Sam Powell (Lynching of)

On July 6, 1910, an African-American man named Sam Powell was lynched near Huttig (Union County) for allegedly robbing A. E. Lucas and setting his house on fire. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Powell was only eighteen years old at the time. He may have been assisted in the crime by another African-American man named Claude Holmes.

There is no record of a young African American named Sam Powell living in Arkansas in either 1900 or 1910. However, in 1900, an eight-year-old African American named Sam Powell was living in Lincoln Parish in northern Louisiana with his parents and eight siblings, and news stories about the lynching reported that Powell initially escaped to a lumber town named Rochelle in Grant Parish, Louisiana. Grant Parish is several parishes south of Lincoln Parish, and whether this is the same Sam Powell is a matter of speculation. There are also no records for an African American named Claude Holmes in Union County. At the time of the 1910 census, however, Albert E. Lucas, a thirty-seven-year-old native of Canada, was renting a home in Lapile (Union County), which is less than ten miles from Huttig in eastern Union County. He was working as a filer in a lumber mill, and living with him were his wife Ollie and a fourteen-year-old daughter. He also had several boarders. Lucas had apparently come from Canada via Michigan, where he was recorded as living in both the 1880 and 1900 censuses. At the time of the 1900 census, he was described as twenty-eight years old and was working as a machinist.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, while Lucas was at church on June 25 someone broke into his house, stealing $400 in cash and some clothing. Powell had apparently been working for Lucas, and he immediately came under suspicion. The following Wednesday, Powell disappeared, only heightening the suspicion. Authorities followed Powell to Rochelle, Louisiana, and captured him. He was returned to Huttig on July 4. At some point, Claude Holmes was seen wearing some of the stolen clothing, but when authorities went to arrest him, he held them off with a shotgun and escaped through the back door when they went for help.

When he was brought back to Huttig, Powell supposedly confessed. As there were no threats of mob violence, he was placed in what the Los Angeles Herald described as “the rather frail” local prison. He was left unguarded overnight, and sometime during the night, a mob, “which did its work so quietly and quickly that none in town who did not take part was awakened,” took him to the western edge of Huttig and hanged him from a tree. On July 7, a coroner’s jury decided that Powell “came to his death from hanging by unknown persons.”

Albert Lucas remained in Union County. In 1920, he was farming in Lapile, and by 1930 he was residing in Lapile and once again working as a filer in the lumber mill. He died before March 1, 1940, when a Social Security claim was filed for him.

For additional information:
“Mob Hangs Young Negro Charged with Robbery.” Los Angeles Herald, July 8, 1910, p. 4.

“Negro is Found Hanging to a Tree.” Arkansas Gazette, July 8, 1910, p. 1.

“Negro Lynched in Arkansas.” The Tennessean (Nashville), July 8, 1910, p. 6.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated: 02/17/2020