Harold Bowlan interview
Saturday, April 12, 1958 – 1:30 p.m.
Harold Bowlan, the owner of Bowlan Glove Factory near Oxford, laid off 153 of his employees on April 11, 1958, the day after a failed union vote. The 153 were rumored to be those most sympathetic to union formation at the Bowlan factory.
The following interview was conducted with Bowlan at his residence on the day after the murders.
- Detective Jack McPhail
- Harold Bowlan
Detective McPhail: Mr. Bowlan, sir, please state your name, age, address, and occupation for the record.
Harold Bowlan: Harold Bowlan. 60. Rural Route 5, Box 12, Oxford, Mississippi. Factory owner. What else?
Detective McPhail: Tell me where you were on the day of the murders, Harold.
Harold Bowlan: That's Mr. Bowlan, to you, McPhail. I was at work until about 10 a.m. when I left for a trip to Memphis with my family. Richard was still in one piece then. Ask anybody at the factory. Don't know about his wife. She didn't work for me.
Detective McPhail: You left for Memphis, and then what?
Harold Bowlan: My family and I drove directly to the Peabody Hotel, where we checked into our rooms, took naps, and later dined in one of the restaurants downstairs. The food was none too good for the prices either. I have the receipts from the hotel and the restaurant. That'll prove where I was. I spoke to the maître d' and the concierge. That's the restaurant boss and the hotel boss, if you don't know, and they can vouch for me. I want those receipts back too. I always save them for taxes.
Detective McPhail: Were you taking a trip to avoid the heat from your laid‑off employees?
Harold Bowlan: I don't see that it's any of your damned business, McPhail. But no. We had been looking forward to a quiet family vacation for some time. My grown children even came with us. It was just a family get‑together.
Detective McPhail: I don't remember you being such a family man, Mr. Bowlan.
Harold Bowlan: You can remember whatever you please. I don't give a tinker's dam. What else do you want to know?
Detective McPhail: When did you first learn of the murders?
Harold Bowlan: When your fool deputy called me up last night, woke me and my wife up, too. I'd guess it was about 10:30 p.m. I asked him if this couldn't wait until we got back in town on Tuesday, but no, he wouldn't have it. So here I am back in Oxford, a ruined family vacation behind me. And who's going to pay for the hotel stay and gasoline I wasted? That's what I want to know.
Detective McPhail: I'm sure I don't know either, Mr. Bowlan. Could you tell me what your thoughts are on what happened to the Izards?
Harold Bowlan: I don't speculate, McPhail. I deal in facts. They were murdered, plain and simple. That's all there is to it. It's your job to find out why.
Detective McPhail: That's what I'm trying to do, Bowlan. Do you think their deaths might be related to the factory's layoffs?
Harold Bowlan: Could be. Might not too. I had a lot of damn fools who worked for me. Some of 'em are hotheads. The Izards weren't saints, though. Richard gambled. His wife had that crazy-fool ex-boyfriend—one of the Danahy boys—kept raising hell when they first got married. And who knows what else? They had all those poor jerks who lived just down the road from them. Maybe one of them tried to rob Richard, and the fool fought back. It's your job to figure all that out, not mine.
Detective McPhail: How did the other employees regard Mr. Izard as their foreman?
Harold Bowlan: Regard? What do their feelings have to do with work, for God's sake? I guess they liked him. Richard was always too soft, too quick to listen to their sob‑sister stories and give shirkers "one more chance." Many's the time I fired someone after finding out secondhand that Richard had tried to give them special chances to take off too long for funerals, for sick kids, or other personal stuff. "Personal is personal, and work is work," I always say, and the two should be kept separate. But Richard was different.
Detective McPhail: How do you mean?
Harold Bowlan: He couldn't stop being friends with the folks he worked with. I didn't keep up with who all it was, so there's no use in your asking me that. I just know he was too chummy with them sometimes. Fraternizing on weekends. Fishing and that kind of thing. I don't hold with it.
Detective McPhail: Is that all?
Harold Bowlan: No. He always felt like he owed them an explanation at work when he told them what to do. It wasn't enough for their foreman to just say, "Snap to it!" I told him time and again, "Don't complain, and don't explain," but he never listened. What else?
Detective McPhail: I've got the list of laid-off employees. Do any of those names spring to mind for you as people who might have committed these murders? Maybe the workers or their families or friends?
Harold Bowlan: Do I look like someone who keeps up with who wants to go kill who? Next question.
Detective McPhail: Now, what about this union activity at the factory? This here agitator, Perch, he have any run‑ins with Izard?
Harold Bowlan: Durn commie, you mean. That man is dangerous and those like him. Coming around for no good reason than to undermine the very foundation business was built on in this country. Unionizers are nothing more than commies in disguise, rabble-rousers. You oughta check him out good. Advocating for less work and more money, easy street for the workers by gouging out the lining of the businessman's pockets. Come to think of it, Izard might've been a good target for that union bunch. A martyr to the cause, so to speak. Not a one of those organizers that doesn't have blood on his hands, McPhail.
Detective McPhail: Any specific encounters between Perch and Izard?
Harold Bowlan: Not that I know of. If there was, it wasn't at the factory. I know there were fights, a few bloody noses. That was Richard's job to take care of. You might be onto something there, McPhail.
Detective McPhail: You didn't have any—
Harold Bowlan: I'll also tell you that Elbert Warren and his crew were at the top of the troublemakers list in my book. Came too darn close to getting that union vote through. Warren had Perch living out at his place for a time, I heard, but you'd have to ask others about the specifics. Don't know what else I can tell you on that angle, but I think you got the right idea there. Best grab that fella before he skips town.
Detective McPhail: Anything else you can think of that might give us some further idea of who to interview?
Harold Bowlan: No. And I certainly hope you won't interfere with my factory's work next week, trying to talk to folks while they're working. I've got a business to run. Interview them as suspects if you want, but do it on their own time. I'm not paying them to talk to you.
Detective McPhail: We'll keep that in mind as much as we can, Mr. Bowlan. Thanks for your time.
Harold Bowlan: Now go do your job. It's my money helping to pay your salary, and don't you forget it.