William McKee (Execution of)

William F. McKee was executed on May 26, 1837, for the murder of his brother’s brother-in-law, though he continually proclaimed his innocence, blaming his brother for the crime.

Buford P. Scott was shot in the back on December 24, 1836, near his father’s home about twelve miles from Little Rock (Pulaski County), the fatal bullet entering his back to the left of his spinal column and exiting his chest. Two brothers, William and Alexander McKee, were arrested the next day and charged with Scott’s murder.

At their trial on April 13, 1837, a parade of witnesses testified that William McKee had a history of conflict with Scott, whose sister Catherine was married to Alexander McKee, with several recounting threats William McKee had made to Scott. Some testified that they had seen McKee strike Scott in the head with a shovel during one altercation in a mercantile store. Coroner David Royston testified that when he arrested the brother on Christmas Day, William McKee said he “ought to have killed [Scott] thirty weeks (or months) ago—but…he was glad the perjured villain had come to his death by other hands.”

Although another brother, Green McKee, testified that William McKee had not left their home on December 24, the jury returned a guilty verdict against William McKee. Alexander McKee was acquitted.

The Arkansas Times and Advocate reported that the trial judge had ordered William McKee taken to the Pulaski County jail until May 26, when “you are to be taken by the proper officer to the public place of execution, and there hung by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!”

A public meeting was held at the Pulaski County Courthouse on April 25, 1837, at which it was reported that Alexander McKee, in trying to get a new trial for his brother, claimed William McKee had no knowledge of the murder and thus “has virtually confessed that he himself did that foul deed.” The assembled citizens passed a resolution that Alexander McKee “be distinctly and imperatively informed that his presence will no longer be tolerated by this community, that the cup of his villainy is full, and if again found among us he will be held and treated as a felon and an outlaw.”

As he awaited his execution, William McKee had a statement published in the Times and Advocate in which he accused Alexander McKee of murdering Scott, though he added, “I cared nothing about it in the way of regret for Scott.” William McKee was hanged on May 26, 1837; there are apparently no further newspaper references to his brother Alexander.

For additional information:
“Assassination.” Weekly [Jackson] Mississippian, February 17, 1837, p. 1.

“Public Meeting.” Arkansas Times and Advocate, May 1, 1837, p. 3.

“Trial of William McKee.” Arkansas Times and Advocate, May 1, 1837, p. 2.

“Trial of William McKee.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, May 2, 1837, p. 2.

“William F. McKee.” Arkansas Times and Advocate, May 1, 1837, p. 3.

“Wm. F. McKee.” Arkansas Times and Advocate, May 29, 1837, p. 3.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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