Criminal Activities

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Entry Category: Criminal Activities - Starting with R

Race Riots

A race riot is any prolonged form of mob-related civil disorder in which race plays a key role. The term is most often associated with mob violence by or against a minority group. The motivations for such violence can vary significantly, and once properly defined, the difference between collective violence and riot is somewhat arbitrary. For instance, many lynchings targeting African Americans are considered race riots, as they involved large numbers of whites and were the fatal culmination of existing racial tensions. The 1927 lynching of John Carter in Little Rock (Pulaski County), with the slaying of a white girl as a catalyst, involved a prolonged assault against the city’s black community and is often considered a riot. However, other …

Ramsey, Dave (Lynching of)

A young Black man named Dave Ramsey was lynched in Marianna (Lee County) on January 9, 1881, for allegedly having attempted to rape a white girl. This was the first recorded lynching in Lee County, where the death toll by lynching would eventually reach seventeen documented cases by 1919. At the time Ramsey was killed, the Black population of Lee County was more than double the white population, a disparity that would only increase in the coming years.   The first report of this event appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on January 13, 1881, under the headline, “A Raper Roped,” with the subtitle, “The Pine Bluff Code Works to Perfection.” This report consists of reprinting a letter, dated January 10 and …

Randolph, John (Lynching of)

On July 22, 1875, an African American man named John Randolph was shot by unknown men at Cowell’s Landing (Mississippi County). Randolph and another man were accused of the robbery and murder of Frank Williams, a German man who worked on a plantation named Dickenson’s Mills, which was owned by A. K. Hancock and located on Frenchman’s Bayou forty miles above Memphis, Tennessee. While the Arkansas Gazette published a story datelined Memphis on July 26, a July 31 story in the Osceola Times contained more complete and presumably more accurate information. According to the Times, on Monday, July 19, Williams was paid and then started out for the Shawnee Village landing, located on a plantation of that name owned by …

Reported Smallpox Lynching of 1894

Early in May 1894, newspapers across the country began to publish sensational articles, based on a report to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Ouachita County, on the lynching of a man with smallpox near Miles Switch. As is often the case with false lynching reports, the news continued to circulate even after the Arkansas Gazette published a clarification on May 7. Smallpox was common in the United States during the spring of 1894, with cases appearing in most states. Arkansas was one of the states affected; even though a vaccine had been developed in the late eighteenth century, the state did not require vaccination until 1897. According to an article published by the Gazette on May 2, 1894, twenty-nine smallpox …

Reynolds, Dan (Lynching of)

In late December 1888, Dan Reynolds, an African American, was beaten and left for dead near Coffee Creek (Phillips County) by nine other African-American men who apparently disapproved of his relationship with a local black woman. The Arkansas Gazette referred to this incident as “one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed in this or any other country.” Coffee Creek is located in Big Creek Township, and Dan Reynolds had been living there for almost twenty years. He is listed in the 1870 census as a farm laborer, living with his wife, Vester (or Vesta) who was thirty-nine. By 1880, they had a ten-year-old daughter named Eliza. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on January 15, 1889, …

Rhodes, Richard (Hanging of)

Few people survive a hanging, but Dr. Richard Rhodes—a plantation owner in Dallas County, living just south of present-day Sheridan (Grant County)—may have survived two. Richard Clinton Rhodes was born in North Carolina in 1801 to a prominent family. He received medical training in Europe and then opened a practice in Robeson County, North Carolina. There, he invested in land and quickly became a rich plantation owner with nearly 200 slaves. Rhodes married Susan Davis Russell when she was sixteen and he was forty-six. The Rhodes family’s oral history says that while practicing medicine in North Carolina, Rhodes delivered Susan as a newborn. The Russell family could not afford to pay Rhodes’s medical fee, so the baby girl was offered …

Rice, William (Lynching of)

On November 7, 1891, an African American named William Rice was murdered in Conway County for unknown reasons. News of the event appeared in the Indianapolis Journal on November 9. Citing a report received from Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 8, the Journal stated that Rice’s body was found hanging from a tree near Plumerville (Conway County) on the morning of November 7. Appearances indicated that Rice had been killed first, and then his body was suspended from the tree. The November 18 edition of the Pilot of Morrilton (Conway County) reported that Rice’s body had been found suspended on a bridle rein on the Springfield and Dover Road near Solgohachia (Conway County) “last Thursday morning.” This would have …

Ricks, G. W. and Moses (Lynching of)

In June 1898, prosperous African-American farmer G. W. Ricks and his son, Rev. Moses Ricks, were lynched in southern Monroe County for the alleged assault of a white farmer’s wife. According to historian Terence Finegan, whose A Deed so Accursed is a study of lynching in South Carolina and Mississippi, prosperous African Americans were occasionally lynched because their success threatened the notion of white superiority. Census information both illuminates and confuses the story. In 1870, there was a black farmer named Jim Ricks living in Monroe County’s Duncan Township. He was twenty-seven years old, and living with him were his wife, Miriam, and several other family members, all of them too old to be the Rickses’ children. Ricks was a …

Robertson, Frank (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas …

Robinson, Willis (Lynching of)

On December 18, 1918, an African-American man named Willis Robinson was hanged by a mob in Newport (Jackson County) for allegedly murdering police officer Charles Williams and wounding Chief of Police Gus C. Martin. Reports indicate that Robinson was a resident of Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the 1910 census listed nineteen-year-old Willis W. Robinson as living in Owen Township with his parents, Charley and Martha Robinson. According to newspaper reports, by December 1918, Robinson, who was described by the Arkansas Democrat as “a very large black negro, weighing about 240 pounds,” was living with his wife at 1003 Jones Street in Little Rock. Robinson was reportedly well known to local authorities. In defiance of a 1917 Arkansas statute forbidding …

Rolling Stones, Arrest of the

The July 5, 1975, lunch stop and subsequent arrest of Rolling Stones guitarists Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards in Fordyce (Dallas County) is fabled in the town, and the incident became a footnote in the police record of the English rock and roll band. The quintet had cultivated an outlaw image since its early 1960s inception. According to Arkansas native Bill Carter, the Rolling Stones’ attorney from 1973 to 1990, everywhere the Stones went in 1975, it was a challenge for authorities. Riot squads and narcotics units were common during the group’s twenty-eight-city, $13 million-grossing tour. On July 4, the Stones played Memphis, Tennessee. Richards and new member Wood decided to sightsee and drive with two others to their July …

Rowland and Dickerson (Lynching of)

On October 6, 1880, two white men were lynched just outside of Jacksonport (Jackson County) for having allegedly murdered a man named John Nieman a few days prior. The names of the lynching victims vary depending upon the newspaper. The Arkansas Gazette report refers to them only as Rowland and Dickerson, while the Batesville Guard gives their full names as Gill Roland and John Dickinson, and their ages as about nineteen and eighteen, respectively. According to the Guard, the men were believed to have come from Dent County, Missouri. The Guard, describing the pair as “heartless wretches” and “two demons,” insists that the pair committed their murder “without the slightest provocation or warning.” On the night of October 2, the …

Ruffin, Isaac (Lynching of)

On November 30, 1874, an African American man named Isaac Ruffin was lynched near Marion (Crittenden County) for allegedly assaulting and murdering fourteen-year-old Melissa Adams and raping her thirteen-year-old sister Margaret (Maggie); both sisters were African American. Public records reveal nothing about Ruffin, but the 1870 census lists Melissa and Margaret living in Jasper Township with their parents, Jubilee and Cynthia. On December 3, 1874, the New Orleans Bulletin published one of the earliest accounts of the crime. On November 28, Ruffin allegedly met Melissa in the woods near Marion. He assaulted her and then tried to kill her with a knife. She fought back, and in the struggle, Ruffin lost the knife. Unable to find it in the dark, …

Rufus Buck Gang

The Rufus Buck Gang was a group of young men from the Indian Territory who went on a criminal rampage in the summer of 1895; all five were hanged on July 1, 1896, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), the only people executed for rape from Judge Isaac C. Parker’s court. Rufus Buck was a Native American of the Yuchi tribe who was angry about the white people who were moving into the Indian Territory. He assembled a gang of petty criminals, all very young, to “make a record that would sweep all of the other gangs of the territory into insignificance.” The others were Lewis Davis, also Yuchi; Sam Sampson and Maomi July, both Creek (Muscogee); and Luckey Davis, who …

Russ, Carnell (Killing of)

The killing of African American Carnell Russ by white Star City (Lincoln County) police officer Charles Lee Ratliff on May 31, 1971, highlights many matters surrounding race, civil rights, and law enforcement in Arkansas at the time. The case involved hostile and aggressive white policing, skewed all-white or mostly white juries, the lack of black police officers and black jurors in areas heavily populated by black residents, judges with questionable impartiality, unconcerned federal agencies, and the procedural intricacies and bureaucracy of the criminal justice system. Importantly, it led to a change in federal policy over how civil rights cases would be handled in the future. Carnell Russ was pulled over by state trooper Jerry Green at around 5:45 p.m. on …