health and Physical Education Building.

James was lodged in the Mercer County Jail at Princeton on charges of conspiracy and "placing or possession of explosives with criminal intent," state police said. Bond was set at $25,000.

James has proclaimed himself the leader of some 450 Negro students at the racially divided state college which has 1,400 students. Others have maintained he speaks for only a small number of militants.

State Police Sgt. R. M. Hall, Bluefield Police Chief A. L. Dodson and City Patrolmen B. G. Burnham and J. E. Dent arrested James about 9 p.m. on Princeton Avenue in Bluefield, Sgt. Hall said.

Hall said he was forbidden by regulations to discuss details of the case. He said James had not made bond and remained in jail last night.

Hall declined comment when asked if state or city police expected to make other arrests in the case. However a conspiracy must by definition involve more than one person.

The sergeant said he want to emphasize that the arrest followed an intensive, around-the-clock investigation by both state and city police which began immediately after the Thursday evening explosion which wrecked a portion of the third and fourth floors of the new $1.6 million building at Bluefield State. Damage from the explosion was estimated at a "minimum of $80,000" by BSC President Wendell G. Hardway.

Sgt. Hall said he was permitted to state only that James was married, resided at Bedford Street in Bluefield, and was employed by the N&W Railway. James, an education major at Bluefield State, also is a student teacher at Richlands High School in Richland, Va.

Hall said James was taken before Justice of the Peace Jim Belcher in Princeton for bond purposes, and Belcher set bond at $25,000. He said a preliminary hearing on the charges will be held before Belcher shortly.

He said he also could not comment as to whether the $5,000 reward offered by Gov. Hulett C. Smith had helped in the investigation of the case.

Smith offered the reward Friday and declared that he intended to invoke provisions of the "Red Man Act," an ancient state statute which permits prosecution for conspiracy as a result of violent acts. The act applies to conspiracies to inflict bodily harm or destroy property. If a death should result from the conspiracy all those involved can be prosecuted for murder, Smith said.

An FBI spokesman in Bluefield said his agency is cooperating with local police in lending facilities for laboratory work and other examination of the evidence but is taking no other part in the case. He said there apparently was no like[li]hood of federal prosecution of the bombing.

James, as the self-proclaimed Negro leader at Bluefield State, recently presented a list of 35 Negro grievances to Hardway, the first of which was a demand for a new president and the replacement of other administration officials. Hardway became the first white president of the institution three years ago.

In recent years enrollment at the college has shifted from all-Negro to a predominately white student body, although Negroes continue to dominate the dormitories and campus activities.

Hardway has frequently denied accusations of racial bias at the college, and was upheld earlier this year in a federal court hearing into the suspension of 10 BSC students following a riotous outbreak at the BSC homecoming game in October 1967. Earlier this month he suspended four more Negro students and expelled a fifth following a food-throwing demonstration in the college cafeteria.

The State Board of Education is meeting in Charleston today to discuss the Bluefield State bombing and other trouble at the college.

Hardway and other college officials have been receiving "Black Power" death threats and a plague of vandalism at the school had resulted in the destruction of some $28,000 worth of windows and other property before the Thursday night bomb explosion.

The college was closed Friday for the Thanksgiving holidays, several days in advance of the normal closing date. Hardway said he would announce later when classes would be resumed.


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