Bud Brake (Reported Lynching of)

Bud Brake was a white man killed at Rector (Clay County) on January 28, 1899, for being complicit in the death of another man. Several months after his death, the governor offered a reward for the capture of his killer, and newspapers reporting on this described Brake as a lynching victim; consequently, his name has appeared on many nationally circulating lists of such victims.

On July 11, 1899, the Arkansas Democrat published a story noting that Governor Daniel Webster Jones had offered various rewards for the arrest of certain alleged criminals. Among the awards offered were “$100 for the arrest and delivery to the sheriff of Clay county of Lennie Brake, who in August, 1898, killed Red Davidson, near Rector” and “$100 for the arrest and conviction of each of the unknown negroes who on January 28, 1899, killed Bud Brake near Rector.”

An Arkansas Gazette article published that same day provides more detail into the affair, noting that the offer of an award “brings to light a particular condition of affairs in Clay county.” Namely, the Gazette reported, there was an ongoing feud between “town boys” living in Corning (Clay County) and “country boys” in the vicinity: “Every time the country boys came to town, there would be a fight.” In August 1898, Lennie and Bud Brake were on the way to Corning when “they were attacked by a crowd of town boys, who had laid in wait for them on the outskirts of the village.” As they fought, Lennie Brake stabbed one of the town boys, Arthur “Red” Davidson (or Davison), with a pocketknife, delivering a mortal wound. He quickly fled the scene. Bud Brake was arrested and placed in jail as an accomplice to the killing.

In July 1899, the Gazette reported, “a mob appeared at the jail, and, overpowering the jailer, took Brake from the building and shot him to death.” The jailer reportedly recognized some of the members of the mob, despite the fact that they were masked, saying that they were friends of Davidson. (Their race is not mentioned in this report, but given that not many African Americans lived in Clay County at the time, the Democrat’s description of the mob as being composed of “negroes” was particularly strange, especially given that the inciting crime was the murder of one white man by another.) This report concluded: “The affair created considerable excitement at the time, and several prominent young men of the town suddenly left for parts unknown.”

A week later, the Gazette carried a correction under the title “Bud Brake Not Lynched.” This article noted that, while at a state sheriffs’ meeting in Hot Springs (Garland County) on July 15, 1899, Sheriff J. M. Turner of Clay County “took the occasion to deny recently published statements to the effect that Bud Brake was taken from jail and killed by a mob.” Rather than being killed in this way, Turner insisted that Brake “had been released on bail and was at liberty” when he was “assassinated by unknown parties” at Rector.

Indeed, the Arkansas Democrat had, on February 1, 1899, published a report reprinted from the Paragould Soliphone-Events on the murder of Bud Brake. According to this report, between 6:00 and 7:00 on the evening of January 28, 1899, pistol shots were heard in town, and people who went to investigate found Brake’s body, “literally shot to pieces,” lying “near the Jones gin, and not far from the depot.” He had been shot five times—twice in the head and three times in the chest—and his clothes were on fire from the powder burn. Brake had reportedly just left a saloon, having “been quarrelsome during the evening.” According to this report, it was Bud Brake who had committed the original murder. He had been released on a bond of $1,250, and the Soliphone-Events speculated that the person who killed Brake “may be some friend of young Davison” who sought “to do what a tardy and time-serving court had failed to do.”

For additional information:
“At the State House.” Arkansas Democrat, July 11, 1899, p. 4.

“Bud Brake Not Lynched.” Arkansas Gazette, July 18, 1899, p. 8.

“Story Behind It.” Arkansas Gazette, July 11, 1899, p. 8.

“Was Shot to Death.” Arkansas Democrat, February 1, 1899, p. 6.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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