Walter Smith (Lynching of)

In many cases of reported lynchings, newspapers in other states received initial reports by wire from local newspapers and then failed to include updates on these first stories. Such was the case with the alleged lynching of twenty-four-year-old Walter Smith in Cabot (Lonoke County) in May 1892. In Smith’s case, even the Arkansas Gazette failed to update its story on a rumored lynching.

The first news of Smith’s alleged crime appeared in the Arkansas Democrat on May 23, 1892. Smith, an African American, had reportedly attacked a white woman in Cabot a week earlier. After committing “his heinous crime,” he escaped. Police wired a description of “the brute” to officials in the area, and he was found on May 22 while working on a railroad in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was arrested and jailed. On May 23, officers from Cabot arrived, identified Smith, and set out to return him to Lonoke County. In conclusion, this report noted: “It is thought that Smith will be lynched.”

On May 24, the Arkansas Gazette published two reports on the incident. The first repeated the details described above and reported that Smith had been returned to Cabot, and “all was quiet.” The second report, however, described rumors that Smith had been removed from jail and lynched. A dispatcher on the Iron Mountain Railroad reported these rumors but was unable to confirm them; the Gazette also failed to get confirmation by wire.

That same day, however, the Arkansas Democrat corrected reports on the crime and the lynching. Apparently, Smith had assaulted not a white woman, but a Black woman named Malinda Dykes. There was little excitement in Cabot; local citizens were “feeling assured that he could be brought to justice by quiet and lawful means,” and he was awaiting examination. There is no such retraction found in the Gazette.

Despite this retraction by the Democrat, however, several North Carolina newspapers picked up the story. These included the Progressive Farmer, the Fisherman and Farmer, and the State Chronicle, all of which reported rumors of a lynching. Reports were published as late as June 3. It is situations like this that make it difficult to develop factual accounts and lists of lynching victims.

For additional information:
“Another Rapist.” Arkansas Gazette, May 24, 1892, p. 3.

“The Latest News.” Progressive Farmer (Winston, North Carolina) May 31, 1892, p. 3

“Lynched.” Arkansas Gazette, May 24, 1892, p. 6.

“Not Lynched.” Arkansas Democrat, May 24, 1892, p. 8.

“Served Him Right.” State Chronicle (Raleigh, North Carolina), May 25, 1892, p. 1.

“South and West.” Fisherman and Farmer (Edenton, North Carolina), June 3, 1892, p. 2.

“A Terrible Charge.” Arkansas Democrat, May 23, 1892, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina


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