Marion Lynching of 1910
On March 18, 1910, two African-American men, Robert (Bob) Austin and Charles Richardson, were lynched in Marion (Crittenden County) for allegedly assisting in a jailbreak. The victims were taken from jail by a mob and hanged in front of the Crittenden County Courthouse.
There is very little known about the two victims. At the time of the 1900 census, Bob Austin was living in Jasper Township with his stepfather, Bennie Ross, and his mother, Henriette. Bennie was a farmer who was renting his farm, and nineteen-year-old Bob was a farm laborer. The men could neither read nor write, although Henriette could do both. Census records provide no information about Charles Richardson.
According to the Arkansas Gazette, a jailbreak occurred on Monday, March 14. Charles Richardson was later captured in Memphis, Tennessee. As Sheriff C. L. Lewis was bringing him back to Marion on March 17, he allegedly confessed and implicated Austin in the jailbreak. Authorities then captured Austin, and “it looked as if the trembling prisoners would be hanged on the spot.” Instead, they were returned to the sheriff’s custody. At 3:00 a.m. on March 18, however, a mob of about 300 people went to the jail and took the prisoners. By all published accounts, the mob gathered quietly. Austin and Richardson were then hanged from a tree in front of the courthouse. The Gazette noted that the lynching was “conducted in a businesslike fashion.” The bodies were not cut down until 7:00 a.m. Apparently, several boys had stoned the residences of local African Americans during the night, but all was quiet by morning.
Reports in the Abilene Daily Reporter and the Butler Weekly Times gave the following additional details on the incident. Richardson, accused of a minor crime, was a prisoner at the time of the jailbreak. Robert Austin had allegedly planned the jailbreak and provided Richardson with saws and other implements. Their plan succeeded, and twelve prisoners escaped. Among them was an African American who had been charged with the murder of Marion merchant T. H. Ferguson. Shortly after midnight on March 18, a crowd reportedly found Deputy Sheriff Tom Williford on the street and demanded his keys. They then went to the jail, got the prisoners, and dragged them through the streets, before hanging them “with no noise or confusion.” Richardson reportedly “wept and begged piteously for his life,” while Austin “stolidly refused to show fear. The Times reported that there were only fifty men in the mob. When the bodies were discovered in the morning, a crowd quickly gathered to view the grisly scene. The bodies were then cut down and given to friends for burial.
For additional information:
“2 Negroes Hanged by Mob at Marion.” Arkansas Gazette, March 19, 1910, p. 2.
“A Mob at Marion, Ark., Lynches Two Negroes for a Jail Delivery.” Abilene Daily Reporter (Abilene, Kansas), March 18, 1910, p. 1.
“Two Negroes Are Lynched by Mob.” Butler Weekly Times (Butler, Missouri), March 24, 1910, p. 9.
Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina
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