Football rivalries can get intense. Most of the time it’s all in good fun, but sometimes a heated game can lead to a heated argument – which can lead to a fight in the stands or on the field. It’s rare that passions overflow the way they did at a fateful football game in 1926.
On October 30 that year, a Texas A&M University student and cadet was killed in a deadly riot during halftime at a football game with Baylor. Over the last ninety years, accounts of the incident, and later investigations, have failed to completely detail exactly what happened, or identify the perpetrator.
It’s a cold case that intrigued Baylor alumnus and historian T.G. Webb, whose recently-released book, “Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, a Riot, and a Murder,” documents his investigation into the incident.
Webb says he originally learned about the case 10 years ago at a Baylor football game. A student selling game-day programs made an off-hand comment about the incident.
“He didn’t know any more than I did, so I actually started researching it that very evening,” Webb says.
Webb says the more he looked into the story, the more he found details that had never before come to light. Webb says Charles Sessums, the A&M student who was killed in the incident, moved onto the field along with students from both schools. As he climbed the fence to get onto the field, someone hit him with part of a wooden chair. Sessums fought against the attacker, but the assailant eventually hit Sessums in the side of his head, which killed him.
Webb says part of his research involved talking to Sessums’ relatives. But they didn’t have much more tell Webb than what he already knew.
“I know more about this story than I think anybody ever has,” Webb says. “[They] didn’t know all the dimensions that I was able to research and uncover and put together a coherent story.”
One thing Webb was able to find out – or at least come closer to finding out – is the identity of the person who killed Sessums. Webb says he found an archive at A&M that identifies a culprit.
“I would leave it to the reader to decide, but I think as readers begin to assess the information that is there, that document loses a little bit of its credibility,” Webb says.
Webb says he found evidence of three other suspects and says he homes in on who the killer most likely would have been, but he can’t say with certainty.
He also discovered what he calls an “unofficial cover-up.” Unofficial because he believes high-ranking officials in Waco didn’t want to prosecute the man who killed Sessums, and ostensibly ruin his future.
“Certainly I think he intended to wound, but he probably didn’t intend to kill Charlie Sessums, and so it was best maybe just to keep things quiet,” Webb says.
Because of that, Webb says there is no evidence of a police investigation into the killing. As a result, Webb had to go elsewhere – to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency reports, and documents at Texas A&M – to find clues.
Immediately after it happened, Webb says news of the killing made newspaper headlines, but only briefly. It’s been a legend and a mystery ever since.
“It was a big story at A&M, but it’s become basically a legend or a myth for them,” Webb says. “I think this will be a very well-received book in Aggieland.”
Written by Caroline Covington.