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Heinous 1930s Crime Lands Two Men In Jail

By Charles Cooper

    Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. This is for those of you who have been saying that Cooper hasn’t been writing about Water Valley lately.  

    As you know, most of my columns are about people and places in the past and are usually upbeat. They have been been well received  and for that I’m grateful.  Once in a while I write about the bad side and this week is a good time to do it.  

    I have intended to write about this event, but I didn’t have much information so I went to my friend, Jim Oakley.  Since Mother and Ludie are gone he is about the only one I can ask.  To the best of his memory, this happened around 1938.  

    There was a black family near Oakland who were farmers. Two low-life characters thought they had received a check for a sale of a bale of cotton.  They went to the family’s house and the man and wife and son were there.  They pulled a gun and pistol-whipped the old lady  and tied the father and  son to two chairs.  This information is accurate – it comes from the survivor’s testimony.  

    While they were searching for the money, the lady revived enough to run from the house and lie down in the field among the cotton stalks.  When they realized she was gone, they  started searching in the cotton field.  

    She reported they came within two rows of where she was hiding, and she was sure that her time had come.  She said that one of the men said, “It’ll soon be daylight so lets finish and leave.  They took a kerosene lamp and doused the two men and set them on fire.  They left and the house burned with the father and son inside.  She waited, terrified, until daylight and then walked to the nearest house and reported what had happened.  

    When the Sheriff questioned her, he found that she recognized one of the men.  The Sheriff arrested him and under interrogation he implicated the other man.  In a short time both were in custody.  

    The family was well respected in the community and, due to the heinous nature of the crime, feelings ran high. At one time the Sheriff was afraid that two men might be lynched.  However, they finally went to trial and the District Attorney asked for the death penalty.  

    The trial took place in Coffeeville and Jim said he thought that someone asked for mercy. Eventually the jury found them guilty and they were sentenced to life imprisonment.  Bear in mind this was the 1930s and was a white-on-black crime for all of those so eager to give Mississippi a bad name and don’t write me that I’m bringing politics into the column but as Jack Webb always said on Dragnet, “Just the facts.”

     In spite of the nature of this column, I’m actually very upbeat and feeling great.  I’m glad to hear that Alice Allen is recovering well after her hip replacement and this is one time that I can say that I know how she feels – been there, gone through that.  

    These days you hear so much about knee replacements and an attorney friend of mine, Steve Woods, who sits in the same pew in church, has a theory about that.  He believes part of the blame is because so many people today are into jogging, many having a daily routine, and it puts more than usual stress on the knees.  I don’t know if that is a valid reason so I’m not taking sides in this.  I take Mark Twain’s advice, “When I’m tempted to exercise, I go and immediately lie down until the temptation  passes.  

    Let me hear from you as I always appreciate the input and try to include  it in the column.  My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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