L. L. Ford (Execution of)

L. L. Ford was one of two men hanged for the 1879 murder of a Crittenden County man, though many believed him innocent and he denied being involved in the crime.

On October 26, 1879, four masked men rode up to the home of John Broadway, age fifty-five, about ten miles north of Marion (Crittenden County). One of them was John Potter, who worked for Broadway and believed that Broadway had $300 in his home. When Broadway tried to defend himself, another robber, Hiram Jeffries, shot him down. The four men fled, having netted only eight dollars.

Potter, Jeffries, L. L. Ford, and Cal Huey were arrested and charged with Broadway’s murder. Huey got a change of venue to Mississippi County, but a Crittenden County Circuit Court panel indicted Jeffries and Ford on November 16, 1879. They were tried and convicted in Crittenden County, largely on the testimony of Potter, who had turned state’s evidence. The state Supreme Court upheld the conviction on March 21, 1880. On April 14, 1880, two days before Jeffries and Ford were scheduled to hang, Potter helped Jeffries escape from jail, and the two men disappeared.

Ford had been offered the opportunity to turn state’s evidence “but declined, stating that he knew nothing of the murder.” Governor William Read Miller gave Ford a reprieve from the scheduled April 16 hanging, moving the execution date to May 28, 1880. As that date approached, several people went to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to ask Miller to give Ford executive clemency since “he had been convicted on the evidence of a man who planned a robbery, in the execution of which the murder was committed.” Miller, however, was nowhere to be found, as he was campaigning for reelection.

A reporter visited Ford in his cell on May 28, and the twenty-five-year-old told him, “I am prepared to die, although innocent.” The Arkansas Gazette noted that “there was not one person present who witnessed the execution that was not impressed with the probable innocence of Ford,” and the local sheriff delayed the hanging into the afternoon in hopes of receiving word of a gubernatorial reprieve.

Finally, at around 4:00 p.m., Ford was taken the gallows, where a crowd of around 500 had gathered. A preacher read a psalm and sang a hymn “in which Ford joined, his voice rising high above the others.” When asked if he had any last words, Ford said, “I never thought I would witness such a scene as this, much less to appear as the principal actor. I am not guilty of the charge of killing John Broadway. I am prepared to go and meet my God.”

The black cap was placed on Ford’s head, the trapdoor opened, “and Ford swung off into eternity. His neck was broken by the fall and only a few spasmodic convulsions were noticeable.” He was pronounced dead after hanging for twenty minutes, and his body was turned over to friends.

The Gazette opined: “Ford, although the least guilty of the lot, if guilty at all, has been hung, while two of the ringleaders are free, and there is no evidence to convict the third, who is yet in jail.” Cal Huey, however, would be hanged at Osceola (Mississippi County) on January 14, 1881.

There was widespread suspicion that Miller declined to pardon Ford for fear it would cost him Crittenden County’s five delegates to the state Democratic convention. Miller would not win a third term in office.

For additional information:
“Gov. W. R. Miller.” Arkansas Gazette, June 1, 1880, p. 5.

“Into Eternity.” Arkansas Gazette, May 29, 1880, p. 5.

“Moore and Miller.” Arkansas Gazette, June 3, 1880, p. 5.

“Will He Hang?” Arkansas Gazette, May 26, 1880, p. 8.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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