Friday, August 19, 2016

Mob Violence Results in Death
of Two Negroes Friday Night

Brookhaven, Mississippi

Two negroes, Stanley and James Bearden, brothers were taken from the Lincoln county jail early Friday night and lynched.

There had been threats of the impending action throughout the afternoon and the sheriff, failing in his efforts to secure a guard of militia, had under him only a handful of deputies who were unable to offer any effective resistance to the large and well armed mob. No shots were fired by the officers defending the jail, only pleas and some physical resistance being offered. Starting at about dusk, and despite the pleading of several of the city's most respected and worthy citizens, among others, Rev. P. D. Hardin, W. D. Davis, Hon. J. A. Naul and Hon. T. Brady, Jr., the mob worked about an hour on the door of the jail, to which the sheriff refused to turn over the keys, and finally came out with two negroes, one of whom they soon discovered was not wanted. They then returned and managed to find the other, James Bearden, who was hiding in the rafters of the jail.

Both negroes were then taken to the Old Brook Bridge and James, in the sight of his brother, was strung to a small nearby tree and shot to death. Stanley was then taken back to Brookhaven and dragged through the streets of the city and through the negro quarters by a truck which was followed by a possession of other automobiles. Leaving the city the party proceeded several miles north and hung what was left of the mutilated body of Stanley Bearden to another tree.

Parts of the large crowd of men, women and children who had gathered at the courthouse to see the lynching followed the cars either to Old Brook or to the point north of town, and viewed the indescribably revolting spectacles to be found at those places.

A short while afterward the bodies were taken in charge by Hartman's undertaking establishment and brought back to Brookhaven, preceding which an inquest was held. The corners jury, composed of B. B. Boyt, E. P. Martin, J. C. Martin, George Stanley, R. C. Douglass and Tom Crawford, pronounced James Bearden dead from gunshot wounds inflicted by parties unknown and Stanley Bearden dead from being dragged behind an auto driven by persons unknown.

James Bearden, whose wife died about a week before his lynching, is survived by one child and Stanley is survived by a wife and two children.

The trouble which lead to the lynching commenced late Friday morning when Caby Byrnes insisted on payment of a $6 bill which James Bearden owed him. Mr Byrnes had tackled Bearden for the bill earlier in the day and Bearden had promised to see about it right away. After awhile he returned followed in a few moments by his brother Stanley. In discussing the bill further it is understood that Bearden became extremely imprudent whereupon Mr. Byrnes hit him in the face with his fist.

In the meantime, Byrnes, who happened to be passing near, noticed that his brother was in danger and rushing to the scene hit James Bearden with the flat side of a shovel just after the negro struck Caby Byrnes on the head with a piece of iron, knocking him to the ground. Stanley Bearden then got into the fight and opened fire on Claude Byrnes, one bullet striking him in the shoulder and another piercing one leg breaking the bone and entering the other.

Deputy Sheriff Charles Brister who reached the scene just then, arrested James Bearden without much trouble and took a shot at Stanley Bearden as he made escape through the back of the repair shop in front of which the fight occurred. Archie Smith and Alfred Day, at their work in a barber shop near by, came out during the shooting to assist the Byrnes's in their fight with the negroes with the result that Stanley Bearden fired a shot at both of them, luckily with bad aim.

After making his escape through the back of the shop a crowd chased him up the railroad several blocks until he turned and ran to his home near the Cotton Oil Mill. During the chase several persons started to head the fleeing negro off but were dissuaded by the sight of the automatic pistol he was flourishing and firing.

After the crowd arrived at Bearden's house volley after volley of bullets were exchanged between the officers and the fugitive until the latter weak from wounds was brought from the house, gun still in hand. He was rushed to the county jail where Dr. Frizell, after examination, stated that despite five wounds he was not desperately hurt.

How do the brothers connect to my family tree?
The brothers are not related to me but their family does connect to my family tree.
N Z Robinson's first wife was Essie Bearden, a sister to the brothers.
N Z Robinson's second wife was Ada Elnora Markham.
Ada's father was John Markham, a brother to my grandmother, Alice Markham Marshall.

Article transcribed from The Lincoln County Times, Brookhaven, Mississippi
Thursday, July 5, 1928, Page 1
Microfilm Number 30703
Microfilm found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Actual Newspaper Article

Photograph Courtesy of
Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
100 S. Jackson St
Brookhaven, MS 39601


  1. Replies
    1. Reading the article made me feel so sad. My deepest sympathies to the Bearden family, all these years later.

  2. I don’t think there was such a thing as a $6 bill, so I suspect that the deceased owed a bill for $6.

    The shadowed side of the Inez Hotel was facing north, and the street that passed the hotel on the shadowed side was, and still is, East Monticello, but it was also Federal Hwy 84 back then, although the highway now bypasses town.

    Sandidge and Day were my barbers from the mid or late 1950s until the early or mid-1960s (when, I think, they retired), Their shop, when I went to them, was a block south and half a block east of the Inez. Day was short and fat (by the standards of the time) and talked a lot; Sandidge was taller, thinner, seldom talked, and struck me as shy, kindly, gentle, and sensitive. I always hoped he would be my barber, but I would take whichever man had an open chair because I was shy, and because I didn’t want to hurt Day’s feelings, although I didn’t like him.

    “Old Brook” was where Brookhaven originally existed (the town was founded by settlers from Brookhaven, Long Island, NY in 1817), and is, I would guess, about three miles southeast of the current downtown (he town moved when the railroad came through). My father showed me a tree in the Old Brook area that he said was used for lynchings, so he appears to have been correct.

    1. Other thoughts on another day….Hartman was the “white funeral home” when I lived in Brookhaven, so I have no idea why it would be going to pick-up a black corpse. Perhaps, it offered services to blacks because there was no black funeral home, although in my time in Brookhaven (the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties), this would have been unthinkable.

      This account differs so much from the oral history account that I posted, that I don’t know which to believe. The oral account was made sixty years after the fact, so that could account for some errors in it, but this account appears prejudicial in favor of the sheriff’s office as well as Caby Brynes (who hit a recently bereaved widower and father of one in the face for being “impudent” regarding a bill he owed), so that could account for some errors in it. I would say that the newspaper account is one of the worse pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered.

      “James Bearden dead from gunshot wounds inflicted by parties unknown and Stanley Bearden dead from being dragged behind an auto driven by persons unknown.”

      No doubt all of these unknown people met together in church on Sunday. My disgust at the sadism and hypocrisy of the people I grew up among is too strong for me to communicate, especially given that they made such events a family affair.

      I just wonder why the black community didn’t form their own mob to take on the whites. Could dying for such a cause really have been a worse option than living with complete powerlessness?

    2. Today's value for the $6 debt would be about $83. I am curious why James Bearden owed Caby Byrnes. Did James purchased something on credit? Had James ignored the bill?

      A distant relative worked at the Inez as a janitor.

      Your father's account was close to the details in the paper and I appreciate your sharing.

    3. No matter the reason for the debt, I question whether Caby Byrnes would have insisted on payment from a white man whose wife had died but a week earlier. I also think that, in the case of a white man, it would have been deemed relevant by the white population of the town that it was Brynes who started the fight. All that came afterward started with one lawless fist to the face of a bereaved widower with a child to support. Without that fist to the face, there would have been no lynching, and Byrnes brother, Claude, wouldn’t have been shot an indeterminate (based upon the account) number of times. This last thought brings up two questions. The account mentions two bullets to shoulders, so I’m wondering if you typed the same thing twice, or if it was written that way. Also, was the underlining in the original account?

    4. Hartman was the funeral home used by my great grandparents and their family. The only services Hartman offered was the sale of casket, and they had a wagon used exclusively for their black clients to carry the body from wherever to burial. I have several death certificates with Hartman named as the funeral home. Relatives prepared and dressed the bodies. The wake was held in the deceased home and funeral in the black church. There was no embalming, dead today, buried tomorrow. The white folks had no contact with black bodies and the Hartman facility was not used. I have a copy of the ggparents' insurance receipt with Hartman's - see the copy here -

    5. The people living at the time likely had different versions of the events...It was one shot to the shoulder and no underlining, will change both. A transcription should be same as original. I will link the original article to this post.

      Why the justice system didn't prosecute the Byrnes brothers and others who committed the lynching, particularly of James?

      If the Black people had responded in kind, it would have been a blood bath to the black community - Self Preservation

    6. This is useful information. I worked at Hartman’s during the late ‘60s, so I can but assume that a black funeral home had opened-up by then since I never went on a death call in which a black person was involved. I later worked at two funeral homes in Jackson—first Adkins and then Wright and Ferguson—and no services to black people were offered by either during the time I was there, although Adkins ran an ambulance service, which would pick-up people of any race.

      Now, I have an unrelated question for you. My father’s mother was 3/4 American Indian who was orphaned soon after her birth in 1876. She was taken to an orphanage that must have been somewhere in the vicinity of Chattanooga. From there, she went to live with a white family who lived near Bridgeport, Alabama, and were named of Gray or Grey. All she knew of her birth family was the name they gave her: Fannie Mae Hall. I can find no information about my Granny’s blood ancestors because it doesn't appear that orphanages were keen on record keeping, or else the records have been lost. Would you have any knowledge about how, or if, I might proceed? If nothing else, I’m going to at least send off for one of those DNA ancestry tests.

    7. Don't hold me to it, the last time my family used Hartman's was in 1947 for Uncle Grant Markham. Louis Bledsoe, black, established a funeral home about 1948, located on North 2nd Street. The funeral home has changed ownership several times. At one time, it was known as Century Funeral Home.

      There was someone in the community who was called the "undertaker" but all he did was make the coffin/casket or pine box. My city kin and those who had a few extra pennies used Hartman's prior to 1948. Those living in rural areas, used the community's pine box maker. I have records to reflect both.

      Several years ago I spoke with a man with a friendly voice from Hartman's. I told him I was looking for funeral records for my people. He told me they had a few records on African Americans, repeated himself, just a few but I was welcome to come look them over. I never made it because I discovered Hartman's records had been copied into book form and found at the public library in Brookhaven. The man was right, there were just a few, marked as colored.

      I have no experience with American Indian research nor orphan research. I've used AncestryDNA and 23andMe, both give a breakdown of your ethnicity.

  3. Jeez, so sad...
    I'm reminded of an incident in Texas in recent years, where an African American man was dragged behind a car.

    1. I remember the Texas incident, James Byrd, Jr., victim.

    2. That murder occurred in 1998, and was committed killed by three white men, so this raises the question of how many people does it take to make a murder into a lynching, and to what extent does motive enter into the definition.

  4. Jeez, so sad...
    I'm reminded of an incident in Texas in recent years, where an African American man was dragged behind a car.

  5. UGH! This really wasn't that long ago.

    1. The brothers were just a few years older than my parents, not so long ago.

  6. It does not seem to have changed much in many ways, does it?

    1. What on earth are you talking about?

    2. Suzassippi, The criminal justice system is still unfair to the poor and minority communities.

    3. LindaRe, while it is true that racial equality hasn’t been completely achieved, it’s also true that enormous progress has been made since the days when large mobs of white men, women, and children, could drag people out of jail, torture and kill those people, and get away with it. To not recognize progress is to deny history and to denigrate the effectiveness of all of those many people—black and white—who risked their lives to make that progress a reality.

    4. Yes, change has occurred but for those of us who still live in fear of the judicial system, in so many ways it has not changed - a presumption of guilt, the punishment too harsh for the crime, no compassion/mercy, no punishment/light punishment of the perpetrator.

    5. I don’t have your experiences, LindaRe, so I hope you will forgive me inasmuch as I seem clueless or callous. That said, it seems to me that whereas you tend to focus on remaining inequities, I tend to look more in the direction of positive changes. Someone made mention of the black man who was drug behind a car in Texas in the ‘90s as evidence that not much has changed. This led me to compare that lynching with the 1928 Mississippi lynching. The only points of similarity I could find was that both crimes were imaginably brutal, both occurred in the South, and both were committed by racist whites. Am I overlooking something? On the other hand, the more recent crime was committed by only three people who were sent to the death house for it. In the 1928 crime, scores if not hundreds of people were involved, and no was arrested much less punished. Back then, black people had NO recognized rights except that they couldn’t be enslaved in quite the same way that they had been 70-years earlier. Now, we have a black president. While I think that much of the opposition to Obama is racist in nature, the mere fact that he’s in the White House is surely something to celebrate as are other achievements that came at such a dreadful price. Given that people suffered and died to get us where we are today in terms of race relations, is surely not something to dismiss lightly by saying “not much has changed.” To say this is to imply that it makes but little difference whether one lived in 1928 versus today, and who would say such a thing!

    6. I just put up my own post about this (it being my second post about the double lynching), and, in the same post, I wrote about the Lamar Smith murder. I even used the Inez Hotel photo that you used in this post, not remembering where I got it. The Inez is now an apartment building. I would sure love to go inside.

      I’m re-reading Hodding Carter, Jr’s book, “So the Heffners Left McComb.” Surely, you’re familiar with it, but I thought I should mention it just in case. I also just ordered James Silver’s book, “Mississippi: The Closed Society,” which I’ve never read. If you should have any book recommendations about the Mississippi, I would surely love to know of them.

    7. I left a post on your blog to your latest post. I've read Carter's book, haven't read Silver's book, plan to purchase his.

    8. I haven’t read Silver’s book either, but yesterday I ordered a first edition off eBay for less than $4—whoopee! I just finished Carter’s book last night, having first read it decades ago. This time around, I probably learned a lot more from it about how far the state was willing to go in order to use the law to silence people by labeling free speech as “criminal syndicalism” and using the “Sovereignty Commission” to set-aside federal mandates.

    9. First edition, that's a real bargain. Most, if not all, of the Negro teachers of Brookhaven were on the Sovereignty Commission list, which included relatives.