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THE BRIDE, HE WORE WHITE
or
How Men Wed in 1953 Waco

by John Troesser
In reading through Observations - the interesting and too brief memoirs of veteran Waco newspaperman W. S. "Bill" Foster, we noticed mention of an incident from 1953 that readers may find interesting considering the recent discussion about gay marriage and its potential legalization.

Although something tells us that it was probably left off the official chamber of commerce calendar of events for 1953, Waco that year hosted what was described as a "homosexual convention" that April. Perhaps it was meant to be a centerpiece of the convention or maybe it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but in any event, two men decided to get married during the gathering and so it was done. Make that attempted.

The site of the ceremony (attendees could call it a ceremony - to the police it was termed a raid) was a small house near LaSalle Street in South Waco. For people familiar with the Waco of 50 years past, it was in back of the Blue Arrow Lounge. Now you remember.

The police interrupted the festivities before rings could be exchanged. It is not known if the authorities waited for the clergy to ask "If anyone has an objection why these two…" Since these were new frontiers back in 1953 one can understand that details hadn't quite been worked out. The groom wore a suit while the "bride" wore a long white gown.

All of the participants were arrested and fined $25. Many of the attendees were local Waco businessmen (even so, their fine remained set at just $25 - the 1953 Waco Police Department was firm, but fair). It was not mentioned if the bride had to pay his fine. A slight scuffle ensued, for police Lt. Bill Cornell received long term disability pay for a permanent service-related back injury.

The Waco Citizen - the city's non-syndicated "underdog" newspaper was the only one to cover the story and send a photographer. The paper featured the couple on the front page and wire services took the story nation-wide. It was a once-in-a-lifetime scoop for the Citizen who really needed the boost. The edition sold out in Waco and copies driven to Hillsboro went for $1.00 a copy (slightly higher in Canada). People loaded bundles of papers into cars and drove them to parts of Texas where the news surprised some people and didn't surprise others.

The paper named names and since it was 1953 - some businessmen left town. The photo was so popular that a master print was made and sold well into the 1970s.

The Waco Citizen, a twice-weekly neighborhood paper whose slogan was once "If you don't want it printed, then [you] better not let it happen" continues to be published in Waco as of this writing. A month and a day after the story appeared, Waco was hit by the destructive and deadly tornado that changed the face of the city forever. Despite the proximity of the events, most people consider the two incidents to be totally unrelated.


© John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't they?" December 1, 2003


Source: Observations: A Compilation of Events in Texas History by W. S. Foster, The Waco Citizen Press, November, 1976

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