Saturday, October 18, 2014

October 18, 1933: George Armwood

Join me today in a jaunt through history involving a lynching in Maryland and the consequences following. Our first visit to Princess Anne, Maryland comes to us through The Taylor Daily Press (Taylor, Texas) printed on October 19, 1933:


PRINCESS ANNE, Md., Oct. 19.(UP)—A mob of nearly 3000 overpowered state police and lynched George Armwood, 28-year-odl [sic] negro, last night. Armwood was charged with attacking Mrs. Mary Denston, 71, white as she returned to her farm home Monday night.

Repulsed by tear gas bombs on its first advance, the mob finally battered down the doors of the Somerset county jail with timbers and seized the negro. A rope was placed around his neck and he was dragged behind an automobile through the streets.

Near the home of Judge Robert Duer, local police jurist, the mob hanged him to a tree, although apparently he was already dead from the effects of the mob's treatment. One of his ears had been nearly severed.

After the hanging the mob cut the body down and took it to the courthouse lawn, where it was burned.

The next leg of our journey is brought to us by The Pittsburg Courier (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) dated November 4, 1933:



Maryland Bows to Demand of Armwood Lynchers—Radical Threat to Rob Grave Results In "Shoot to Kill" Order.

BALTIMORE, Md., Nov, 2—"If they had hanged that 'nigger' Euel Lee two years ago, we wouldn't have lynched George Armwood," was the defy which a Princess Anne mob hurled into the teeth of law and order on the Maryland East Coast week before last, so on Thursday midnight Euel Lee paid the price of prejudice on the gallows, when he was hanged at the Maryland penitentiary.

This was the answer of Governor Ritchie and other high and influential public officials to Maryland's "Red Wednesday," which saw the streets of Princess Anne lit by flames as Armwood paid the supreme sacrifice, while State troopers, surrounding the jail, failed to fire a shot.

They failed to fire their guns as Armwood was taken from a ramshackle jail, pulled through the streets of the town, hanged, shot, and his nude, disfigured body left to sway in the breeze, but after they had buried Euel Lee in a shallow grave in Maryland, police troops and special deputies were placed "on guard" over his grave to prevent an alleged Communist movement to rob the grave and take Lee's aged body to New York.

And when the troops were left to guard the jail, they were given explicit instruction to "shoot to kill."

Efforts To Save Life Fail

Several last minute futile attempts were made to save his life.

Before the Federal Court here writs of habeas corpus and a certiorari were presented after Bernard Ades and David Levinson, Internal Labor Defense attorneys representing Lee, had been prohibited from appearing before the court. The bar was raised against Ades for alleged unbecoming conduct. Judge William C. Coleman stated that Levinson had not shown that he had the right to appear before the court.

Judge Alexander issued the following statement at the time of

The writs were presented by Attorney James McHenry Howard, appointed by the court, and were denied.

At Richmond, Va., an appeal for a certificate of probable cause was made before the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and denied by Judges Morris Soper and John J. Parker, whose ambition to sit on the United States Supreme Court bench Negroes were credited with defeating three years ago.

Before these last two moves, the United States Supreme Court had refused to review the Lee case, and Governor Albert C. Ritchie of Maryland had refused to intervene, expressing the conviction that Lee was guilty.

This next article comes from the same paper on the same date:



Princess Anne's Post Action In Refusing to Help Protect George Armwood Scored—Protest Sent to National Commander.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Oct. 26.—National Commander Edward Hayes of the American Legion received the following telegram last Thursday from Dean Charles H. Houston of the Howard University School of Law, and Leon A. Ranson of Zanesville, Ohio, instructor at the law school and active member of the American Legion:

"Negro Legionnaires and veterans demand that National Headquarters publicly discountenance statement of Commander E. G. Young, of L. Creation Beauchamp Post, Princess Anne, Md., quote:  The Legion will come out to protect men, women and children of Maryland, but not a Negro, unquote. Negro Legionnaires who fought for all races deeply resent flagrant insult of Legion Post that sanctions lynching of Negroes but refuses to aid civil authorities when called upon by the Governor."

Legion Posts Informed

Simultaneous with his dispatch to National Commander Edw. Hayes, both Dean Houston and Mr. Ransom sent the following letter to the commanders of colored and mixed posts:

"The George Armwood lynching in Princess Anne, Md., October 18, 1933, was one of the most revolting and atrocious lynchings which has ever stained the history of the United States. It is especially revolting to Legionnaires on account of the attitude of Commander E. G, Young of the L. Creston Beauchamp Post, Princess Anne, Maryland. Newspapers report that Governor Ritchie telephoned to the sheriff of Somerset County, Maryland, to summon the Legionnaires to preserve order.

"When the sheriff contacted Commander Young, the commander is reported to have issued a statement that "The Legion will come out to protect men, women and children of Maryland but not a Negro!"

"The Legion did not come out. Armwood was lynched by a mob of 3,000 in a village with 1,00 population. Authorities who are investigating are having a difficult time overcoming the 'local conspiracy of silence.'

Hindering Investigation

Continued the Houston-Ransom appeal:

"The Legion not only did not protect Armwood, keep the peace and preserve order prior to the lynching, but it is now shielding the guilty parties and hindering the investigation and prosecution.

"Acting on our own responsibility as veterans and Legionnaires, we sent a day letter October 19 (copy of which is herewith enclosed) to National Commander Edw. Hayes.

"We sincerely hope that your respective Posts will take vigorous and persistent action and will not let up until you have obtained complete satisfaction from the American Legion itself castigating the attitude and expressions of Commander Young and the L. Creston Beauchamp Post. We urge you to enlist all of the sympathetic and liberal Posts, both white and colored,in an effort to place The American Legion squarely behind a program of strict law enforcement regardless of race, creed or color."

(Signed) Leon A. Ransom,
Charles H. Houston,
420 Fifth street, N. W.,
Washington, D. C.

The next piece of history we are to examine comes also from The Pittsburg Courier (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) dated November 25, 1933:


Weakness of Law's Forces Admitted When State's Attorney Expresses Fear In Armwood Lynch Probe—Attorney General Demands Arrests.

CRISFIELD, Md., Nov. 23—Attorney General William Preston Lane's request that State's Attorney John B. Robins take immediate steps to have nine men arrested for the lynching of George Armwood at Princess Ann, October 18th, is meeting with considerable opposition.

"I don't believe those men would stay in jail," said Robins. "I believe a crowd would form and take them away."

Late last week the attorney general announced that he had forwarded the names of nine persons alleged to have been members of the mob that lynched George Armwood, and asked Robins to have them arrested and taken before the magistrate.

"If Lane wants those men arrested, let him come down here and arrest them," the Somerset County state's attorney said.

Fears Publicity

"He wants to have the nine men arrested and taken before a magistrate. If we did that there would be lots of publicity and excitement.

This next stop is a short article found in The Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland) on the 29th of November, 1933:


PRINCESS ANNE, Md., Nov. 20 (AP).—Steve Hopkins, superintendent of the Somerset county alms house, said today that the grave of George Armwood, lynched negro, believed to have been tampered with last night, will not be re-examined for the present.

Our journey continues on the pages of The News (Frederick, Maryland) on November 28, 1933:


Soldiers Withdrawn After Fighting Occurs At The State Armory

Bricks Hurled At Salisbury Building—Crowds Pour Into City.


"Lynch Lane" "Lynch Ritchie", Among Yells Heard.

Salisbury, Md., Nov. 28 (AP).—Troops sent by Governor Albert C. Ritchie to arrest nine suspects of the Princess Anne lynching today evacuated the armory here and started back to Baltimore after a mob of more than 1,000 persons stormed the building and were repulsed with tear gas, bombs and bayonets.

They took with them four men they arrested in early morning forays into nearby Somerset county where the lynching occurred October 18.

The troops had been ordered to Salisbury when State's Attorney John B. Robins, of Somerset county, declined to arrest men said by eyewitnesses to have been members of the mob that lynched George Armwood, negro.

Three hundred of the soldiers were mobilized in Baltimore last night and arrived in Salisbury shortly before dawn. The arrests followed in short order, although five of those sought could not be found.

As the busses [sic] bearing the militia pulled away there was no attempt on the part of the crowd to molest them.

Some of the crowd, however, lifted an official car bodily and turned it over. A negro chauffeur at the wheel scrambled and ran. The car was said to belong to William Preston Lane, Jr., State Attorney General, who had been inside the armory.

The Salisbury-Wicomico Chamber of Commerce was called hurriedly into a meeting at noon. It was reported the purpose of the summons was to protest against sending troops here.

Before the troops left, fire department equipment from neighboring towns had arrived and took up a position at the department headquarters opposite the armory. The crowd appeared to take this as a kindly gesture and they cheered each on arrival.

Salisbury, Md., Nov. 28 (AP).—Tear gas bombs were hurled by state militia today when a crowd of 400 men apparently incensed at the arrest of four members of the Princess Anne lynch mob, advanced on the state armory here.

The crowd gave was temporarily, but it again advanced and the soldiers, who arrived last night from Baltimore, were driven back into the armory.

A general fire alarm was sounded and firemen came to the rescue of the 300 members of the militia, ordered by Governor Albert C. Ritchie, to arrest nine men said to have been members of the mob that lynched George Armwood, negro, on the night of October 18.

The screaming crowd appeared to be unmindful of the tear gas, coming closer all the while. A few minutes later another barrage of tear gas was loosed.


Brigadier General Milton A Reckord, adjutant general of Maryland, stepped out in the street and said:

"Step back. We don't want to hurt anybody."

Whereupon there was a yell from the crowd"

"What right have you to come down here and run our county?" one man shouted.

Another yell came out:

"Oh, Reckord's all right. He's a regular fellow. He's just obeying orders."

The crowd, which gathered early today after the news spread that the militia had come and was arresting the alleged lynchers, was augmented by long motor caravans converging on Salisbury from many points on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

The Associated Press correspondent, sending messages on the printer wire, said he could see much of the action from where he was sitting.

In Annapolis, David C. Winebrenner 3rd. Secretary of State, was informed of the developments in Salisbury and said he would leave at once to take the news to Governor Ritchie, who is ill.


A rain of bricks was hurled at the armory by the crowd outside and this was followed by shots, although it was not immediately apparent who had fired them, the soldiers or the mob attacking.

The firemen continued to send streams of water into the tear gas, apparently in an effort to deaden the effects of the fumes. They appeared to be in sympathy with the crowd. This brought cheers from the crowd.

General Reckord appeared on the outside of the armory and ordered all persons standing on porches of private houses in the vicinity of the armory to evacuate.

The troopers were standing about the armory in a cordon with fixed bayonets. The crowd jeered them continuously.

Yells from the crowd could be heard:  "Lynch Lane!" and "Lynch Ritchie!"

Lane Inside Armory.

Attorney General Lane was inside the armory.

A picked battalion of Maryland National Guardsmen, acting under orders of Governor Ritchie, today conducted a systematic roundup of suspects of last month's lynching at Princess Anne.

Moving from Baltimore last night . . .

The governor's orders followed the refusal of the state's attorney of Somerset county, John B. Robins, to arrest nine men on information secured by State's Attorney General William Preston Lane, Jr. Robins contended the proper procedure was to take the case before the grand jury.

Those arrested today were:

William H. Thomson, 33, a Princess Anne druggist who had been a member of the coroner's jury investigating the lynching.

Irving Adkins, 30, or Princess Anne, a special officer at Princess Anne on Saturday nights.

William P. Hearn, 25, of Shad Point, a trucker.

William F. McQuay, 26, of Pocomoke City, a chain store clerk.

All the prisoners were taken from their beds and brought to the Salisbury armory. Clusters of people began to gather near the armory and criticism of Ritchie and Lane could be heard.

In order to guard against possible violence or any attempt to liberate the men. National Guard officers had equipped the troops with ammunition, machine guns, riot guns, gas grenades and automatic rifles.

  I left out two paragraphs because they repeated what had been established earlier in the article. An interesting fact is that the Scottsboro trials were being held at the same time.  Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder. 

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