Though Rogers recognized the need for organized labor and generally sympathized with their goals, he rejected violence in the name of reform. With the Times bombing, what angered him almost as much as the death and destruction, was the lack of a warning to the innocent people working the night shift. Rogers viewed it a vicious deed. The loss he suffered as result of the Times bombing was so deeply personal that his willingness to represent Darrow is a testament to Rogers’ professionalism.
Rogers was at work in his office directly across the street from the Times building when the first blast echoed throughout the city. It was common for him to work late hours and he was one of the first persons to get to the inferno. The ground was still trembling and the heat drove him back; he stared unbelieving, as one of the walls of Times building collapsed. Rogers said the worst part was the faces appearing in the windows of the office windows like “fugitives from a graveyard.” One of those fugitives was a friend, Harvey Elder, a young editor hanging from the ledge of the third floor. Harvey jumped but missed the net held by firemen and was taken to the hospital where he died from injuries caused by his fall. As result of the bedlam that followed the explosion, Rogers didn’t learn of Harvey’s condition and hoped that he had survived the inferno.
Harvey Elder was a “young old friend” of Rogers and most nights Harvey visited with his mentor in the early evening before heading across the street to the Times building. Earl Rogers’ mother and Harvey Elder’s grandmother were best friends, and their families had socialized in one another’s homes for many years. Several years earlier, Harvey had graduated from the University of Berlin and upon returning to Los Angeles, he took a job at the Times. Many years earlier, his education interrupted due to family finances, and prior to turning to the law, a young Earl Rogers had worked as a newspaper reporter. He could still recall how he developed leads, the best ways to confirm a story, and then how best to relate the details of an exciting event to his readers.
Harvey’s night off was Monday, and on occasion he and Rogers went to vaudeville shows together. On slow nights at the newspaper, it was common for Harvey to walk across the street just to visit with Rogers or possibly share a sandwich. This night, Rogers knew that Harvey was at work and left his law office immediately upon hearing the blast. Adela made it to the Times shortly after her father, and as she recalled, Rogers was “Black with soot, his clothes in ribbons, his face raw and swollen with burns, he was holding his right arm away from his body and his hand looked like a piece of raw steak on the end of it… Papa was talking to himself through clenched teeth. The murdering fiends, he kept saying. The paranoiac assassins…His underlip was bitten through, his chin was covered with dried blood.”
When Rogers learned that Harvey had jumped from the burning building, he was overcome with emotion. He and Adela walked/ran to the nearest hospital, five blocks away, only to learn of Harvey’s demise. Rogers refused to accept that someone like his “young old friend” had to become collateral damage in the war between capital and labor. The death of Harvey Elder lingered in Rogers’ thoughts for a very long time. It would loom over all his dealings with Darrow.