Chris Pegues (Execution of)

Chris Pegues was an African American man executed at Augusta (Woodruff County) on October 9, 1885, for the murder of his “paramour.” Pegues was convicted of first-degree murder in Woodruff County on August 28, 1885, for killing Mollie Banks in late December 1884.

Some 3,000 people gathered at Augusta on the day of his execution and speaking “in an intelligent, calm way,” Pegues told the crowd of his stormy relationship with Banks. They met in Lake County, Mississippi, in 1883. Banks was separated from her husband, and after she and Pegues became involved, they moved to Arkansas, where they intended for her to get a divorce in February 1885 so that they could get married.

Acquaintances in Arkansas, however, tried to get Banks to break off her relationship with Pegues, and though they continued to profess their love for each other, he said, she left him several times. “I began to drink whisky and grieve, and couldn’t eat,” Pegues told the crowd. “I asked all what I must do and was told to kill her.”

Continuing his story, Pegues related that he drank heavily during the Christmas 1884 season, and several people he knew urged him to murder Banks. He borrowed a gun and went to the house where Banks was staying, and she came out to see him, hugging him and kissing him good night before heading back inside. “The muzzle of the gun was in the door, and as she was passing it the hammer struck the side of the house,” Pegues said, “the gun went off, and as it fired…she fell right against me in my arms.” He was subsequently arrested and convicted for her death.

Standing at the gallows, Pegues said, “My last words are to the young men. I want them to vote it all down; to vote whisky down.” The trap door was sprung at 10:06 a.m., and Pegues was declared dead seventeen minutes later.

For additional information:
“Augusta.” Arkansas Gazette, August 29, 1885, p. 4.

“A Murderer Swings.” Arkansas Gazette, October 10, 1884, p. 3.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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