J.C. Honeycutt in 1970, a photo from Bragg Briefs.
FBI memo on the
firebombing of Quaker House -- almost everything is blacked out.
The sign on the porch of Quaker House on Ray Avenue, Fayetteville 1970.
An issue of Bragg Briefs from 1971.
YES To The Troops. NO To The Wars. The Story of Quaker House:
3. 1970: Jane Fonda
and the Fire this Time -- continued
Standing on the lawn next to the still-burning house, Honeycutt and
the rest of the neighborhood watched and listened as the electrical wires
connected to the house sparked and popped. “My initial thought was ‘Well I
guess this time they meant it. But how stupid to think that they could make
us stop doing this by burning our house down!’” she said.
Fire engines came quickly, and the fire was out before it spread very
widely. Damage to the building was estimated at about $3000, and Horvitz at
first hoped it could be repaired, for much less with volunteer labor.
In the available photo, the house does not look all that badly
damaged. But that’s because the fire was put out quickly. Honeycutt soon
realized how close a call she and Horvitz had had: If Ralston had not been
sleeping downstairs and been awakened by the fire, she and Horvitz would
probably have burned to death.”
It really wasn’t until a couple of days later that I
realized you don’t set somebody’s house on fire at that time of night to
send them a message–you do it to kill them. And when I realized that I felt
Where, one wonders, were the police or Military Intelligence? Surely
they had been around that night, with all the activity. But arsonists
managed to set not one but two fires beneath the entertainment room at the
rear of Quaker House. The crawl space provided excellent air circulation
which fed the flames and they quickly ate up the dry wood at the bottom of
the old house and reached toward the sleepers above.
An internal FBI Memo about the fire turned up in a sheaf of documents
released to Quaker House years later. All of the text except for the heading
identifying it as relating to the fire, is blacked out. What was being
covered up here?
Is this just idle paranoia? No. Many of the GI organizing projects ran
into serious trouble, including arson.
The list of possible suspects for the Quaker House firebombing is a
long one. Several adjoining counties had been strongholds of the Ku Klux
Klan, and in 1970 there were still billboards along highways not far from
Fayetteville claiming the region as “Klan Country.” Then there was the FBI’s
COINTELPRO program, which involved disruption and covert violence against
Closer at hand, there were numerous secretive units at Fort Bragg who
were highly trained in such clandestine warfare. And for that matter, just
across Ray Avenue stood a VFW post; and one can imagine some anti-antiwar
veterans, their resentment given sufficient lubrication, slipping down along
the creek, under cover of darkness, to give some payback to those they saw
as disloyal subversives.
State and local fire officials made some show of digging into the
charred remains of the rear part of the house, looking for signs that the
fire was deliberately set, but this was already an established fact in the
minds of many. Perhaps sensing that no matter what conclusion they came to
it would be ignored, there was no investigation to speak of. “I don’t
remember really any contact with the police,” recalled Honeycutt.
Except there was contact with city officials – who soon told the angry and
now homeless staff that they could not return to the house, nor would they
be allowed to repair it.
“It appears that the success of recent activities of the Quaker House
and the unprecedented positive response of servicemen has been more than
some citizens of Fayetteville could tolerate,” Horvitz told the
Fayetteville Observer the day after the fire.
Others in the antiwar network were ready to take them in, though. Army
Specialist Bill Carothers, a stalwart of GIs United, had joined with some
buddies to rent a house on Haymount Hill, not far away. They added Horvitz
and Honeycutt to their motley crew.
Naturally there was fear among Quaker House staff and supporters of
another attack. So it was much to their annoyance when the Fayetteville
Observer, the day after the fire, printed the address of their temporary
refuge: 223 Hillside Avenue, just off Hay Street. Horvitz took issue with
the newspaper’s decision, saying that the lives of the staff were thereby
A statement put out by Quaker House staff soon after the fire
declared, “We feel that the fact of 1,000 GI’s coming to the May 16 rally in
Rowan Street Park and showing their collective strength frightened the
right-wing element in Fayetteville. However, the right-wing may have burned
us but they did it with the blessings of Fort Bragg Brass.”
GIs United also issued a press release, stating that the group is
“greatly concerned over the fire-bombing of the Quaker House.” Police found
no evidence to indicate a fire bomb was used, however. But there is also no
evidence that they looked very hard.
“Almost all the damage was to the back room,” Honeycutt said. Consumed
in the flames were not only Honeycutt’s record collection and sewing
machine, but her beautiful German chess set. “[Losing] that was the worst
because I paid a hundred dollars for that chess set!” she laughed.
But what about Quaker House? “I think there was a pretty general
feeling that we shouldn’t just pack up and leave,” remembered Bob Gwyn. “I
think it’s a good clear testimony to faith–we did not have a plan. We were
just going on faith that something would work out.” Jeffries agreed, “There
was certainly a determination to go on in one way or another. . . .”
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