1930s includes Orange pastor firing on law enforcement

Published 12:06 am Friday, March 17, 2023

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At the end of July 1930, the membership of First Baptist Church Orange was excited.

After the Reverend E.A. Ingram left the church to become pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louiaian, the church had been served by a “supply” pastor.

The church had finally found someone they would issue a call to. The man selected was the Reverend Edgar Eskridge, the pastor at First Baptist Church of Lebanon, Tennessee.

Rev. Eskridge had sent a message to L.J. Lewis, chairman of the pulpit committee and accepted the call to become the new pastor at First Baptist Church, Orange.

The congregation was enthused and excited to have the Rev. Eskridge become their new pastor. He had preached to large congregations at the morning and evening services the preceding Sunday. His sermons had been well received.

The church was beginning to make repairs on the parsonage, located at 307 Seventh St. in anticipation of the new family moving in around the first of September.

Reverend Eskridge would give the congregation in Tennessee a 10-day notice of his resignation, then the family would begin packing for their move to Texas.

His first sermon in Orange would be delivered September 7, 1930.

At that time no one could have predicted how the tenure of Reverend Edgar Eskridge would end in Orange.

Over the years he would change. The reasons for his change in personality would never become known. He would begin to see himself as a crusader against “crime in Orange.”

The reverend would begin wearing two pistols at all times. As he approached the pulpit on Sunday morning, he would remove the pistols from their holsters and lay them on the pulpit, barrels facing the congregation.

In February 1935 he “declared war on the mayor, the sheriff’s office, and the local police.” He denounced them from the pulpit saying they were doing nothing to control crime in Orange.

Often he would rave and rant from the pulpit and at times when speaking to people he would break out in “maniacal laughter.” The situation continued to get worse until May 29, 1935.

Eskridge stopped his car on Fifth Street and saw Police Chief Ed O’Reilly standing on the corner of Fifth and Main Streets. Eskridge laid a sawed off shotgun out of the window and fired at O’Reilly, killing him.

Five years earlier, no one in Orange would have thought such an act by the new, likable pastor would have been possible.


• The Orange Leader reported in the summer of 1930 that there had been 74 students graduated at the high school and 21 of them were going away from Orange to various colleges.

Miriam A. (Ma) Ferguson was attempting to once again be elected to the office of governor of Texas. She had served from 1925 until 1927 when she was defeated by Dan Moody. In 1930 Moody was not running again for the office.

Ferguson’s opponent in the 1930 race was Ross S. Sterling. Sterling was running hard against Ferguson had had strong support in Orange. However, Ferguson did too, and it was going to be a hard fought campaign in Orange.

On July 31 it was reported that cotton picking was about to start at Johnson’s Bayou. Due to the hot dry weather, it was not expected that the picking would start in earnest for a few days. There were expectations that there would be a good crop and a lot of cotton was expected in Orange.

A. Calloway of the Southern Life Insurance Company had compiled the “Texas Index” and found that H.J. Lutcher Stark of Orange was one of 302 Texans insured for $100,000 or more.

“And now you know.”

— Written by Mike Louviere