Robert Albert Causby (Execution of)
Robert Causby was born in Independence County on October 14, 1883, the son of Hepsey Catherine Causby, and grew up in Union Township near the Izard County line. His criminal career began when he was a teenager and stole an axe from the township’s constable, who fled the area after reporting that Causby had shot at him. He was jailed in Fulton County for the December 1900 robbery of a post office but escaped in February 1901 after striking a jailer with a log.
Causby ran off to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he farmed for a few years. In the fall of 1904, however, he decided to return to Arkansas for a brief visit with his family near Cushman (Independence County). He was spotted as he boarded a train in Jackson County, and that county’s sheriff warned officials in Batesville that he was headed their way.
He was recognized when he reached Batesville on September 15, 1904, and Sheriff Jeff D. Morgan went downtown to arrest him. Causby pulled a pistol and shot Morgan as he fled, striking him in the chest. The sheriff fell to the ground, saying, “Boys, he has killed me,” and swiftly bled to death from a severed artery. Causby was captured and jailed.
He and another inmate escaped from the jail on October 9, 1904, after throwing a blanket over the jailer’s head but were quickly returned to custody.
A grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder charges on October 17, 1904. He was tried three days later, testifying that he had blindly fired as he fled from Morgan to keep from being arrested. The jury, though, deliberated only fifty minutes the next day before finding him guilty of murder in the first degree. On October 24, 1904, the judge passed a sentence that, on November 25, Causby would be “hanged by the neck until you are dead! dead!! dead!!! and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
Causby was morose as he awaited execution, and when November 25 arrived there was only a small crowd at the execution site “owing to the wide circulation of a rumor…to the effect that Causby had died in jail.” The sheriffs of Independence, Fulton, Franklin, Jackson, Sharp, and Faulkner counties were among the onlookers.
When the time came to bring him to the gallows, Causby was “so prostrated that he had to be conveyed in a cab from the jail to the scaffold.” A reporter stated that “the man’s mind was unquestionably a total blank and the eyes had a vacant stare that no actor could assume.” Though some people thought it improper to execute a senseless inmate, he was hanged at 11:43 a.m., and while the fall did not break his neck “his body remained suspended about ten minutes” before being taken down and turned over to an uncle for burial in the Tate Cemetery at Union Hill (Independence County).
A newspaper speculated a few days later that Causby’s condition at his execution was because “he had masticated the heads of unused matches,” while others believed he “was simply in a state of nervous collapse superinduced by fear.”
For additional information:
“Dead Man Was Hanged.” Arkansas Democrat, November 27, 1904, p. 1.
“Death Penalty in Batesville Today.” Arkansas Gazette, November 25, 1904, pp. 1, 2.
“Morgan’s Killer Escapes from Jail.” Arkansas Gazette, October 11, 1904, p. 1.
“Robert Albert Causby.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/172304549/robert-albert-causby (accessed September 27, 2023).
“Taken to the Gallows a Nervous Wreck.” Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1904, pp. 1, 2.
“A Theory about Causby.” Arkansas Gazette, November 27, 1904, p. 2.
“Unconscious When Hanged.” Arkansas Democrat, November 25, 1904, p. 3.
Wyatt, Ralph. “The Murder of Sheriff Jeff D. Morgan; Trial and Execution of his Killer.” Independence County Chronicle 2 (April 1961): 14–24.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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