Monday, September 5, 2016

June 29, 1928: James and Stanley Bearden

Today we learn about a lynching in Mississippi through the pages of the Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi) dated June 30, 1928:


Brookhaven Citizens Plead With Attackers in Vain Speeches


White Citizen Shot By Negroes is Still in Critical Condition

BROOKHAVEN, June 29—An infuriated mob numbering several hundred Lincoln county citizens stormed the local jail tonight, just before 9 o'clock, obtained Stanley Bearden and James Bearden, negro prisoners, and lynched both the men being held on charges of assault upon two white citizens.

One of the negroes was dragged through the city streets by the neck with a rope tied to an automobile before being carried outside the city and hanged.

The other was taken in another car in the opposite direction and hanged to the Old Brook bridge, a mile and a half south of here on the McComb highway.

The mob used large timbers to force the windows of the jail and obtain the prisoners, and released a third negro who helped the invaders find one of the men being sought in the cells of the jail.

Wild shooting of firearms and much noise and confusion accompanied the delivery of the prisoners, and the mob brushed aside the small group of officers guarding the jail.

The negroes had been jailed following alleged attacks they had made upon Claude and Caby Byrnes, citizens of the city, one of whom had attempted to collect an overdue account from one of the negroes. The creditor left the collector with the word that he was going to obtain the money, and returned instead with his brother, whereupon the trouble occurred. Claude was shot three times while Caby was hurt by a scalp wound.

The mob which stormed the jail and demanded the negroes were refused keys by Sheriff Martin J. Brister and a handful of deputies and officers who were soon overpowered after cooler heads had sought to restore order and prevent seizure of the prisoners.

All attempts of the officers to dissuade the members of the crowd from carrying out their plans to force an entry into the jail failed. An acetylene torch was used to break into the cage where the prisoners were held.

Among citizens who pleaded with the mob to disperse were T. Brady and J. A. Naul, attorneys and the Rev. Paul Hardin who urged them to let the law take its course.

After one of the negroes had been dragged about two miles around the town behind an automobile he was hanged to a tree and the other negro soon met a like fate. The bodies, mutilated, were taken in charge by a local undertaker while a coroner's inquest was held.

Byrne's right thigh was broken by a bullet fired by one of the Bearden brothers in the clash this afternoon and he was in a critical condition tonight. Chief of Police Walter Smith was wounded slightly when fired upon by one of the negroes when he gave chase after the clash with the Byrnes brothers.

The wild excitement that had stirred Brookhaven since the shooting this afternoon had subsided tonight and Sheriff Brister, who could not be located was investigating the lynching. No arrests had been made tonight.

BROOKHAVEN, June 29—Claude Byrnes is in the King's Daughters hospital here with three bullet wounds, one in each leg and one in the shoulder as the result of a shooting affray here this morning.

His brother Caby Byrnes, mechanic, is suffering with a scalp wound inflicted before the shooting began.

The trouble commenced this morning when Caby Byrnes tackled a negro named James Bearden an employe [sic] of Sam Abrams here, for a bill nearly a year old. The negro promised to pay and went away with the statement that he was going for the money. When he returned he was accompanied by his brother, Stanley, an employee of I. Abrams, and the two commenced to make trouble for Mr. Byrnes, instead of handing over the money.

About this time Claude Byrnes happened to be passing by and saw his brother in trouble, the encounter being in the driveway of Mr. Byrnes' shop, and went to his assistance, hitting James Bearden with a shovel.

James Bearden who is a large and powerful negro, was practically uninjured by the blow and picking up a piece of iron hit Caby Byrnes over the head with it, causing the scalp wound. In the meantime Stanley Bearden backed away and started firing at everyone in the vicinity of the trouble, particularly Claude Byrnes, with a .38 special automatic pistol, Mr. Byrnes receiving three wounds as stated above.

No one else was struck by the bullets. An officer arrested James Bearden and took him to the county jail; Stanley Bearden escaped through the back of Byrnes' garage, went to the store where he was employed, borrowed fifty cents and proceeded to Perkins Hardware store where he tried to buy more cartridges from a clerk; the clerk refused to sell hi mthe [sic] ammunition, noticing his condition.

However, the negro had obtained more cartridges and in the meantime the crowd finding him in the store he started out up the railroad, pistol in hand. Those who attempted to stop him were dissuaded by the threatening gun. He was finally cornered in a negro house near the Brookhaven Cotton Oil mill and exchanged shots with officers and citizens who surrounded the house, until he had been wounded several times.

Our next article is found in the Corsicana Daily Sun (Corsicana, Texas) dated June 30, 1928:




BROOKHAVEN, Miss., June 30. (AP)—Quiet and a little bit apprehensive, Brookhaven carried on as usual today with no traces of the violent excitement that rocked the town last night when two negroes were lynched by a mob.

The mutilated bodies of the victims early today were swaying from huge liveoak trees beyond the city limits. Even the most curious hesitated to visit the spot after midnight. Other negroes who might have cut them down were in their homes with the doors locked.

The lynching resulted from a fight between the two negroes, brothers, and two white men, Claude and Cabby Byrne, automobile service station proprietors. Claude suffered a broken hip, Cabby received a scalp wound from a pistol shot while the chief of police, Walter Smith, was slightly hurt. The negroes fled but were captured and jailed after one had been shot three times by officers.

With dusk, small bands of men gathered on downtown corners and when night came they joined to form a huge mob which immediately moved on the jail. Sheriff Brister and deputies were overpowered but they did not surrender the keys.

Heavy timbers were used to batter down the locked doors and the mob entered the jail where the wounded negro and his brother were screaming for mercy.

Again held off by locks, the mob sent for an acetylene torch to cut through the cell bars.

The negroes, James and Stanley Bearden, were carried to the street where one was placed in an automobile and the other dragged through the town by a rope around his neck.

Still screaming, the prisoners were driven slowly to separate points on the outskirts of town and hanged.

Then the bodies were mutilated and the mob dispersed.

A third negro, taken from the jail by mistake, was released without injury. He returned to his cell.

Jackson, Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger is where we find our next article. It was published on July 1, 1928:


No Arrest Made, but Authorities are Continuing Their Investigation

BROOKHAVEN, June 30.—(AP)—James Bearden, one of the two negroes lynched here last night by a mob which forced entry into the county jail met death by gunshot wounds at the hands of unknown persons, coroner's jury found today.

The negro's brother Stanley Bearden, the other victim, died from being dragged along the ground tied to a motor car by parties unknown, the jury decided.

Stanley Bearden received five bullet wounds before he was captured in a chase after a gun fight on the street with Caby and Claude Byrne, battery service station operators, over an account. His wounds were treated in jail. He was not dangerously injured in the chase.

District Attorney F. D. Hewitt came to Brookhaven to investigate the shooting preceding the lynching and returned again when informed that the mob was about to storm the jail.

Sheriff Martin Brister has made no statement regarding the lynching.


At Least Verdict Says Negroes Came to Their Death "Unknown Hands"

BROOKHAVEN, June 30—The coroner's jury in the death of the two negroes, who were lynched here last night, returned the following verdicts late last night:

James Bearden came to his death by gunshots inflicted by parties unknown; Stanley Bearden came to his death by being dragged with an auto by parties unknown. 

The former was hanged at Old Brook, about one and a half miles south of here, although according to the coroner's jury, he was shot to death before being hung. The latter was dragged behind an auto several miles north of town and hanged.

No movement for action against the mobbers has been initiated, it is understood.

The town has quieted down and is going ahead just as if nothing had happened. In the meantime, both of the Byrne brothers, Claude and Caby, who were injured in a fight with the negroes, are doing fairly well in the hospital here.

I learned about this lynching through a blog post titled The murder of the Bearden brothers; Brookhaven's last lynching found here

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

1 comment:

  1. Stanley was dragged by the neck, I see, assuming that the article is correct. I have my doubts about this because I do see in these articles a tendency toward hasty reporting. Anyway, I hope he was dragged by the neck because he would surely have died faster that way, especially if a slipknot was used. Otherwise, I should think that, if he was dragged slowly, death could have taken a long time indeed, with the initial pain being like a full-body road-burn that just kept getting worse and worse until he presumably bled to death. I’ve wondered how many people were involved in the actual killing, whether it haunted them, whether they ever regretted it, why, in god’s name, people took their families to witness the brutality, the extent to which seeing it gave children nightmares, the psychological affect on the black population of not just knowing it happened and that hundreds were involved in it, but that Stanley Bearden was dragged in front of their houses as an Islamic State type warning that they themselves had better do nothing to piss off a white man. I can’t get my mind around it all.

    I don’t remember any live oaks in Brookhaven, and the article put me in doubt about just where Ole Brook was because highways 51 and 84 used to split off in the area where it was said to be, and 84—where I had been told Ole Brook was located—doesn’t go to McComb.