Isom White (Execution of)

Isom White, who was hanged at Helena (Phillips County) on July 31, 1891, was one of two African American men executed for the murder of Prince Maloy, a “well to do colored planter.”

Prince Maloy, age fifty-nine, and his wife Matilda, fifty-one, lived on Island No. 64 in Phillips County’s Mooney Township south of Helena with their son William, eighteen. Maloy hired local men, including Isom White and his stepson Henry Young, to work in his fields, and their relationships could be tense—a newspaper report said that, a few weeks before Christmas 1890, they got into an argument, “and but for the prompt interference of Molloy’s [sic] wife they would have killed the old man.”

Maloy was known to keep cash in his house to pay his workers. On January 2, 1891, White and Young borrowed a shotgun, ostensibly to go hunting, but instead went to Maloy’s house with Nathan Carter, another Black man. They shot the old farmer to death, and Matilda and William Maloy fled to the woods, but not before recognizing White and Young.

Matilda Maloy took the steamboat Kate Adams to Helena, where she spotted White and followed him until she ran into the town’s mayor, who ordered White arrested after hearing her story. Young was arrested the same day, and items stolen from the Maloy house were found in their possession. After a few weeks in jail, Young made a full confession.

In early June, Young entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder in the case, with the understanding that he would turn state’s evidence in his stepfather’s trial. He was sentenced to fifteen years in the Arkansas State Penitentiary. White was tried a few weeks later, convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to hang on July 31, 1891.

On the day of White’s execution, “a pretty large crowd came into town…to witness the hanging,” but only twenty-five people were allowed inside the enclosure to watch White die. “White was a very nervy man and met death with a smile on his face,” the Arkansas Gazette reported, climbing the stairs of the scaffold “with a firm step.” White “admitted being with the crowd that killed Maloy but denied having anything to do with it.” Spotting Matilda Maloy in the audience, White “called out to her that she ought to forgive him as the Lord had forgive [sic] him, but the bereaved widow refused to do so.”

The county sheriff “then pulled the drop and White in nine minutes had paid the death penalty of his crime,” his neck broken.

Nathan Carter, the third of the three murderers, had escaped capture but was apprehended in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1892 and returned to Helena, where he was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in early December. He was hanged on January 19, 1893.

For additional information:
“Carter Will Hang.” Arkansas Gazette, December 10, 1892, p. 1.

“Caught Her Husband’s Assassins.” Southern Standard, January 23, 1891, p. 1.

“Confessed and Died.” Memphis Weekly Commercial, January 25, 1893, p. 2.

“Execution at Helena.” Arkansas Democrat, July 31, 1891, p. 1.

“He Died Game.” Arkansas Gazette, August 1, 1891, p. 1.

“Isom White Hanged.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1891, p. 4.

“Press Pickings.” Arkansas Gazette, June 23, 1891, p. 8.

“State News.” Arkansas Democrat, June 6, 1891, p. 7.

“Suffered the Penalty.” Osceola Times, August 15, 1891, p. 2.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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