Thursday, June 4, 2015

July 4/5, 1933: Norris Dendy

Join me today to learn about a South Carolina lynching through the pages of the Florence Morning News (Florence, S. C.) dated July 6, 1933:


Norris Dendy, Accused of Striking Youth, Taken From Clinton Jail

CLINTON, S. C., July 5 (AP)—Four unidentified white men dragged Norris Dendy, 35-year-old negro, from the small Clinton jail early today and a few hours later his beaten and strangled body was found in a churchyard near here.

Dendy was placed in the jail, a small town building with no regular jailor [sic], late yesterday for striking Marvin Lollis, 22, white Clinton truck driver, and resisting arrest.

About midnight the jail's negro janitor said, four white men came to the building, knocked the lock off with a wrench and forced Dendy into their automobile. They disappeared before an alarm could be spread.

Thad Moore one of the deputies Sheriff Owens of Laurens county, sent out to search for the negro and his captors, found the body in the old Sardis churchyard, several miles from here, shortly before 1 p. m.

It bore marks of a severe beating and around the negro's neck was a rope. The body, however, was lying at the gateway to the church's cemetery and Sheriff Owens said Dendy had apparently been hanged somewhere else and the body removed there.

One of the negro's wound[s] was first mistaken for a bullet wound but George Holland, Clinton police chief who examined the body said Dendy had not been shot.

Lollis and Dendy each drove a truckload of picnickers to Lake Murray, in the lower part of Laurens county for a fourth of July celebration yesterday.

The negro and white man became involved in an argument, witnesses said, and Dendy struck Lollis with a stick, inflicting a gash on his cheek.

When white men at the picnic attempted to apprehend him, the negro fled in his truck but officers at Goldville, between the lake and Clinton, were advised to watch for him and when he arrived there he was arrested. Goldville officers brought him here where he was placed in jail.

There have been no known threats against Dendy and as the charge against him was not considered serious, no extra precautions were taken to guard him.

Solicitor Homer S. Blackwell announced an inquest would not be held until next week, pending the gathering of evidence.

Sheriff Owens said he had no clues on which to work and he had "no idea" who to look for. He said he was unable to track the lynchers with blood hounds as they traveled by automobile.

Our next article is found in The Pittsburgh Courier (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), June 2, 1934 edition:


NEW YORK, May 31.—A strong telegram urging Governor Ibra C. Blackwood of South Carolina to have the state attorney general's office take "vigorous action" in the prosecution of the alleged lynchers of Norris Dendy, was sent this week by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"The Laurens County grand jury at the June term will consider once more the evidence against alleged lynchers of Norris Dendy, who was taken from jail in Clinton and lynched on July 4, 1933," the wire said. "Eye witnesses to Dendy's removal from jail have positively identified members of mob and owners of automobiles used. Testimonies and affidavits of these witnesses were given the grand jury in February. We feel positive action against alleged mob members by the state is imperative if South Carolina is . . . to vindicate contention that states alone can handle lynching evil and can be depended upon to punish lynchers."

R. Y. Dendy of New York, brother of the lynched man, with the assistance of the national office of the N. A. A. C. P., secured three eye witnesses, two men and a woman, brought them out of Clinton, secured affidavits from them, and, under the pledged protection of the governor's office, took two of them back to Laurens county last February to testify before the grand jury. The jury voted to "continue" considering the evidence at the June term.

Norris Dendy was lynched after he had struck a white truck driver in an argument at a colored picnic to which both men had driven loads of picnickers. Norris Dendy was jailed for a few hours, but later a mob, said to have included two police officers of Clinton, took him out of his cell and killed him on the outskirts of the city. White people of Clinton say the plan was to "give Norris a whipping" because he was "too smart" but not to kill him. They explain that Norris was killed, perhaps, when he fought back at members of the whipping mob.

Our final article comes from The New York Age (New York, N. Y.) dated June 30, 1934:

Grand Jury Returns No Bill In Dendy Lynching; Brother Says He Will Continue His Fight

LAURENS, S. C.—The Laurens County Grand Jury on Tuesday returned no bill in the case of five white Clinton men charged with the lynching of Norris Dendy at Clinton, S. C. on July 4, 1933. The men named in the bill of indictment were Hubert Pitts, P. M. Pitts, Roy Pitts, J. Pitts, Ray and Marvin Lollis.

Dendy had been arrested after he and Lollis, another truck driver, had engaged in an altercation at a picnic at Lake Murray. Both men had driven truckloads of picnickers to the grounds and after the fight Dendy was arrested by Goldville police and placed in jail.

As the charge was not a serious one, police say they took no extra precautions to guard him. At midnight. witnesses said that the four white men named above came to the jailhouse, knocked the lock off with a wrench and forced Dendy into their automobile. His body was found later, badly beaten, near Sardis.

Several Negro witnesses to the crime were threatened with death if they appeared to testify in the case and moved from the state for safety. A photostatic copy of one of the threatening letters mailed to William Crawford in New York was reproduced in The New York Age last week.

Crawford in January, 1934, made a deposition before a notary public in Washington, D. C., that he was in Clinton, S. C., the day of the lynching and that during the late afternoon and early evening of that day, while in his father's car which was parked near the jail, he heard two shots and was told that Norris Dendy was either being beaten or taken out of the jail.

He said he drove to the jail and saw a crowd of about 100 people outside of the jail. In the crowd he said he recognized Pack Pitts, Officer Henry Young, Roy Pitts, Marvin Lollis, Hubert Pitts and Chief of Police George Holland. He said he had not been parked near the jail long when he saw someone being brought out of the jail by Marvin Lollis, Pack Pitts and Hubert Pitts and taken to the Car [sic] of Pack Pitts and beaten while int he car. He was unable to see whom was being beaten.

He said that he drove off in his car because he considered it unsafe to remain as a witness. Early the next day, Crawford said, that while he was walking past Main street filling station, which was either owned or run by Pack Pitts, he saw the automobile of Pitts being washed by Dominick, a white man. He said that the back and floor of the car were being flushed by a hose and that the water which came out of the car was of a reddish color, leading him to believe that it was blood.

He said that he left Clinton because in the days that followed the lynching he was intimidated by several men among whom were several policemen. He said that one of the men who told him that it would do him no good to know too much or be so wise was Marvin Lollis who had been seen in the crowd that lynched Dendy. After the threats, Crawford went North and only recently in New York received a letter threatening lynching for him if he should attempt to testify before the grand jury.

Another witness, who like Crawford went North for safety, was Miss Clarabell Peake who took up residence in New York after the lynching. Miss Peake in a sworn statement said that on the afternoon of July 4, before the lynching took place, Mrs. Armanda Dendy, wife of the man who was afterwards lynched, came and asked her to accompany her to jail to visit her husband.

She said that she and Mrs. Dendy went to the jail and made an effort to bail Norris out and when they were unsuccessful they left and shortly afterwards heard two shots coming from the jail and then saw two cars driving away from the jail. They recognized one of the car[s] as belonging to Pack Pitts.

Despite this sworn testimony of Crawford and Miss Peake and testimony of like nature by other eyewitnesses the county grand jury returned no bill.


R. Y. Dendy of 2588 Seventh avenue, New York City, brother of Norris Dendy who was lynched at Clinton, S. C., on July 4, 1933, stated that the case is not closed as far as he is concerned and announced receipt from a state official that evidence will be presented to a future grand jury in an effort to get a true bill.

According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, an indictment was eventually secured for the rope and gun which led to his death by a grand jury. As of 1937, no member of the mob had been indicted.

Here is a copy of the death threat received by Crawford, it is not very legible.

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.


  1. my mother would often talk of hearing about this. she is from Clinton. I had looked this name up years ago to try and research this and today I looked again. So glad this is here. I am so sorry that she died before I could tell her about it

    1. I am glad you found the blog. I think it is important, as a nation, to remember the ugliness of the past in order to prevent repeating and to acknowledge it.