George Bailey (Lynching of)

Sometime during the night of December 19–20, 1909, an African-American man named George Bailey was shot to death by a mob while he was housed in the jail at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County).

Although whites outnumbered blacks approximately two to one in Prairie County at that time, there was already racial animus in the area because a few days earlier an unknown African-American man had reportedly attacked a white man who was sleeping in a boxcar nearby. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the attack was an attempted robbery, and the attacker almost cut the victim’s throat: “At the time a party was organized to lynch the negro, but cooler counsel prevailed and the would-be lynchers were dissuaded from their purpose.”

According to reports, Bailey went into a saloon in Biscoe (Prairie County) on Saturday night (December 18) and asked the bartender, Matt Todd, to give him a gallon of whiskey on credit. Todd told him to ask the owner, but instead Bailey went outside and shot Todd through the window, shattering his right arm below the elbow. Bailey then fled but was arrested on Sunday morning (December 19) by Deputy Sheriff C. A. Linley and put in jail. During the day, local African Americans allegedly held secret meetings about the affair, which further increased racial tension. That night a mob, fearful that justice would be “thwarted” again, quietly broke into the jail, and when they could not open the cell door, shot Bailey fifteen times through the bars. No one knew of the killing until Sheriff S. E. Streeton went to open the jail the following morning. According to the Gazette, on Monday (December 20), “Fearing trouble from the blacks, bands of white citizens patrolled the streets…firing occasional shots by way of warning. Rope nooses were placed over the doors of negro residences.” Intimidated, black residents either stayed home or went into the nearby countryside to hide to wait out the harassment.

For additional information:
“Mob Kills Negro: Riot Threatened.” Arkansas Gazette, December 21, 1909, p. 1.

“Much Lawlessness.” Batesville Guard, December 24, 1909, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 08/21/2019