Saturday, June 4, 2016

4 Lynchings In U. S. In First Half Of 1940: July 4, 1940

Today an article found in The Gazette and Daily's (York, Pennsylvania) July 4, 1940 edition is featured:

4 Lynchings In U. S. In First Half Of 1940

Association For Advancement Of Colored People Takes Issue With Tuskegee Report Which Says There Was None.

Comment By Congressman

(By The Associated Press)

New York, July 3.—The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today vigorously took issue with a Tuskegee Institute report that there had been no lynchings in the United States during the first six months of 1940.

In Washington yesterday (Wednesday) Rep. Hobbs (D-Ala) informed the House today that there had not been a single lynching in the United States during the first six months of this year. "This proves again," Hobbs, "that crime is being utterly eradicated by the only force that can eradicate it—namely, enlightened local public sentiment."

In a telegram to Dr. F. D. Patterson, president of the Tuskegee, Ala., negro school, Walter White, association secretary said:

"On March 2 Sarah Rawls and Benton Ford were flogged to death by a mob at Atlanta, Ga. Five days later Ike Gaston was beaten to death by a mob in the same city. (all three were white persons).

"On June 22 Elbert Williams, negro, was lynched at Brownsville, Tenn., for attempting to exercise his constitutional right to register in order to vote in 1940 presidential election."

Declaring that "such inaccurate statements by Tuskegee Institute do irreparable harm by causing public vigilance against mob murder to relax and by giving enemies of anti-lynching bills ammunition for sabotage of such legislation," the telegram continued:

"Tuskegee should either establish machinery to get facts completely and accurately or stop issuing lynching figures."

The institute's department of records and research had reported eight lynchings in 1937, six in 1938, three in 1939 and none so far in 1940.

Information on the deaths of Sarah Rawls and Benton Ford  and the death of Ike Gaston can be found in the following article in the Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennessee) dated March 15, 1940:


Atlanta Police Trace Report Klansmen In Vicinity When Couple Murdered

ATLANTA, March 15. (AP)—police Capt. Ben W. Seabrook said today he was pursuing information that four admitted Ku Klux Klan members mentioned in investigation of suburban whippings were in Henry county on the night Sarah Rawls and Benton Ford were found dead near McDonough, Henry county seat, two weeks ago.

"I want to talk with friends and relatives of the murdered couple," he said, "and have offered them police protection if necessary."

Seabrook said he especially wished to talk to Johnnie miller, girl friend of Miss Rawls, about a letter she said Sarah received from a suitor indicating jealousy.

Strong Evidence

The Atlanta Journal quoted Seabrook as saying he already had "strong evidence indicating that a whipping crew of Klan members was drawn into the case by the jealousy of a close relative of one of the Klansmen."

Miss Rawls and Ford were killed by blows from a blunt instrument. Their bodies were found on a lonely road near the pick-up truck in which they had left a roadside dance hall several hours previously.

Four Indicted

A Fulton county (Atlanta) grand jury earlier this week indicted four men on charges of participating in whippings in this section. the investigation started after the fatal flogging of Ike Gaston, East Point barber. The four under indictment are not charged with participating in the Gaston whipping, however.

Chairman A. J. Allen of the American Legion's Americanism committee for the fifth area called today for the "resignation," a public recall election or impeachment" of Fulton county Sheriff J. C. (Mott) Aldredge, charging the official had not in the past properly investigated and prosecuted floggings.

Allen said he was authorized to speak for the entire Georgia department at a meeting here last night of high state Legion officials.

A letter to the editor concerning these events can be found in The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio) dated May 15, 1940:

Letters To The Editor

To the Editor of The Independent:

I recall reading in your paper recently a statement to the effect there had not been a lynching in the U. S. for a year.

To more clearly show the need of a real anti-lynching bill and at the same time to present the record, I call to your attention the facts. Near Atlanta, Ga., three people (white) were beaten to death allegedly by the Ku Klux Klan in March of this year. One a woman, Sarah Rawls, March 2:  Benton Ford, March 2 and Ike Gaston, a barber, March 7.

Miss Rawls and Ford were taken from their parked auto in Lover's Lane and charged with immorality. Gaston was charged with drinking too much.

The fight for an anti-lynching bill continues with greater interest, especially since Senator Barkley is alleged to have publicly admitted the House is not interested in passage of the bill introduced by Senators Wagner, Van Nuys and Capper and sabotaged by its proponents, Wagner, Van Nuys and Capper.

Massillon, May 13.

Information on the lynching of Elbert Williams can be found here.

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


  1. Benton Ford is an ancestor from my husbands family. Sad that this happened to him.

  2. I agree,it is sad. Thanks for reading.