Dock Walker (Execution of)

Dock Walker was a thirty-four-year-old African American man hanged at Texarkana (Miller County) on June 27, 1884, for the shotgun slaying of a friend.

Dock Walker was born enslaved in North Carolina but moved with his brother to Monroe, Louisiana, after emancipation, and the two established a farm there on the Ouachita River. Walker’s brother “made a hellish assault upon a highly respectable white lady” and was burned at the stake, after which Walker moved to Miller County around 1882 with a “pal,” Lucius Grant. The pair settled about twelve miles from Texarkana.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, Walker “had a pretty good reputation when sober, but when under the influence of whisky, was very quarrelsome and inclined to fight.”

In the spring of 1884, Walker and Grant went to Texarkana, where Walker bought some clothing. He loaned Grant a vest and a pair of shoes on the understanding that they would soon be returned, but after they were not, the Gazette reported, Walker “put on his paint and started on the warpath.” He took a shotgun and, after finding Grant working in a field, demanded the return of his clothes. Grant, saying “he could not strip stark naked in such a place,” offered to buy them, but Walker again demanded that he give the clothes to him immediately.

Grant thought he was joking, but Walker “turned his gun loose, mortally wounding the object of his malice.” Walker was arrested and then tried on May 10, 1884, for what a Texas newspaper described as a “killing…said to be exclusively cold-blooded.” He was convicted of first-degree murder, and Judge C. E. Mitchel sentenced him to hang on June 27, 1884. Walker was transported to the state penitentiary in Little Rock (Pulaski County) “for safe-keeping” after his conviction.

The verdict was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which sustained it. Attempts by some of Walker’s white friends to get Governor James H. Berry to commute the sentence to life in prison failed, leaving Walker to be “ushered into the great unknown to meet his victim.”

The condemned man spent the morning of June 27 with his spiritual advisors and then met with family members and reporters. He told a Gazette correspondent that he killed Grant in self-defense “and had no idea when he did it that the end would be so terrible.” Nonetheless, he told the reporter, “I am ready and willing to go, for I feel God has pardoned all my sins and will save me.”

A crowd of around 5,000 people had gathered when Walker was taken to the gallows in the jail yard, and “he was remarked by all present to be the coolest man under the circumstances they ever witnessed.” At 2:00 p.m., the sheriff “sprang the trigger and Walker fell a distance of five feet. His neck was broken by the fall, and he died in eight minutes without a struggle.”

For additional information:
“Hemp Holiday.” Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1884, p. 1.

“Texarkana.” Arkansas Gazette, June 27, 1884, p. 1.

“Texarkana.” Dallas [Texas] Daily Herald, May 24, 1884, p. 1.

“Texarkana.” Galveston [Texas] Daily News, May 10, 1884, p. 5.

“Texarkana.” Galveston Daily News, May 11, 1884, p. 2.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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