The last twoLynchings in Cartersville,Georgia, were in 1916 and 1930.


1916

According to a 26 February 1916 article in The Sun Herald of LimeSprings, Iowa: "... Cartersville, Ga. ... Jesse McCorkle, anegro was taken from jail here by half a hundred men and boys, hangedto a tree in front of the city hall and his body riddled withbullets. McCorkle was arrested for breaking into the home of A. T.Heath and attacking Mrs. Heath, whose husband was away. The womanshot the negro in the wrist with a revolver, but she was overpowered.When caught McCorkle's wounded wrist was still bleeding and he hadthe revolver ...". Here is a photograph of the 1916 lynching of JesseMcCorkle:

That the lynching took place during the night or early morning,,is clear from what Ed Bostick said in his article "Lynchings inBartow County" (Etowah Valley Historical Society Volume 69, October2008): "... The wife of William Weinman ... was said to be reluctantto move to the South from New York because of the violent socialatmosphere, especially that of the lynch mentality. Mr. Weinman,after considerable cajoling, was able to convince her that lynchingswere rare and that she would find Cartersville to be a congenialplace. During a visit, the couple registered at a hotel in the publicsquare. Mrs. Weinman retired for the night and awoke the next morningto the sight of the dangling corpse of Jesse McCorkle. ...".

[ I wonder whether Mrs. Weinman's reluctance may have been due to premonition of her son Andrew being killed in a fight in Cartersville.]

During the day, Jesse McCorkle's body was cut down from the treeand carried around for display and abuse. This picture

is described on page 10 of a book of images of Bartow County,Georgia, by Michele Rodgers (The Bartow History Center) as a ".... c.1908 view of Cartersville's Main Street, looking west from theWestern and Atlantic Railroad tracks ...".

However, if you look closely at the picture

it seems to me the same 5 men (one in a grayish hat, one in ablack hat, and three standing together) were around Jesse McCorkle'sbody when it was cut down (first picture on this web page) and in theforeground of the crowd picture. The three men were wearing overcoatsin the first picture, but not in the crowd picture, probably becausethe crowd picture was taken later in that February day (the shadowsindicate around noon) when it was warmer, so I think that the picturenot "... c. 1908 ..." but is of the 1916 lynching.

The crowd seems to be watching Jesse McCorkle's body being paradedaround for display and abuse.

In his EVHS article, Ed Bostick said "... "Public sentiment, bothamong the white and negro races, appears to sanction the summaryexecution and little was heard of the matter twelve hours after itwas over." ...".

 
1930

Arthur Raper said in his book "The Tragedy of Lynching" (Dover2003 republication):

"... John Willie Clark, born at Vienna, Dooly County,Georgia, October 23, 1907, was one of a family of ten. His fatherdied in 1918. Five years later Clark's mother moved to Chattanooga,where she has lived since, making a living by taking in washing. ...John Willie attended school but very little. He left home when he wastwelve years old, shortly after his father's death, and since thenhad never lived with his mother more than a few weeks at a ttime.After leaving home he worked around garages. ... Prior to ...November, 1929 ... he had sent her a little money at irregularintervals; since then she had received no assistance from him. ...Clark had been in the courts on several occasions, having beenarrested a number of times by Cartersville officers on charges oftheft and having liquor. ...".

Ed Bostick said in his article "Lynchings in Bartow County"(Etowah Valley Historical Society Volume 69, October 2008):

"... John William (Willie) Clark was a 22-year-old black maleescapee from the Murray County chain gang where he had been serving asentence for auto theft. At about 1:00 AM during the night of 4-5September 1930, Clark and his brother were drinking whiskey whileparked in a car at the corner of Douglas and Carter streets inCartersville ... in front of the home of Joe Ben Jenkins, 65 yearsold and Cartersville's chief of police for the previous twelveyears.

[ The outside of the Joe Ben Jenkins house has not changed much since 1930.

Carter Street (to the right in the above picture) is along the side of the house and Douglas Street (to the left in the above picture ) is along the front of the house. The front door of the house

is in a porch facing Douglas Street ]

Chief Jenkins, armed with a pistol and dressed in hisnightclothes, approached the vehicle ... They became argumentativeand Chief Jenkins informed them that they were under arrest ... Atthe same time, Mr. Oscar (Shorty) Green, a local cotton mill employeewas driving by on his return from working a late shift. The chiefhailed him down ... handed Green his pistol, and requested him tohold the suspects until he could return to his home to dress. AsChief Jenkins turned to enter his house, Willie Clark attempted tostart his car. Retrieving his pistol from Green, the chief steppedcloser to the vehicle and ordered Clark from the car. Clark grabbedthe pistol and a struggle began. Clark was jerked out of the car andwas struck on the head by a brick thrown by Oscar Green. ... Clark... fired two shots. The first shot struck Chief Jenkins under theright eye and the bullet penetrated the brain, killing him instantly.The second shot was aimed at Oscar Green and grazed his ear. Greenalso sustained some severe bites during the struggle. Clark's brotherfled the scene and Willie Clark drove away in the stolen Model A Fordwith license plates from Cuthbert, Georgia. Chief Jenkins'son-in-law, Hugh Pettit, rushed out of the house in time to see hisfather-in-law shot and the car being driven away... Just before dawn,on South Bartow Street, Hugh Pettit discovered the stolen Ford ...Bartow County Commissioner A. V. Neal and Cartersville Mayor JackHill offered a reward of $1000 for the capture of Willie Clark ...Chief Jenkins' pistol was recovered in Chattanooga where it had beensold. ... Willie Clark was captured in Murray County on 9 September.He was wounded in the leg during the chase. ... During the ride toCartersville, Clark admitted that he had fired the shot that killedChief Jenkins but claimed that it was an accident. ...".

An interesting question: Why would a Chain Gang Escapeepark in front of the home of a Chief of Police ?

Arthur Raper also said in his book "The Tragedy of Lynching"(the names in brackets [ ] are from a BartowHerald newspaper article dated 2 October 1930):

"... Clark ... was placed in the Cartersville jail ... peoplebegan to congregate in great numbers ... the crowd was becoming morethreatening ... a Negro educator from central Georgia happened to bemotoring through Cartersville ... He .. sensed ... that a lynchingwas very probable. He immediately got in touch with some of theleading Negroes in Cartersville whom he knew personally. They wereunwilling to take a definite stand in the matter, feeling that anyaggressivelness on their part would be resented by the white people... the Negro educator got into telephone connection with anoutstanding Atlanta lawyer, who, in turn, called Governor Hardman ...National ... Guardsmen were immediately ordered to Cartersville ...The accused Negro was moved to Atlanta for safe keeping. ... When thetrial came up on the last day of September, the presiding judge[Claude Pittman] appointed local counsel [William Ingramand Robert Whitaker] for Clark. Much to the suprise of the judgeand to the obvious displeasure of hte people who jammed thecourtroom, three lawyers from Atlanta [Harold Sheats, MarionWilliamson, and George C. Dean] appeared in court ...[andmoved]... for a change of venue ... The lawyers insisted that thecase go to Floyd, or to Fulton, or to some other county south ofFulton. ... The judge ...called before the court a number of leadingcitizens [George Gaddis, A. V. Neal, T. W. Tinsley, R. V. Jones,Charlie Mayes, Bill Knight, W. C. Walton, O. T. Peebles, and M. L.Fleetwood] to ascertain whether they thought the Negro couldsecure an impartial trial. Without exception they stated that hecould. ... The judge ruled that a change of venue was not necessary.The ... lawyers then entered an exception to the judge's action,which automatically stayed the trial until a ruling could be had fromthe State Supreme Court ... the defense lawyers reuested the judge toprovide an armed escort for Clark back to Atlanta for safekeeping.The judge refused to send him back ... That night Clark waslynched ... [ Here is a photo of his body taken the nextday

Louis Mazzari in his biography of Arthur Raper "Southern Modernist" (LSU Press 2006) said: "... Raper drove down to Cartersville the day after ... the lynching ... Two photo studios were ... selling postcards of the lynching. At Morris Studio, Mr. Morris had been pleased he could get such a good shot. He was charging a quarter apiece. Over at Art-Craft Shop, though, they sold them for just a dime.... the photgrapher explained to Raper ..."You know ... the pictures of that Negro hanging there will do more to reduce crime than anything I know of, and I am glad to distribute the pictures at cost. ... "This man reported with delight that pictures of the lynching were being sold at Calhoun, Rome, Chattanooga, and various other places, and that he believed it would do a great deal of good." ... Raper was only in the store a few minutes, but several people came in for postcards. ...". ]

the sheriff [George Gaddis], sleeping in a roomadjoining the one occupied by the deputies in charge, reported thathe did not know the mob had come to the jail until they were leavingwith the prisoner. The judge [Claude Pittman] expressedsatisfaction that there had been no mutilations,

[If there were in fact no mutilations, I wonder why the fly of John Willie Clark's pants is open.

According to a web page at www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/hanging2.html "... Male prisoners sometimes have penile erections (priapism) after hanging ... Men may also reach orgasm on the rope ...".

Perhaps (I don't know for sure) John Willie Clark had an erection when hanged, and his pants fly was opened to cut off his penis, and perhaps the rest of his genitals. ]

and suggested that this indicated the "orderly" way in whichthe lynching was effected and the "high class" of people who didit. ...

The Bartow Herald, Cartersville weekly paper ...editoral policy... subsequent [to the lynching]... was in conformity withpeace officers, court officials, and the general citizenry of thetown and county in either condoning or justifying the lynching.

On the day following the lynching one of the county commissionersgave a statement to the press ... A part of his statement was:

"... The people of Cartersville and Bartow County were a unit inagreement that Clark should have a fair and impartial trial, feelingsure that the sentence would have been dath in the electricchair.

"Howeve, the action taken by the Atlanta lawyers causingpostponement ... so incensed our people that ... the action ... isnot only condoned, but has met with practically unanimous approval."...

the public looked in vain to Cartersville for a repudiation of thestatement. When none was forthcoming, an effort was made by anAtlantan to get at least a few leading citizens to say publicly thatthey did not justify the lynching. There were some who disapproved... but none was willing to say so publicly. ..

... The various local justifications for the lynching constitute asorry picture indeed. Doubtless the most prevalent justification wasthat any Negro who killed a white man ought to be lynched. The nextmost common justification was that the Atlanta lawyers, "outsiders",by postponing the trial, "broke" the "contract" with the original mobmembers that Clark would be tried and executed without delay ....

Others justified the lyhnching on the ground that Clark's money,secured by burglaries and auto thefts, and used to employ abledefense lawyers, should not be permitted to save him from animmediate death sentence. ... another justification was ... thatClark was a paid agent of Al Capone's rum ring, and that he had beensent to Cartersville to get Chief Joe Ben Jenkins out of the way soCapone's liquor trucks could go unmolested from the Florida ports toChicago, for along the whole way only the Cartersville Chief ... hadrefused to be "bought off" by the rum runners. ...

The defense lawyers staed positively that the small fee promisedthem was to be paid by the accused Negro and his family, and thatthey had no reason whatever to believe that any auto theft gang orrum ring was interested in the case ... The Atlanta lawyers becameidentified with the case when one of them, a member of the NationalGuard unit at Cartersville ten days before the lynching, was asked byClark to defend him. He and his associates became intenselyinterested in the case when upon investigating they began to doubtthat Clark was guilty of first degree murder and to fear that hewould be "railroaded" to his death. ...".

Another interesting question: Why would the localpowers-that-be (Sheriff, Judge, Newspaper, County Commissioner)expressly approve a lynching ?

There is an answer to the two "interesting questions" statedabove, but I have never seen it in any written discussion of thelynching of John Willie Clark. Back in the 1960s, when I was studyinglaw I was working as an apprentice in the law office of William A.Ingram, one of the lawyers for John Willie Clark. It was a small lawoffice, just Judge Ingram (the title from his prior service as ajudge) and his secretaries Cola Mae Vaughan and Annette Hufstetler,and me as apprentice, and there was a lot of informal conversation,including Judge Ingram's personal description of his involvement asattorney for John Willie Clark.

For instance, Judge Ingram said that when he came to town themorning after the lynching, people came up to him, saying: "JudgeIngram, your appeal is a-hanging from a light pole."

As to Why would the local powers-that-be (Sheriff, Judge,Newspaper, County Commissioner) expressly approve a lynching ?

Judge Ingram said that they were determined to cover up thefact that Joe Ben Jenkins was having sex with the wife of John WillieClark, which fact would have been made public in a fulltrial.

That also answers the other question Why would a Chain GangEscapee park in front of the home of a Chief of Police ?

Most likely, when John Willie Clark escaped he went home, but hiswife was not there. He knew that when he had "been arrested a numberof times by Cartersville officers on charges of theft and havingliquor", some of those arrests had been to get him out of the way sothat Joe Ben Jenkins could take the wife of John Willie Clark to thehouse of Joe Ben Jenkins for a night of sex (probably in a nicerfeather bed than the bed at John Willie Clark''s house). So, JohnWillie Clark figured that his wife was in Joe Ben Jenkins' house, andhe drove there (with his brother) but had trouble getting up enoughnerve to go in and try to get her out, so he and his brother wereparked there drinking trying to get up their nerve when Joe BenJenkins came out of his house "armed with his pistol and dressed inhis nightclothes", and the confrontation took place.

Knowing that to probably be the true picture, it is clearwhy John Willie Clark's lawyers would "doubt that Clark was guilty offirst degree murder and to fear that he would be "railroaded" to hisdeath"

and why the local powers-that-be would fear that a trial wouldmake public the interracial sexual activity between the CartersvilleChief of Police and the wife of John Willie Clark.

The next questions are:

What kind of people were the Wife of John Willie Clarkand Chief Joe Ben Jenkins?

 

The Wife of John Willie Clark:

Although I am old, I am not old enough to have known the Wife ofJohn Willie Clark, except by what I have heard from my elders, whichis: she, like John Willie Clark, was around her 20s in age; she waslight-skinned; she was the most attractive, sexy, woman in BartowCounty; and she had a number of white lovers.

Due to their race, she and John Willie Clark were vulnerable tointimidation by white people with power (as a Police Chief who couldarrest people), money, and influence, so she in fact had littlechoice but to submit to sex with powerful, rich, influential whitepeople, and she (and he) probably just endured such abuse.

However, when John Willie Clark was lynched to keep her sexualactivity secret from the public, she knew that she would be regardedas a risk to talk, she rightly feared for her own life, so she leftfor parts unknown.

Unfortunately, that is all I know about her, but I wish thatsomeday I might find out what the rest of her life was like.

 

Chief Joe Ben Jenkins:

Joseph Benjamin Jenkins's first wife, maiden name Elllis, died,then he married her sister Rena Ellis, who died around 1920 orso.

Children of first marriage included:

Children of second marriage were:

At the time of the John Willie Clark lynching, Joseph BenjaminJenkins was twice a widower, so he probably felt that it was OK tohave sex because he was not cheating on a wife. Unfortunately, he didnot regard it to be immoral to have that sex with the wife of anotherman.

In fairness to Joseph Benjamin Jenkins, he (being dead) had nopart in the lynching to cover up his interracial sex. Had he survivedthe gunshot and only been wounded, he might have come clean andadmitted his activities, thus to some extent exonerating John WillieClark. However, he did die, and what he might or might not have donehad he survived will never be known to us here on Earth.

I should mention that I have connections with Joseph BenjaminJenkins through his daughter Marguerite Jenkins Pierce, who was only12 years old he was killed. After then, she was raised by Bertha andHugh B. Pettit, Sr., the couple known to me as Nanny and Unk.

When I was born in March 1941, in the same hospital, at about thesame time, Marguerite gave birth to her first son John W. Pierce, Jr.My birth was difficult. Dr. Sam Howell had to reach up with his handsinside my mother to untangle me from the cord, resulting in a severeinfection at a time when there were no antibiotics (other than sulfadrugs, which were difficult for my mother to take). My mother wasunable to nurse me, but Marguerite was good enough to nurse both herson John and me. Since John and I nursed together like twins, we havealways been very close, and are also close to his brothers,especially his younger brother Joseph G. Pierce. Sadly, Margueritedied on 18 April 2006, and she and her husband John W. Pierce areburied in the same plot at Oak Hill cemetery in Cartersville asJoseph Benjamin Jenkins, not far from the plot where my parents andpaternal grandparents are buried.

 


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