Little Rock Executions of 1892

Tom Bailey and L. D. Slaughter, two African American men convicted of first-degree murder, were hanged together at Little Rock (Pulaski County) on May 6, 1892.

J. F. Hackman, a traveling salesman for the Tunison Map Company of Jacksonville, Illinois, arrived at McAlmont Station near Little Rock on December 22 (some sources say December 28), 1889, where he met Tom Bailey, a local man. The two quarreled over the price of a map, and Hackman attempted to strike Bailey, who “then knocked Hackman down and went off, but came back and, while Hackman was in a comatose condition, cut his throat.” Bailey then robbed the salesman’s corpse, dragged the body to a lake, and tied it to a cypress knee below the water’s edge before fleeing to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Hackman’s body was found about three weeks later and identified by his clothing. Bailey became a suspect after some of the items he had stolen from Hackman were traced to him, and he was arrested in the Indian Territory around two years later. He admitted killing the salesman but claimed it was in self-defense.

L. D. Slaughter, a preacher and Little Rock water company employee, lived with Jennie Love, whom he described as his housekeeper. On the morning of August 1, 1891, they got into an argument over money, and Slaughter beat her before leaving the house. He returned around noon carrying a Winchester rifle and renewed the argument. Love fled, and Slaughter followed her, shooting her near 12th and Gaines streets.

Slaughter was indicted for first-degree murder and tried on March 19–20, 1892. He testified that Love had stolen from him and that, when she ran away, he shot her, saying that “when Jennie fell to the ground I went up to her, grasped her hand and told her that I was the cause of her death and it would be the cause of mine.” His attorney, B. F. Adair, later said, “If I had known how the prisoner was going to testify when put upon the stand, I would have plead [sic] the insanity dodge for him.”

The jury only took twenty minutes to find Slaughter guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged on May 6, 1892.

Bailey was tried in early April 1892, and despite his plea of self-defense the jury only deliberated for about half an hour before finding him guilty of first-degree murder. The Arkansas Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, a plea for commutation to Governor James P. Eagle was unsuccessful, and Bailey, too, was sentenced to be hanged on May 6.

On the morning of May 6, the two condemned men were visited by their spiritual adviser and relatives before being escorted to the gallows; spectators with tickets were admitted to the Pulaski County jail yard at 11:30 a.m. to witness their execution. The Arkansas Gazette reported that “two ropes were suspended from the beam, one larger and heavier than the other, intended for Slaughter, who was very tall and much heavier than Bailey, for whom the lighter rope was reserved.”

Mounting the gallows, Slaughter gave a “long and incoherent series of utterances” lasting for twenty to thirty minutes in which he said he had a “through ticket to the River Jordan.” Asked for his last words, Bailey said, “I done what I done to save my own life, and hope to meet you, one and all, in Heaven.”

The trap door opened at 12:05 p.m. Slaughter died instantly, but the Gazette wrote of Bailey: “His fingers twitched nervously, his body was bent in evident agony and pain; though not a sigh or groan escaped his lips.” Both men were declared dead at 12:15. Slaughter’s body was turned over to relatives, while Bailey was buried in a potter’s field.

Two days after the execution, the Gazette reported that Black Little Rock residents were terrified by rumors that Slaughter’s corpse was reanimated, that people “saw the eyes of the dead open, and instead of the stony stare of death, there gleamed from their depths the fierce look of a demon.” An Arkadelphia (Clark County) paper wrote a few weeks later that “there was no truth in the report, as Slaughter’s neck was broken.”

For additional information:
“‘Are You Dead?’” Arkansas Gazette, March 19, 1892, p. 3.

“Both Will Swing.” Arkansas Democrat, May 4, 1892, p. 8.

“Double Execution.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 6, 1892, p. 1.

“The Gallows Candidate.” Arkansas Democrat, April 2, 1892, p. 8.

“Necks Broken.” Arkansas Democrat, May 6, 1892, p. 1.

“Said He Returned to Life.” Southern Standard, May 20, 1892, p. 1.

“Scaffold Ready.” Arkansas Democrat, May 5, 1892, p. 4.

“Slaughter Alive.” Arkansas Gazette, May 8, 1892, p. 6.

“The Slaughter Case.” Arkansas Democrat, March 19, 1892, p. 1.

“Slaughter to Hang.” Arkansas Gazette, March 20, 1892, p. 6.

“Through Ticket.” Arkansas Gazette, May 7, 1892, p. 1.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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