A West Monroe Boy Separated From His Dog Outrages the World

This one was brought to my attention in one of the Facebook groups I am a member in. Back on October 5, 1954, a ten year old boy named Joe Cooper took his bike to school at Ransom. Following along behind him was his mutt Tippie. According to the boy, he tied his pet to his bike. A few minutes later, a friend informed him Tippie had gotten loose. Before the boy could grab his pet, the principal, Mrs. Tina G. Clark had taken the dog to a closet to be contained until the dog catcher could be called. The boy begged and pleaded with the principal to no avail. He cried, begged and then demanded but Mrs. Clark wouldn’t budge. According to Mrs. Clark she couldn’t calm him down enough to sit and talk. He even began kicking and beating on the door trying to get it opened. The little boy later claimed he was scared the dog catcher would “gas” his dog. Joe stormed out, threatening to go home and get his shotgun. Mrs. Clark didn’t think he was serious. She then began to think it over and called the truant officer, Mr. Morris C. Griggs and the West Monroe Police department.

Meanwhile, the little boy took his 30c Lunch money and bought a single No. 5 Shot shell and got his Single Shot Shotgun from home. Joe headed for the school to “rescue” his dog. Upon seeing Joe coming for her with the shotgun, she slammed the door in his face. The little boy began screaming, beating on the door and threatening to shoot if she didn’t give him the key to the closet where Tippie was held. About that time, truant officer Morris C. Griggs rounded the corner and was met with the end of a shotgun. He slowly backed out to safety. West Monroe officer Sam Antley eventually was able to convince the boy to hand over the gun and took the boy into custody. The dog was taken to the dog pound. A sympathetic veterinarian, Dr. Ralph Einhorn, took the dog, gave it it’s vaccines and took it into his care. Four hours later, Judge Howell Heard sentenced the boy to the Louisiana Training Institute.

On October 8, 1954, the Ouachita Citizen ran a front page story detailing the saga. Word about the boy spread around the world in days. It was the ultimate story of a boy’s love for his dog. It soon came out that his mother Velma was a single mother trying to support nine kids on a $55 a month pension. The boy’s father had died when he was an infant. Letters, and money began pouring in. Most of the letters were angry at school and city officials. Principal Clark’s phone rang off the hook day and night with threatening calls. Monroe’s mayor had to put out a press release that it had happened in West Monroe and not his town. Caving to public pressure, Judge Heard decided to rehear the case. On October 30, almost a month after the boy was put away, Joe was released to the care of his eldest sister. Tippie was there to greet him as he walked out of the gates of LTI.

It didn’t end there. The Cooper’s pastor, Rev. W.T. Hemphill and some parents of Ransom school students, began a petition to oust Principal Clark and Mr. Griggs. Four hundred and ninety five people signed. Principal Clark was hastily moved to Millsaps school but the outcry was fierce. She then decided to sue Rev. Hemphill and the other petition organizers for $40,000, alleging damages for libel and slander. I never could find out the outcome of the proceedings.

In the meantime, former Gov. James A. Noe started a fund to send the little boy to a private school in Tennessee. He stated he would fund the boy until all the money was raised. The family decided though, that the little boy would flourish best with them at home. What happened to the boy, is not known. When Joe’s mother passed away in Monroe in 1980, he was listed as living in Houston. He is probably still alive somewhere in Texas.

Principal Clark turned out alright in the end. She took a two year “sabbatical” and got a Masters degree in Education. When she came back to the Ouachita Parish school system, she was put in charge of the Gifted and Special Education department. She retired from the school system and died in 2004 living into her 90’s.

It was a very interesting story to research. I can’t help but think of how differently things would be handled today.

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