Monday, May 23, 2016

July 20, 1937: Richard Hawkins and Ernest Ponder

Today we learn about two lynched in Florida through the pages of The Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Indiana) dated July 20, 1937:


Tallahassee, Fla., July 20.—(AP)—Assistant Chief of Police W. L. Prater said two young Negroes charged with the stabbing of a Tallahassee policeman were lynched by unidentified persons early today.

Two Negroes were arrested Sunday on a charge of stabbing Policeman V. F. Kelly when he attempted to question them about breaking into a restaurant. Kelly, stabbed seven times, is in serious condition in a hospital here.

The bodies were found after daylight close by a clump of oak trees a short distance off the Jacksonville highway.

Police officials who were on duty last night were away from headquarters this morning.

City police place their prisoners in the county-city jail, and have access to it at all times to lock up prisoners.

There were reports that a band of men entered police headquarters early today and forced an officer to accompany them at gun point to the county jail and get the two Negroes out of their cell.

The men were reported to have bound the policeman and left him in the jail building, departing without arousing the jail custodian.

A coroner's jury viewed the bodies after which they were brought to an undertaking establishment.

State Attorney Orion C. Parker, Jr., said "we're going to investigate this thing as far as we can. We're trying to get the parties who are responsible for it."

Five placards, one of them saying "warning, this is what will happen to all Negroes that harm white people," were found at the scene of the lynching.

Awakened by cries for help from the cell block of the jail, County Jailer Robert Magle said he found Harry Fairbanks, city police desk sergeant, locked inside the block. Fairbanks told him, Magle said, that a band of men entered police headquarters and forced him at gun point to go to the county jail and deliver the Negroes to them.

Fairbanks was off duty when the Negroes' bodies were found and could not be located.

Authorities yesterday charged two Negroes, listed as Richard Hawkins and Ernest Ponder, each about 18, with stabbing Patrolman Kelly.

Police said both confessed each accusing the other of the actual stabbing.

This was the first lynching in Florida this year and the first double lynching in several years.

Two weeks ago the national guard, summoned by Governor Fred P. Cone, protected an Apalachicola Negro, Robert Hinds, from feared mob violence as he stood trial here on a charge of criminal assault upon a white woman. He was given the death sentence and is to be executed Friday.

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

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