DATE OF EVENT: Saturday, Dec. 22, 1945
DATE PUBLISHED: Sunday, Dec. 23, 1945, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: When jazz musician and entertainer Cab Calloway tried to enter the whites-only Pla-Mor ballroom to listen to fellow bandleader Lionel Hampton’s dance concert, an off-duty police officer struck him. The beating became a national embarrassment for Kansas City, where black musicians regularly played to whites-only audiences.
Cab Calloway, Negro band leader, was treated for cuts on the head at General hospital No. 2 last night following a scuffle with a special officer at the Pla-Mor ballroom, 3142 Main street. Calloway told the police he was struck on the head with a revolver.
Calloway said he did not go to the Pla-Mor to dance, but to visit Lionel Hampton, another Negro orchestra leader, whose band was playing there. Hampton had invited him to hear his orchestra, according to Calloway.
In a statement to the police, William Todd, 28 years old, 2732 Troost avenue, employed by Pla-Mor as a special officer, said Calloway and Felix H. Payne, jr., 31 years old, 1324 East Twenty-fourth street, son of the Negro politician, went to the Pla-Mor about 10:15 o’clock and bought tickets.
They were told by the doorman they could not enter, according to Todd’s statement, and Todd refunded their money and told them to leave. Todd said Payne struck at him and Calloway “pushed” him to the floor.
“I got up and struck the shorter Negro (Callaway) and then drew my revolver,” Todd said. “I hit him over the head several times.”
Other employees stopped the fight and the police were called. Calloway and Payne were taken to the hospital and later to headquarters, where they made statements. Payne denied he struck at Todd.
At the 10:45 o’clock dance intermission, Hampton learned of the incident and refused to continue playing. William Wittig, the manager of the ballroom, told the 1,500 dancers that their money would be refunded and the crowd danced to juke box music while refunds were being made.
The dancers stood in line until after midnight to obtain their money.
Sergt. William Garrett, head of the homicide squad, said early this morning that Calloway would be booked on a charge of disturbing the peace and Payne on a charge of interfering with an officer.
A report that Calloway and Payne were accompanied by two young women was denied by them.
Both men asserted that they purchased tickets to avoid trouble after they went there in response to an invitation from Hampton.
Payne formerly was deputy recorder of deeds in Washington and later was employed by the War Manpower commission at Washington. He said that in the last twenty months he had been a Red Cross club director in the China-India-Burma theater, returning to the United States last month.
Calloway is a friend of the Paynes and was visiting at their home after his arrival early yesterday from Wichita, Kas.
Todd is a member of the police department and works as a special officer on off-duty hours at the ballroom.
“We never went out there looking for trouble,” Payne said at the hospital where Calloway’s head was bandaged.
Calloway said at police headquarters that he met Hampton at a hotel on Eighteenth street yesterday afternoon and was invited to go to the ballroom while the dance was in progress. He denied he had caused any trouble.
Todd said he was sent to the lobby by the manager who told him the Negroes were attempting to enter. He asserted the two men refused to leave and struck him.
At 1:20 o’clock all refunds had been completed at the ballroom, the lights were turned out and the crowd had gone.