Charles Powell (Lynching of)

On August 11, 1926, an African-American man named Charles Powell was lynched near Lewisville (Lafayette County) for allegedly murdering sheriff’s deputy James Dooley.

According to the Shreveport Times, a warrant was issued for railroad worker Charles Powell on charges of beating his wife. On Wednesday morning, August 11, Deputy Dooley was sent to serve a warrant on Powell at the railway car on a side track of the Cotton Belt Railroad where he was living. Dooley was described by the Arkansas Gazette as “one of the most popular officers of the county,” while Powell was referred to as “a powerful negro…known as a bad actor” who had previously resisted arrest. When Dooley approached, Powell drew a pistol and shot Dooley in the chest; Dooley returned fire and missed. Powell then fired again, shooting Dooley through the heart. Powell fled toward Bradley (Lafayette County).

The Arkansas Gazette described the ensuing search, which reportedly included bloodhounds, as “thrilling.” Several posses pursued Powell, and according to the Evening Star (which refers to Powell as Judge Powell) of Washington DC, he was eventually trapped in a dense thicket near Canfield (Lafayette County). He was attempting to flee toward Lewisville when two officers apprehended him around 3:30 that afternoon. The Gazette reported that Powell then began to plead for protection from the hundreds of men who had been pursuing him. Sheriff J. E. Barham was informed of the arrest and set out by car with two deputies to try to prevent a lynching. The officers who had arrested Powell tried to rush him to jail in Lewisville, but a mob of 150 to 500 men overtook them. According to the Gazette, the mob hanged him from a tree about seven miles south of Lewisville and then riddled his body with bullets.

When Barham arrived at the scene, he found Powell’s body still hanging from a limb. He cut it down and brought it back to Lewisville, ordering detectives to investigate. They, however, were unable to identify any members of the mob. According to the Gazette, “Residents here decline to discuss the affair, and the sheriff was informed by one person whom he questioned that ‘anybody could see that the negro fell out of a car and broke his neck.’” Officials publicly expressed regret for the incident, and there were plans to call a grand jury, but there was doubt that any members of the mob would be punished.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Mob Hangs Negro Slayer of Miller County Deputy.” Shreveport Times, August 13, 1926, p. 5.

“Mob Kills Slayer of Sheriff’s Aide.” Evening Star (Washington DC), August 12, 1926, p. 6.

“Negro Killer of Officer Lynched Near Lewisville.” Arkansas Gazette, August 12, 1926, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 09/30/2020