Loy Haley (Lynching of)

Loy Haley, an African-American man, was lynched on June 15, 1915, likely near Lewisville (Lafayette County), for allegedly murdering Roy Lester, owner of a plantation in Lafayette County located in the Red River bottoms.

Probably the earliest report on the violent chain of events was a June 13, 1915, article in the Arkansas Gazette. Though titled, “Lynching Near Lafayette County,” the article does not, in fact, describe a lynching but rather reports on the intended lynching of Loy Haley. According to the report, Roy Lester had remained on his plantation despite flooding on the Red River that had left his farm entirely surrounded by water, and made him “the only white man on the place.” No details of Lester’s murder had yet emerged, aside from the fact that he was shot in the back and that police officers and physicians were forced to travel ten miles by boat due to the flood; by the time they arrived, Lester, described in reports as “one of the most popular men of Lafayette County,” had died.

The following day, the Gazette reported that a posse of 500 men was in pursuit of Haley, and that a reward of $500 awaited his capture. The posse had captured “two negroes who were suspected as accomplices of Haley,” later named as Richard Adkins and Alf Daniels, and subsequently began preparing to hang them, relenting only when the two offered “their prompt confessions.” The county sheriff also reported “positive evidence” that Lester’s black farm workers had conspired to kill Lester, though this evidence is not specified.

Acting on information provided by these two farm workers (according to one report, they were also Haley’s father-in-law and stepfather), Sheriff William S. A. Jackson of Lafayette County was able to track down Haley’s home in the flooded area and arrest him. After capturing Haley, Jackson drove him quickly to neighboring Hempstead County to put him out of harm’s way. Being pursued by members of a mob along the way, he arrived at Hope (Hempstead County) and met Sheriff Ruff Boyette, who accepted responsibility for the prisoner and transferred him to the county jail at Washington (Hempstead County). Reportedly, members of the mob had agreed to allow the law to work its course, being assured that Haley would not escape.

There is some confusion as to the sequence of events. Some sources hold that Boyette encountered the mob driving from Hope to Washington. Others state that Boyette arrived safely in Washington but, later fearing that the jail may not suffice in holding back the mob that was now roaming the county, put Haley back in his car and returned to Hope with the intention of transferring him to the state penitentiary in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Whatever the case, between Washington and Hope, the sheriff encountered members of the mob, who seized Haley at 2:30 a.m. on June 15, 1915. The Arkansas Democrat put the size of the mob at approximately fifty, though some national reports said as many as 200 participated. The mob conveyed Haley to a point two and a half miles north of Lewisville, hanged him from a tree, and shot him repeatedly.

Sources also differ as to the ostensible motive for Haley’s alleged murder of Lester. According to the Gazette, Haley confessed to a jailer at Washington, saying, “I shot him because he cussed me, when I wouldn’t work on the levee,” adding that he had to walk two miles to borrow a gun for the deed. However, according to the Democrat, Haley confessed to the murder while in transit between Hope and Washington, saying only that he was “voodooed to do so.” Although no one in the mob was specifically identified, newspapers did note that the members were the “best citizens of Lafayette county, and they wore no masks.”

For additional information:
“500 Men on Trail of Negro Slayer.” Arkansas Gazette, June 14, 1915, p. 2.

“Lynching Near Lafayette County.” Arkansas Gazette, June 13, 1915, p. 1.

“Lynching Party Seizes Prisoner.” Arkansas Gazette, June 15, 1915, p. 1.

“Negro Murderer Lynched by Mob.” Evening Times-Republican (Marshalltown, Iowa), June 15, 1915, p. 1.

“Negro Slayer of Roy Lester Hanged and Shot.” Arkansas Democrat, June 15, 1915, pp. 1, 9.

“Running Fight at Night.” Topeka State Journal, June 15, 1915, p. 2.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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