Bud Nelson (Lynching of)

Sometime between October 27 and November 1, 1926, Bud Nelson was shot near Tarry (Lincoln County) for the alleged murder of twenty-four-year-old planter Ed Henderson in neighboring Jefferson County.

According to accounts published in the Arkansas Gazette and the Cleveland County Herald, Ed Henderson was riding his horse past the house of Ed Young, who was a black tenant on the land of Ed’s father, John H. Henderson. According to the Cleveland County Herald, Ed Henderson was looking for some mules that had strayed. He asked Nelson, who was sitting on a cotton bale across the road from Ed Young’s house, about the mules. The Herald stated that Ed Henderson was a very popular young man “and was always known for his honesty and frankness.”

As far as was known, there had been no previous bad blood between Henderson and Nelson. However, Nelson, armed with a Winchester rifle, allegedly shot Henderson in the head with no warning. Nelson then left the scene, passing Ed Young in a nearby field and telling him that he had killed Henderson. He later passed Cy Jenkins, to whom he said, “I have killed Ed Henderson, he didn’t think that I would do it, but I just showed him.” As there were no eyewitnesses, the coroner’s jury used these statements to establish Nelson’s guilt.

Nelson’s description was immediately broadcast over a wide area, which included not only Arkansas, but parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. After a few days, with authorities not having been able to capture him, Governor Thomas Jefferson Terral was preparing to offer a reward when a planter near Tarry discovered Nelson’s bullet-ridden body about fifteen miles south of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on November 1.

The Gazette speculated that Nelson might have died the previous Friday or Saturday. Nelson was found with his rifle across his lap. While there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, there was an area of trampled weeds and brush near the body, which indicated a possible struggle. Despite the fact that Nelson’s body was riddled with bullets, the coroner’s jury concluded, as was common with many lynchings, that “Nelson either met death at his own hands or was shot after a struggle with an enemy.” According to the Gazette, “Whether Nelson really killed young Henderson…may never be known….Although it was intimated that no inquiry into Nelson’s death will be made, officials could not say what action the Grand Jury will take.”

For additional information:
“Ed Henderson, Former Rison Boy, Is Killed. Negro Who Shot Ed Henderson, Former Rison Boy, Is Killed.” Cleveland County Herald, November 4, 1926. Online at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=40364683 (accessed September 16, 2021).

“Jefferson County Slayer is Killed.” Arkansas Gazette, November 2, 1926, p. 5.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Clinton, South Carolina


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