Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7, 1930: Thomas Shipp and Abe Smith

The Bee (Danville, Virginia) dated August 8, 1930 reports on the following lynching:



State Police, With Machine Guns, Hurried to Marion, Where Lynchings Occurred, and Governor Offers to Recall State Guard From Encampment if Necessary, But Situation is Now Reported Quiet With Mob Dispersed.

MARION, Ind., Aug 8—(AP)—A frenzied mob of 1,000 persons which stormed the Grant county jail late last night snatched two negroes from their cells and hung them on the courthouse square.

The victims of the mob's fury were Thomas Shipp, 18, accused of fatally shooting Claude Deeter, 23, of Fairmount, Ind. and Abe Smith, 19, who police say admitted attacking Deeter's girl companion after the shooting on a lonely country road east of here.  Using sledge hammers after they were driven off once by use of tear gas bombs, members of the mob smashed a hole in the masonry beside the jail door and broke their way through two steel doors to reach the cells of the negroes.

Shipp's clothing was torn from his body by the maddened men, and he was dragged in a blanket to the courthouse yard and hanged from the bars of a window in the building.  Smith, borne from the jail by a group of men after they had knocked him unconscious with their fists, was hung on a tree in the courthouse yard.

Mob Dispersed

The mob dispersed early today after it had taken from the jail and severely beaten Herbert Cameron, 16.  Today 50 state policemen and police officers from surrounding towns, armed with machine guns maintained order in this city, while Governor Harry G. Leslie said he stood ready to recall the national guard from its training quarters at Camp Knox, Ky. if further trouble developed.

The vengeance of the mob was appeased after Cameron was returned to the jail.  It was discovered the men had intended on taking Robert Sullivan, 19 who was implicated in the killing of Deeter, instead of Cameron whose connection with the other negroes was only that of an accomplice in several recent robberies.

Relative Intervenes

A move toward Sullivan, after the mistake was discovered and Cameron returned, was thwarted by a man who said he was an uncle of the girl attacked.  He harangued the mob saying the two men directly involved had been punished, and advised against further violence.  Soon after, the crowd broke up into small groups, and the danger of another outbreak was considered slight.

Early today the bodies of Shipp and Smith still swung from the places  where they were hanged, the lynchers announcing they would be left there until noon as a warning to other negroes.

Deeters was fatally shot Wednesday night as he sat in his parked automobile with Miss Mary Ball, 19, of Marion.  Four negroes appeared and after ordering him to throw up his hands, shot him four times.  One of the assailants then attacked the girl.  Deeter was brought to the Grant county hospital where he died yesterday afternoon.

Shipp, Smith and Cameron were arrested by police at their homes early yesterday and Sullivan arrested in an automobile late in the day.

Rumors Heard

Rumors of possible mob violence were heard in Marion yesterday and authorities said last night they had learned the crowd assembled at Fairmount, Deeters home town.  Shortly after dark they left for the county seat, six hundred strong, and their automobiles surrounded the jail building.

While the preparations were made or repulse the attack, Sheriff Campbell called for assistance from surrounding cities, and a large posse of officers responded, but arrived too late to prevent the lynchings.

For a short time the maddened throng was driven back by tear gas but using water to counteract the gas's effects, they successfully stormed the jail, and proceeded to hand the two negroes.

An attempt to burn the body of Shipp hanging 25 feet in the air failed when a fire built underneath failed to reach him high enough.

It was the first lynching in the memory of local residents.  About forty years ago an attempt was made to lynch a white man in the county jail here, but it failed after the mob had gained entrance.

Previous to last night, there had been twenty-four lynchings in Indiana since 1889.  Ten of the victims were white and fourteen negroes.

The Vernon Daily Record (Vernon, Texas) reports on August 9, 1930 the following:


Marion, Ind., Aug. 9—(AP)—State police aided local officers today in guarding against fresh outbreaks of mob violence which Thursday night was climaxed by the hanging of two negroes dragged from their cells in the county jail.  Fear of possible retaliatory action by young negroes for the deaths of Thomas Shipp and Abe Smith contributed to an atmosphere of tense watchfulness.

Colonel George H. Healey of Indiananoplis, in command of two companies of the Indiana National Guard dispatched yesterday from their training quarters at Camp Knox, Ky., arrived last night by plane in advance of the troops.  He announced the guardsmen would patrol the negro district to guard against property damage.

Yesterday and last night passed quietly except for the curious throngs which crowded the courthouse square where the mob lynched Shipp, accused of fatally shooting Claude Deeter, 23, of Fairmount and Smith, who admitted attacking Miss Mary Ball, 19, of Marion, Deeter's girl companion.  The crowds were kept moving by officers.

Miss Ball was to have selected her engagement ring today.  Instead she will attend the funeral of her fiance at his father's home at Fairmount.  Special deputies were sworn in last night to guard the residence where the youth's body lies.

Prosecutor Harley Hardin announced he would summon the county grand jury September 1 to investigate the lynchings.

The following was reported in The Pittsburg Courier (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) on August 30, 1930:



Gross Negligence Charges Made to Attorney General—Relate Details of Horrible Crime.

NEW YORK, Aug. 28—That the two solid steel doors of the Grant County jail, which would have prevented entrance of the mob which lynched Tom Shipp and Abe Smith at Marion, Ind., on August 7, were not locked on the night of the lynching was revealed here today on the return to New York of Walter White, acting secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  This is but one of the instances of gross failure to protect the prisoners, charged by Mr. White in a letter to James M. Ogden, Attorney General of Indiana.  In his communication to the Attorney General, Mr. White gave the names of alleged ring-leaders and members of the mob who snuffed out the lives of the two Negro youths at Marion.

In a statement made public today Mr. White declared:

"Seldom has there been an instance of more flagrant carelessness in preventing a lynching than was the case at Marion.  Sheriff Jacob Campbell claims that he had no intimation that the lynchings were being planned until around 7 o'clock in the evening of August 7 when Mr. W. T. Bailey, wife of a prominent physician in Marion, telephoned the sheriff to that effect.  Mrs. Bailey is president of the Marion branch of the N.A.A.C.P. and of the State Conference of branches of the N.A.A.C.P.  It is difficult to understand how Sheriff Campbell could not have known of the plans to lynch the two Negro boys.  Apparently everyone else in Marion knew early in the afternoon that the lynchings were to be staged.  Claude Deeter, the white man killed by the colored boys, died about 1:30 in the afternoon.  Immediately crowds began to gather in the streets and threats were openly made that Smith and Shipp would be lynched that evening.  Deeter's blood-stained, bullet pierced shirt was hung out of the front window of the Marion City building, this being done, according to statements made to me by Chief of Police Lindemuth and others, in order that the shirt might "dry" so that it could be used as evidence in the trials of Smith and Shipp.  When asked why the shirt had been allowed to stay there so long, I was told that they had 'forgotten about it.'  All afternoon people passed by the place and saw the shirt, which circumstances unquestionably helped to inflame the mob to action.

"Sheriff Campbell stated to me that when Mrs. Bailey warned him of these lynchings that he went to the jail garage and there found someone had removed the gasoline from the two cars there and let the air out of the tires.  This was around 7 o'clock and the lynchings did not occur until nearly three hours afterwards.  He apparently made no effort to get another car to remove the boys to a place of safe keeping.

"Furthermore, the two steel doors which would effectively have blocked attempts of the mob to seize the prisoners were not locked.  Each of these doors is about seven-eighths of an inch thick, made of solid steel and each is set in solid steel frames.  They could have been opened only by the use of a blow-torch and it would have taken an hour or more to open each door.  this would have given ample time for arrival of police reinforcements from nearby towns, which could have prevented the lynchings.  The first of these doors, as one enters the jail, does not close by two inches or more, as I found by testing it myself.  To neither this door nor the second solid steel door were there any keys.  Sheriff Campbell, when asked about these keys, stated that he had been sheriff for four years and had never seen any keys to these doors.  He did not seem at all to feel that this made any difference.  Sheriff Campbell is undoubtedly guilty of gross, if not criminal, negligence.  The N.A.A.C.P. have made formal requests of Attorney General Ogden to take action which he is authorized to take under the Indiana law against lynching, towards the impeachment and removal from office of sheriff Campbell.

"The facts are clear as to the crime charged against the two boys who were lynched.  There is no question that they killed Claude Deeter.  The circumstances, however, are not as given in the reports of the hold-up.  The scene of the crime is a deserted road used, according to Prosecutor Harley Harding, for "petting parties," and according to Captain Charles Truax of the police department, for "jazz parties."  This is a very mild statement for the reputation of the spot.  The road is about three miles out of Marion and runs at right angles to the main road.  It is known as "Lovers' Lane," is a little wider than a foot-path and runs parallel to the Mississinewa River.  There are many spots to the left of the road towards the river where automobiles have parked for purposes which may easily be imagined, showing the purpose for which the place is used.  One of the officials of Marion admitted that by a general understanding the county officials do not interfere with anything that goes on in this place.  This is significant as bearing upon the reputation of Mary Ball, who alleges that she was criminally assaulted by Abe Smith.  The parents of Claude Deeter, the slain white man, indignantly denied that their son was engaged to marry Mary Ball.  Nevertheless the fact that rumors were spread that a girl of this character had been criminally assaulted, was chiefly the case of the lynchings.

"There is, in my opinion, based upon conversations with colored and white people at Marion of all classes, little hope for apprehending and punishing the lynchers, if prosecution is left to local officials.  Prosecutor Harley Hardin expressed unwillingness to cause to cause the arrest of lynchers prior to the convening of the September grand jury.  He did not impress me as being a strong or an able character.  He was much alarmed when I talked to him because of some anonymous threats he had received from whites threatening him if he proceeded with the prosecution and some from colored people threatening him if he did not proceed.  The N.A.A.C.P. has formally requested Attorney General Ogden and Governor Harry G. Leslie to take of the charge of the investigation.  It is the general consensus of opinion that only by such a step will any of the lynchers be brought to trial.

"The N. A. A. C. P. has supplied these two officials with the names of certain of the lynchers and evidence against them which I secured in Marion.

"Some of the officials, however, have acted in the lynchings.  Mayor Jack Edwards the youthful chief executive of Marion, was out of town on the night of the lynching, but since his return the following day he has done everything possible to suppress lawlessness.  Attorney General Ogden sent two investigators, Merle Wall and Earl B. Stroup, to Marion who with local officials conducted a board of inquiry.  On the other hand, L. O. Chasey, secretary to Governor Leslie, a native of Marion, was most discourteous when appealed to over long-distance telephone by Mrs. W. T. Bailey to send troops to Marion, abruptly hanging up the receiver on Mrs. Bailey.  Mr. Chasey, who was acting in the absence of Governor Leslie from the state, declined to send troops when appealed to by Mayor Edwards, doing so only when Sheriff Campbell had asked for troops.

"I want to express warm admiration for the high courage and sagacity of many of the colored people of Marion during this terrible period.  Dr. and Mrs. W. T. Bailey, and Rev. William Oglesby, the Rev. C. S. Brown and others associated with the local branch of the N. A. A. C. P., stood firm, refused to be intimidated and have worked most assiduously to help restore order and to bring the lynchers to justice.  This was and is especially true of Mrs. Bailey.  (I want here to recommend her for the Walker Medal)  Robert L. Bailey and Robert Lee Brokenburr of Indianapolis went to Marion soon after the lynchings there and rendered valuabirndered[sic] valuable assistance. 

"The Marion lynchings are a challenge to every decent citizen and especially to Negroes in their being an invasion by lynching mobs of a northern state.  Certain officials of Marion claim that the mob-murderers were not racial in character.  This seems somewhat difficult to believe in view of the fact that there were in the jail at the time of the lynchings tow white men charged with the same offense were at liberty on bail.  Also in the jail at the time of the lynchings was another white man charged with one of the most brutal crimes in the history of Grant county.  He had hacked off the head, arms and legs of another white man in a dispute over a woman.  None of these white prisoners, however, was molested by the mob.  

"The lynching of Shipp and Smith were among the most horrible and brutal in the whole history of lynching.  Shipp was the first brought forth from the jail.  He was lynched to the bars of the jail itself.  When first pulled up he held on to the rope, preventing strangulation.  As the mob howled it's fury at temporary postponement of death, Shipp was lowered to the ground in order that his hands might be tied.  He fought furiously for his life, burying his teeth in the arm of one of the lynchers.  In order to make him loosen his teeth his skull was crushed in with a crow-bar and a knife plunged into his heart.  Fortunately for him, death occurred instantly, thus preventing further suffering.

"The N. A. A. C. P., through its Indiana branches and its National office is determined to press vigorously for full prosecution of the lynchers and punishment to the full extent of the law." 

No comments:

Post a Comment