Less Smith (Lynching of)

On December 9, 1922, an African-American man named Less Smith was lynched in Morrilton (Conway County) for the alleged murder of deputy sheriff Granville Edward Farish.

Farish had been in Conway County since at least 1900, when he was twelve years old and living in Welborn Township with his parents, Columbus and Bell Farish. At the age of seventeen, he married sixteen-year-old Carrie Spears in Morrilton. Carrie might have died, because in 1909 he married a woman named Myrtle, and in 1910 they were living and farming in Welborn Township. In 1920, he and Myrtle were living in Welborn Township with their children Thetus (age eight), Cessna (age seven), Harrell (age five), Janie (age three), and Dorothy (age one).

As for Less Smith, he registered for the World War I draft in 1918; at the time, he was working for Guy Vail in Morrilton and gave his birth date as September 23, 1897. Although newspapers reported that he was twenty-three, this would have made him twenty-five at the time of the lynching, which agrees with the record of his marriage to Ethel Green on November 11, 1922. Newspapers reported that Smith, who they said was unmarried, had a bad reputation in town and had once been jailed for threatening a white man.

According to newspaper reports, at 3:00 p.m. on December 9, Farish approached Smith and attempted to collect a debt that Smith owed to a local merchant. Smith claimed that Farish hit him over the head with a bottle, whereupon Smith shot him in the abdomen. Farish drew his weapon and tried to return fire, but the gun jammed. Farish was not expected to live. Smith was arrested, and according to the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, a mob of over 100 (some reports say 150) gathered, intending to lynch him. When officers realized this, they spirited Smith out of the jail in an attempt to take him to the penitentiary in Little Rock (Pulaski County). They had gone only a short distance when a group of men confronted them with guns. According to the Southern Standard, six members of the mob overpowered them and took Smith from authorities, put him in a car, and drove him several miles from Morrilton, where he was hanged from a tree and his body riddled with bullets. According to the Daily Graphic, “There was little or no demonstration or outward disturbance by members of the lynching party, who proceeded with their work without creating undue excitement. When news of the lynching became general here tonight there was little comment.…Negroes that usually are to be found on the streets here Saturday night are noticeable for their absence, however. No further trouble is expected.”

According to the Arkansas Gazette, when the undertaker brought Smith’s body back to Morrilton at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, “hundreds of persons stormed the undertaking establishment to view it. Many more saw the body before it was turned over to relatives this morning (Sunday).” Farish recovered consciousness around midnight, but then he lapsed into a coma and died on Sunday morning. County coroner J. B. Arthur held inquests over both bodies and found that Farish died “from gunshot wounds inflicted by Less Smith,” and Smith, whose body had sixteen bullets in it, “came to his death at the hands of unknown persons.”

For additional information:
“Mob’s Victim Had Shot Deputy Earlier in Day; Body Is Bullet-Riddled.” Arkansas Democrat, December 10, 1922, p. 1.

“Negro Lynched at Morrilton.” Southern Standard (Arkadelphia), December 14, 1922, p. 2.

“Negro Lynched by Mob of 100 at Morrilton.” Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, December 10, 1922, p. 1.

“Officer, Shot by Negro, Succumbs.” Arkansas Gazette, December 11, 1922, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 09/17/2019