Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18, 1921: John Henry Williams

This first newspaper has two small articles concerning John Henry Williams.  The Concord Daily Tribune (Concord, N.C.) dated June 14, 1921:


Left in Automobile Closely Pressed by Mob Intent on Lynching.

(By the Associated Press.)

Albany, GA., June 14.—The whereabouts of Sheriff Beard and his prisoner, John Henry Williams, the negro accused of the murder of Lorena Wilkes, 12 year old white girl near Autryville yesterday, were unknown this morning after a flight from the scene of the crime in an automobile closely pursued by a mob intent on lynching Williams.

Judge Thomas, of the southern circuit, will convene Colquitt court in extraordinary session so that the negro can be tried at once.

A Later Dispatch.

Albany, GA., June 14—Word was received here today from Autryville near where Lorena Wilkes, 12 year old white girl was murdered yesterday morning that a negro church was burned and two negro women severely beaten last night while the parties of white men searching for the wife of John Henry Williams, the negro accused of the crime.  The woman was not found.

The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.) dated June 20, 1921:

Negro Burned At Stake By Georgia Mob.

A Moultrie, Ga., dispatch of June 18 says:  John Henry Williams, negro slayer of Lorena Wilkes, 12-year old white girl, was burned at the stake today by a mob after he had been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to be hanged July 8.  The prisoner was taken from the officers as he was being escorted from the court room and rushed to the scene of his crime where he was tied to the stump of a tree.

Williams calmly smoked a cigarette as the match was applied to the fuel around him and he made but little outcry as the flames slowly burned him to death.  It was reported that he made a full confession.

The mob quietly dispersed after the lynching and thus far no arrests have been made.

This last article comes from The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) dated January 11, 1922:

Serious Charges Brought Against County Officer

Removal of Chief of Colquitt Police Asked in Petition.

Moultrie, Ga., January 10.—(Special.)—A petition bearing the names of a number of Colquitt county taxpayers was filed with the sheriff and clerk of the board of county commissioners this afternoon, urging the removal of County Policeman Stewart on a charge of malfeasance in office.

The petition sets out two alleged instances in which it is claimed that Stewart perjured himself, and also alleges that he was an active participant in the lynching of John Henry Williams, a negro, who was burned at the stake near Autreyville last summer.  Stewart was one of the special guards appointed by Judge Thomas to help protect Williams while on trial.  It was after he was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang for the murder of little Lorena Wilkes, Williams was taken from the officers at the courthouse steps as he was being carried to prison.

One of the instances of alleged perjury, the petitioners claim, is when Stewart swore at the trial of a case here that he had never used a search warrant in blank, filling out the name himself of the person's residence that he wanted to search. 

The petition says that the Georgia code provides that before a person can be appointed or elected a county policeman he must be 21 years old and a man of good character, and contends that for the reasons set forth above that Stewart is disqualified. 

Stewart has been under fire nearly ever since he was made chief of the Colquitt county police force and gave instructions to make Colquitt as dry as the Sahara. The grand jury has been appealed to twice, but in both cases declined to recommend his removal. 

The date of the hearing in the latest move has not been named, but it is believed that because of the gravity of the charges embodied in the petition the commissioners will hold a special meeting at an early date. Stewart could not be seen tonight for a statement. 


  1. Sweet god this happened in my Grandparen't back yard.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. It is amazing what history you can find that happened where you live. To think that wonderful or horrific things happened where we live our lives without ever being aware.

  2. wow this is so educating. Thanks for posting this.

    1. Thanks for reading it. I am glad that you found it interesting.

  3. I have some passed down information about this horrific incident. I would love to share it with you and find out more myself. How do I get in touch.

    1. My email is I would love to help in any way possible.

  4. Thank you Anne Last for this dedicated endeavor. I can not begin to know what you must have undergone to persevere in this very challenging commitment.