Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lynching’s Are Still Haunting Reminder To Some WV Communities

From Huntington To Elkhorn On Flagpoles To Tree Limbs Forty-Nine Men Died by Jack Swint

“The two were forcibly removed from the Greenbrier County Jail and taken about 2 miles west of Lewisburg, where they were hanged from the cross arm of a telephone pole. The mob then unloaded their rifles, shotguns, and pistols into the men's bodies.” December 10, 1931 mob lynching of Tom Jackson and George Banks

According to Wikipedia, “a lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a population of people, however large or small.”

In a dark part of our history, lynchings in West Virginia date back as far as 1882 and as recent as July of 2000. When the conversation comes up, most people think of blacks being the victims at the hands of white Klansmen or just a group of angry citizens taking it upon themselves to deal out justice swift and final without a trial. According to statistics we found, there were a total of 49 people lynched in those years. Out of those figures, 20 were white and 29 black.

All but one recorded lynching was carried out by angry mobs of men cloaked in hoods and or in the dead of night. They targeted men who were merely accused of a crime, not convicted. Some were taken by force from within jail cells while in custody awaiting trial.

On the other hand, there was also the court ordered public hangings of people convicted and sentenced to die for their crimes. People would travel from hundreds of miles to watch an execution while enjoying carnival rides and the sales of tinkered trades and memorabilia. The last legal public execution in West Virginia was that of John Morgan at Ripley on December 16, 1897 at a spot just south of the present football stadium at the new high school campus. Thousands were on hand (men,women & children) who showed up to watch the execution. Some came days ahead to enjoy the pre-hanging festivities.

Recorded Lynching’s In WV

BLUEFIELD - Alexander Jones lynched January 28 1896; Robert Johnson lynched September 4 1912

BRAMWELL - 1 unidentified black man lynched February 1 1896

ELKHORN - Anderson Holliday lynched August 2 1894

ELKINS - Peter Jenkins lynched July 25 1902; William Brooks lynched July 22 1901

FAYETTEVILLE - John Turner lynched Fayetteville West Virginia August 30 1889

GLENJEAN -N/A Williams lynched February 7 1902

GRANT TOWN – Arthur Warren lynched July 3, 2000

HINTON - William Lee lynched May 11 1900

HUNTINGTON - 1 unidentified black man lynched October 14 1910

KEYSTONE - Cornelius Coffee lynched December 5 1892

LEWISBURG - Tom Jackson and George Banks lynched Virginia December 10 1931,

LOGAN COUNTY - James Smith lynched May 27 1892

MADISON - Frank Brown lynched February 4 1903

MERCER COUNTY - Luther Mills lynched May 13 1892

NAUGATUCK - "Red" Smith lynched May 15 1892

PRINCETON - Alexander Foote lynched April 13 1891

SUTTON - Charles Lewis lynched November 3 1909

WANELSDORF - 4 unidentified black men lynched July 25 1902

WELCH - 1 unidentified black man lynched November 22 1918

WESTON - Edgar Jones lynched July 6 1892

WHITMER – Joe Brown lynched March 25th, 1909


N/A Whitney lynched N/A West Virginia December 15 1919

The 1931 Lynching Of Tom Jackson & George Banks

According to WV records and media accounts. On the night of December 10, 1931, about 50 armed and masked men drove to Lewisburg to avenge 2 murders. To protect their identity, they traveled in cars from which the license plates had been removed.

Two white men, Constable Joseph Miles and Jack Brown, both of Quinwood, were killed after Miles had been called to quiet the revelry at a dance near Rainelle. Nearly 3 weeks later, Tom Jackson and George Banks, the African-American men charged with the crime, found themselves the target of a lynch mob. The two were forcibly removed from the Greenbrier County Jail and taken about 2 miles west of Lewisburg, where they were hanged from the cross arm of a telephone pole. The mob then unloaded their rifles, shotguns, and pistols into the men's bodies. Empty shells gathered at the scene filled a half-gallon bucket.

A few hours after the lynching, 3 brothers, R. E., Jack, and Pete Legg were ordered held for investigation. The prosecuting attorney promised, in his words, "the fullest investigation" of the lynching. Governor William Conley called the murders "a horrible thing" and asked the state police to look into them. The 3 brothers were later convicted in Kanawha County of the lynching. Significantly, the West Virginia Supreme Court used the case to uphold an anti-lynching law passed by the legislature in 1921.

The 1909 Lynching Of Joe Brown

As described in the March 25th, 1909 Randolph Enterprise…"Joe Brown, a notorious character who had earned the reputation of an outlaw expiated his crime in shooting Scott White, Chief of Police of Whitmer. Early last Friday morning Brown was taken from the jail at Whitmer by an orderly party of masked men and strung up to a flag pole on the principal street of the town."

The story goes on to state that..."Waiting until the dead of night when the streets of the town were deserted, between fifty and a hundred masked men, without creating a disturbance or disturbing the slumbers of the town surrounded the jail, forced the two guards at the point of revolvers to vacate their posts and entered the jail. Brown was hustled from its protecting walls for a distance of about half a square, a noose adjusted around his neck, and hanged by block and tackle to a flag pole from which his inanimate body still dangled the next morning when the town awoke. After making sure that life was extinct, the lynchers quietly dispersed."

The body was cut down about nine o’clock that morning and an inquest over which Squire Andrew Hedrick presided held to determine just how Brown came to his death. Examined by the coroner’s jury the two guards, Bordeck and Croy testified that they had not been able to identify any of those engaged in the lynching. With no other evidence on which to base a decision the jury reached the conclusion that Brown had come to his death at the hands of a mob of unknown masked men. According to numerous accounts, Joe Brown was considered a man of desperate character, not brave but who took delight in shooting a man and then running. He never was without a revolver on his person.

He had but few sympathizers, and those were people about of the same character. Brown had been in the West Virginia Penitentiary two times, in the Virginia State prison one term. He had committed several murders, among them it is claimed he held his first wife in one corner of his dwelling house and cut her throat from ear to ear. Brown is supposed to have also killed two United States Marshalls for which, it is understood large rewards had been offered.

The 2000 Lynching Of Arthur Warren

Unlike the men above, Arthur “JR” Warren was never accused of a crime. He was described as a fine African-American young man who at the age of 26 was considered a kind, gentle and soft spoken man who was well liked by most everyone who knew him. Growing up he had learning disabilities and a birth defect that caused him to be born with several fingers missing on one hand. But, that never held him back from living life to the fullest.

What started out as a pre 4th of July fireworks display in Grant Town on July 3, 2000, turned into a lynching at the hands of 3 acquaintances who “JR” thought had befriended him. According to media reports and other records, Warren left his parents' home around 11:30 p.m. on July 3, 2000, to watch the Fourth of July fireworks in Grant Town. His mother said she reminded him of his 12:30 a.m. curfew, and when he had not returned home by 2:30 a.m. she assumed he was spending the night at a friend's.

Instead of attending the fireworks, Warren went to meet with 17-year-old David Parker, an acquaintance, at an empty house owned by Parker's family. Parker was painting the house, along with his 17-year-old cousin Jared Wilson and Jared's 15-year-old Jason Shoemaker. While there, the three drank beer, smoked marijuana, and huffed gasoline fumes, inhaling them in order to get high.

Parker reportedly asked Warren to bring cigarettes, condoms, porn, and Xanax, the latter of which Warren had been prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication. Warren reportedly brought both cigarettes and Xanax to the house, where the other three boys began to crush and snort the tablets. At some point an argument ensued and Parker and Wilson began beating Warren and kicking him with steel-toed boots. Shoemaker witnessed the beating but did not participate. Court documents record that Parker later said Shoemaker egged him on to confront Warren.

Afterwards, the three boys put a bloodied Warren in Parker's car. Parker drove and Shoemaker sat in the front seat while Jared sat in back with Warren. Warren was still conscious enough to repeatedly ask to be taken home. Near the edge of town, Parker and Wilson removed Warren's body from the car and placed it in the road while Shoemaker remained in the car. Parker then ran over Warren with his car a total of four times, to disguise the death as a hit-and-run. The three boys then returned to the house where the assault had taken place, cleaned up the blood and disposed of their bloodied clothes by burning them with gasoline.

In the end, David Parker (pictured to the left) pleaded guilty to first degree murder on July 19, 2001 and was sentenced to life in prison. On August 21, 2001 Jared Wilson plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Jason Shoemaker later plead to being an accomplice after the fact for his part in helping to dispose of evidence after the murder.

End Of Story

Jack Swint - Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com 
Website: http://WVNewsOnline.com
Blog: http://WestVirginiaNews.blogspot.com 
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline  
LinkedIn: Jack Swint

Also... Read Our Free Online Edition Depicting 130 Of Americas Lesser Known And Forgotten Killers: Resurrecting Murder


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