Almost 50 years ago, when the upper floors of the Potter County courthouse served as the Potter County jail, an incident took place that shook the city of Amarillo and made national headlines. In 1974, there was what was hailed as a jail revolt resulting in a hostage situation and the death of an inmate.

When the New York Times wrote about the incident, they painted a picture of something that seemed almost straight from an action movie. According to them, officers "blasted" their way into the jail to free a hostage. One of the inmates behind the siege was killed.

According to their report, it was five inmates armed with knives that were behind the attack. The Amarillo Globe News ran a report stating that the ambush took place when a deputy and a dispatcher were checking prisoners. The inmates threw bleach water in their eyes, according to the report.

The inmates had taken control of the upper floors of the courthouse, and also had a hostages. The Amarillo Globe News reported that the inmates demands were for $10,000 and a car. They got neither one of those things.

The supposed leader of the siege on the Potter County jail was a former policeman from Witchita Falls. When officers finally made their move, the leader of the siege was reportedly killed by a shotgun blast.

The hostage survived and was reunited with his family.

When reading about the incident, I was shocked that there wasn't more information available. I wasn't able to find more in-depth coverage. Google search results only produced a small handful of results.

It makes me wonder what other stories from Amarillo's past are out there, and are in danger of being forgotten about.

Courthouses of the Texas Panhandle

The beautiful courthouses of the Texas Panhandle.

The Price Of Progress: Historic Potter County Courthouse Demolished

As the city leads the way in progress and grows, there is always a cost. Some of our historical buildings have fallen to the wayside. After years of decay and neglect, the only feasible answer tends to be demolition.

And that's what the fate of the old Potter County courthouse seems to be. Demolition of the historic building began February 15, 2023.

Whether the building would have been better served by restoration is an argument for another day. But in any case, it's always sad to see a piece of history be torn down.

Gallery Credit: Sarah Clark/TSM

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