In researching old newspaper articles about the politics in El Paso, oftentimes there are articles of interesting events that do not make it into an article but, nonetheless, the historical event is both poignant and relevant to today’s events in the city. This event is both poignant to politics in general and does not belong in our upcoming Special Feature, but nonetheless is interesting enough to point out to our readers. Sometimes, political observers like to portray El Paso politicians and the city’s politics as a “comedy show.” Here is such an event.

On August 19, 1907, a court hearing was held on an assault charge that occurred the previous Saturday, August 17. The protagonists of this event included a newspaper reporter, a county attorney and slew of politicians in front of the State National Bank.

This is what occurred, according to the testimony before the court of the reluctant newspaperman victim, Paul Johnson. Maurey Kemp, the county attorney at the time, got into “just a little fight.” Forced to testify by the then-Police Judge, Tom Lea, Johnson told the court what happened, although Kemp had already plead guilty “to the charge for fighting.” Kemp had told the judge that Johnson had said something that “irritated” him which prompted Kemp to hit Johnson. [1]

Johnson, according to his testimony, was coming “south on Oregon street” when he saw “R. V. Bowden, C. E. [Henry] Kelly, Maury Kemp and C. R. Morehead.” Johnson described the scuffle started when Kemp told him that “he did not want to see his name” in any future articles. Johnson, according to his testimony, responded that “any time your name is connected with a news story” he would “use it the same as anybody else.” Kemp responded by telling Johnson that “he would cut” Johnson’s “throat from ear to ear.” After Johnson responded to the threat with “no you won’t,” Kemp, according to Johnson, “banged away and knocked” Johnson’s “glasses sideways.” As they “grappled,” he continued, both went down. Johnson related that Bowden tried to separate them, but that Morehead said, “let them fight.” [2]

Kelly testified that it “was just a little fight” between the men and that Johnson’s version of the event was “a pretty straight story of the affair.” According to the testimony by R.V. Bowden, an attorney, Kemp “slapped” Johnson after the words were exchanged. At the end of the testimony, Lea imposed a $5 fine on Kemp. [3]

Stay tuned for our next article in which we break down El Paso’s “ring” politics that started in the early 1900’s and remains very much alive today. Many of the names in today’s article were deeply involved in El Paso’s first “political boss.”


  1. “County Attorney Fined For An Assault,” El Paso Herald, August 19, 1907.
  2. “County Attorney Fined,” no page number available.
  3. “County Attorney Fined,” no page number available.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...