Goodwin Jackson (Execution of)

On May 22, 1885, an African American man named Goodwin Jackson was executed in Clarendon (Monroe County) for the murder of another African American, Sandy Redmon, in November 1884.

Jackson and Redmond both appear in Monroe County census records. In 1870, an illiterate “mulatto” man named Goodwin Jackson, age twenty-two, was living near Indian Bay in Jackson Township of Monroe County with his wife, Charity. He was still there in 1880, and by that time, he and Charity had four children. Newspaper reports were not kind to him. The Arkansas Gazette noted that he “had the appearance of not being very intelligent,” while the Memphis Daily Appeal referred to him as “a bad negro,” noting that he had “attempted to knife Mr. Wiley Washington, one of our planters here, before the war, who in turn cut the negro’s throat from ear to ear, but did not kill him. Jackson’s brother murdered his own brother in this county several years ago, about the small sum of twenty-five cents, and was hanged for the deed.”

In 1870, fifty-year-old farm laborer Sandy Redmond was also living near Indian Bay with his wife, Emily Redmond. He, too, was illiterate. The Gazette described him as “a man much liked by both black and white,” noting that his death “provoked great excitement and indignation among his friends and acquaintances.”

According to a May 24, 1885, report in the Arkansas Gazette, on November 20, 1884, Sandy Redmond and John Arthurs (sometimes referred to as Arthur) had a dispute on Lawrence Mayo’s plantation near Indian Bay. Goodwin Jackson was part of the crowd looking on. Jackson’s wife passed by and chastised Redmond for “using language unbecoming his standing as a deacon of the church.” Redmond, using “a most opprobrious epithet,” said it was none of her business. Jackson, feeling his wife had been insulted, then struck Redmond twice with a fence rail, killing him.

Jackson was arrested for murder, and Arthurs was held as an accomplice. (There is no mention of John Arthurs in public records, however.) Arthurs escaped, but Goodwin was tried and convicted at the fall session of the Monroe County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to hang on May 8, but Governor Simon P. Hughes delayed the execution until May 22. A correspondent named “Brick” wrote to the Gazette expressing outrage at this delay. He reported that newspapers had already advertised the hanging, and a crowd had begun to gather. The delay was a disappointment to local merchants, who had prepared for a “big run on business.”

The execution was later set for May 22 and took place before a large crowd swelled by excursions run into Clarendon by the railroad. The crowd, estimated by various sources as between 2,000 and 10,000, was reportedly mostly made up of African Americans. The Gazette reported that Jackson was still proclaiming his innocence and was “either very stupid or is playing a fine game.”

The Memphis Daily Appeal published a dramatic article on the hanging, reporting: “As the sheriff and party pushed their way through the dense crowd of colored people that had assembled…a deathlike stillness overspread the crowd. The stillness was broken by the plaintive and weird moans started by the colored women.” By this time, according to the Appeal, Jackson was admitting his guilt, saying that he was in “the heat of passion” when he committed the crime, and blaming his actions on the “fact that my associations all my life were bad.” The Gazette, on the other hand, said he had neither confessed or claimed innocence of the crime, and reported that his lengthy remarks were given “in a very loud, wild, disconnected way, [with him] frequently jumping up and down on the scaffold wildly beating himself and making swaying gestures with his right hand.”

In late July 1885, John Arthur, for whom the governor had issued a $200 reward, was still a fugitive, and local wisdom held that he would soon be captured and lynched. His fate is unknown.

For additional information:
“Appeal Specials.” Memphis Daily Appeal, May 23, 1885, p. 1.

“Clarendon.” Arkansas Daily Gazette, July 28, 1885, p. 2.

“A Disappointed Crowd.” Arkansas Gazette, May 13, 1885, p. 2.

“Executed.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 23, 1885, p. 1.

“Indian Bay, Arkansas.” Memphis Daily Appeal, May 30, 1885, p. 2.

“Jerked to Eternity.” Arkansas Gazette, May 24, 1885, p. 3.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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