Texas ChildrenNew London School Explosion (1937)

Learn more about one of the worst school tragedies in US History

On March 18, 1937, a cub UPI reporter drove into New London, Texas and witnessed what remained of one of the deadliest school tragedies in our history. Walter Cronkite covered wars and famine around the world but he said,  “I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.”

More than 295 students and teachers died in the explosion that rocked the small East Texas town.

View universal newsreel footage of the explosion. Courtesy of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

During the oil boom of the 1930s, the London school district was one of the richest in America. Constructed in 1932, the school’s football stadium was one of the first in the state to have electric lights. Original archetectural plans called for a boiler and steam heating system, but the New London School Board opted for installing gas heaters instead. In 1937, the board cancelled its natural gas contracts and tapped into the Parade Gasoline Company’s gas lines — a common practice throughout the community. Since the raw gas really had no value oil and gas companies looked the other way when homes, businesses and even the school tapped into the lines.

Find out more about what happened on that tragic day in 1937. Follow our October chat with author Ron Rozelle about his book My Boys and Girls are in There: The 1937 New London School Explosion.