Eighty years ago, Walter Springs, a 24-year-old Black man from Colorado, died on a barroom floor in a small Texas town in the segregated South, shot by a military police officer named Martin Walker. Springs had been a star boxer and popular student at Regis College (now University), but left Denver in 1941 to join the Army. He never made it to battle.

For decades, his family was in the dark about his death. “What the Springs family wanted, more than anything, was to know why? Why did Walter Springs die the way he did that day in 1942?” 5280 journalist Robert Sanchez digs into what happened that night; his investigation eventually leads him to answers in court-martial transcripts in a folder tucked away in a military archive.

It was vindicating to know her family’s stories had been correct. Their assumptions about the night in Texas, Walter’s father’s intuition, were right all along.

There was a fragility here, too, Springs-Levert thought. What if she didn’t have the family album with her uncle’s photographs and papers? What if Campbell hadn’t been asked to research Springs’ life in 2020? What if the fire at the National Personnel Records Center had destroyed the transcripts of Martin Walker’s court-martial proceedings?

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.