Monday, February 2, 2015

February 2, 1937: Wesley Johnson

The Belvidere Daily Republican (Belvidere, Illinois) dated February 2, 1937:


Abbeyville, Ala., Feb. 2—Wesley Johnson, 22, Negro, was taken from the Henry county jail today and lynched by a mob of approximately 100 men.

Many members of the mob carried shotguns as they entered the jail, covered Sheriff Louis Corbett and his jailer and seized the prisoner.

Bud Corbett, father of the sheriff and county jailer, said the Negro was held on a charge of attempting to assault Mrs. Rubert Barnes, near Tubleton [sic] Saturday night.

He was taken to the scene of the alleged assault, hanged and riddled with bullets, the jailer explained.

"I heard the mob about 1:30 a. m.," the jailer said. "The mob had already come to the jail and covered Louis with guns.

"I got up and went into Louis' room and they covered me with shotguns and told me not to move. They had a crowbar and opened a tool box where I keep my jail keys."

The mob then took the Negro to the farm near Tumbleton where Mrs. Barnes, a farm woman lived, and hanged him from a tree.

The lynching was the first in Alabama in more than a year.

In Montgomery, Gov. Bibb Graves, after learning of the lynching, asked Attorney General A. A. Carmichael, to institute immediate impeachment proceedings against Sheriff Corbett.

He telephoned the sheriff and asked for an explanation. The sheriff gave the details of the lynching, the governor said, but did not answer his question when asked:  "Why did you keep it a secret so long?"

The Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama) dated June 4, 1937:


A. A. Carmichael Startles Impeachment Court Proceedings With Charge

MONTGOMERY, Ala., June 4.—(UP)—A charge that the mob which hanged Wesley Johnson, accused Negro of a white woman, near Abbeyville, Ala., last February had lynched "the wrong Negro" was made before the Alabama Supreme Court today by Attorney-General A. A. Carmichael.

Carmichael, prosecuting the impeachment trial of Sheriff J. L. Corbitt of Henry County on charges of negligence in Johnson's death, said the state could show that the sheriff knew Johnson was innocent.

Carmichael said public indignation had "forced Corbitt to arrest the wrong Negro."

Sheriff Corbitt was expected to take the stand in his own defense later in the day.

Rupert Bond, husband of Johnson's alleged victim, denied on the witness stand that he was a member of the mob which lynched Johnson.

Bond was the first state witness in the second day of the trial of Sheriff J. L. Corbitt, charged with negligence in permitting the lynching of Wesley Johnson near Abbeyville, Ala., last February by a mob of more than 50 persons.

Johnson had been accused of criminally attacking Mrs. Bond.

Bond was one of 10 men named by a special investigator for the state highway patrol as having been identified by Sheriff Corbitt as members of the lynch mob.

Under examination by Attorney General Carmichael, Bond said he "wanted the law to take its course."

"I had no knowledge of the intended lynching and took no part in it," he testified.

The defense objected when the Attorney General asked Bond:

"Didn't your wife get down on her knees and beg that mob not to lynch the Negro?"

The objection was sustained.

Bond was the sixth of 10 men named as members of the mob yesterday who have denied taking part in the lynching.

At yesterday's session, Attorney General Carmichael and defense counsel W. L. Lee of Dothan, engaged in a brief fist fight in the library of the Supreme Court following an argument over a detail of testimony.

Later, a justice of the high court struck at a photographer with a cane after the photographer snapped a picture near the judge. The cameraman was not injured.

The sheriff was cleared on all charges. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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