Andrew Avery (Lynching of)

On July 30, 1917, an African-American man named Andrew Avery was lynched for allegedly attacking a levee contractor named Will Woods (also referred to as W. J. Woods and William Wood) several days earlier. Although a headline in the Arkansas Gazette indicates that Avery was lynched in Garland City (Miller County), information in the article itself seems to indicate that Avery was captured by Deputy Sheriff Walter Oden at Sheppard (in neighboring Hempstead County) and a mob intercepted them on their way to the Hempstead County jail. Another article in the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, however, omits any mention of Sheppard or Hempstead County and reports that Oden was taking Avery to the jail in Texarkana (Miller County) when he was intercepted by the mob and lynched in Miller County.

There were several men named Will or William Wood in Miller County at the time, so it is difficult to determine who the victim of the attack was. Andrew Avery does appear in Miller County records, however. In the 1900 census he was listed in Cut Off Township with his parents, Genus and Mimie Miller, and two siblings. In 1910, he was eleven years old and living with his parents (now listed as Jeanous and Minor) in Red River Township. He was attending school and could read and write. Marriage records indicate that Andrew Avery, born around 1898, married Willie Jones on January 6, 1917.

The alleged attack on Wood was the result of a dispute over livestock. Apparently, Avery came to Wood’s camp on Friday, July 27, to buy two mules that had been advertised for sale. They decided to wait until the next day, Saturday July 28, to go to a nearby justice of the peace to draw up a bill of sale. They started out that morning, and in what the Gazette calls “one of the most brutal [attacks] ever recorded in Miller County,” Wood was allegedly beaten about the head and shot through both lungs and one hip. Wood lost consciousness, and Avery eventually left, intending to come back. By the time Avery returned, Wood had dragged himself 300 yards into the woods and Avery could not find him. Wood was discovered in a mud hole around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, and although he was conscious, it was feared that he was fatally wounded. According to the Gazette, Deputy Sheriff Walter Oden captured Avery in Sheppard and started to take him to the Hempstead County jail. Around 9:45 on the night of July 30, he was intercepted by a group of twenty to forty men, who took Avery and hanged him. Like many such lynchings, it was reported to have happened in a “quiet fashion.”

Wood did not die from the attack, however. According to the Arkansas Democrat, by early August, Wood was on the road to recovery and “the attending physician believes he will be out again shortly.” Arkansas marriage records reveal that Avery’s widow, Willie, married Watson Walker in September 1917.

For additional information:
“Contractor Victim of Negro will Recover.” Arkansas Democrat, August 8, 1917, p. 6.

“Miller County Mob Lynches Negro Robber.” Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, July 31, 1917, p. 6.

“Negro Is Lynched at Garland City.” Arkansas Gazette, July 31, 1917, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 05/04/2020