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Akles, David (Execution of)

On July 17, 1885, an African American man named David Akles (sometimes referred to as Ackles) was hanged in Helena (Phillips County) for allegedly murdering a Black farmer named Frank Burrell and his companion. Akles was originally from Mississippi, but public records there reveal no identifying information. Frank Burrell may have been the Frank Burrill, who was listed on the 1870 census as twelve years old and living in Helena with his parents Israel and Clara Burrill. According to the Arkansas Gazette, on the night of January 29, a Black couple named Frank Burrell and Scilla Flanagan, who were living as husband and wife, were bludgeoned to death with an axe and their house set on fire to conceal the …

Anderson, Charles (Execution of)

Charles Anderson, a twenty-one-year-old Black man, was hanged at Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 26, 1901, before a large crowd after being convicted of raping a young white woman, a crime he went to the gallows denying. Mrs. Belle Edwards, seventeen, worked as a cook at Myers’ railroad tie camp near Marche (Pulaski County). Charles Anderson had been loitering around the camp looking for work. On May 14, 1900, he found Edwards alone at the camp and, newspaper reports said, “assaulted her, badly bruising and choking her.” A posse searched for him, but it would not be until June 17 that a constable spotted him in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Anderson “saw the officer approaching and led him …

Anderson, Clint (Execution of)

Clint Anderson was an African American man hanged in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 30, 1878, for the rape of a white woman in Lonoke County, a crime he denied to the end. On June 15, 1877, Sarah McGinty (also reported as Mrs. McKinstry and Mrs. Maginty) claimed that Clint Anderson, a young man whom the Arkansas Gazette described as “a perfect giant, being six feet seven inches high,” had raped her twice in the woods near Richwood (Lonoke County). According to the Gazette account, Anderson dragged her into the forest “and repeatedly violated her person, his victim being seriously injured by his brutal assaults” before she escaped. When Anderson was arrested, the newspaper said that he had the …

Anti-Horse Thief Association

A number of vigilance groups were created in the United States in an effort to prevent and punish the theft of horses, but the most notable was the Anti-Horse Thief Association (AHTA), which was founded in Missouri in 1863. Operating like a fraternal lodge, complete with passwords and initiation ceremonies, the organization presented itself as a supplement to law enforcement. At the time the AHTA was established, horse thievery was considered a crime of the greatest severity. As historian Lynn Strawberry wrote in her master’s thesis on the AHTA: “Horses were a necessity of frontier life. They were needed for clearing forests, plowing ground and hauling freight as well as personal transportation. Horse thieves would be miles away before the …

Arkadelphia Executions of 1889

Three African American men—Dan Jones, Anderson Mitchell, and Willis Green—were hanged on March 15, 1889, in Arkadelphia (Clark County) for allegedly killing a Black preacher. Arthur (sometimes referred to as Otto) Horton owned a house near Curtis (Clark County), where he let an “old and feeble negro” named Wash Walker live as long as Walker’s wife cooked Horton’s meals. At some point, Dan Jones and Anderson Mitchell moved into the house and ate food without providing any, leading Horton to announce that he would only supply food for himself. Jones, Mitchell, and Green decided to take Horton and “thrash him until he returned to his former generous state.” Recruiting George Dandridge and Robert Bragg, two local Black men, to join …

Arkansas City Executions of 1902

Lawrence Dunlap and David Jobe, both Black men, were hanged at Arkansas City (Desha County) on February 28, 1902, after being convicted of first-degree murder. The 1900 U.S. census shows Lawrence Dunlap, a farmer, living in Drew County’s Franklin Township with his wife, Maggie, and three children. His victim, day laborer Nathan Smith, twenty-three, was living in Randolph Township in Desha County. Newspapers reported that Dunlap and Smith were drinking together in Arkansas City and that Smith displayed a roll of cash. The two went to camp out for the night, and Smith fell asleep on the levee, awakening to find Dunlap rifling through his pockets. When Smith resisted, Dunlap shot him four times and fled. “The boy lived long …

Arkansas Department of Corrections

The umbrella entity of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, created by Act 910 of 2019, is composed of over 6,000 employees within the following: the Division of Correction (formerly the Arkansas Department of Correction), the Division of Community Correction (formerly Arkansas Department of Community Correction), the Corrections School System (Arkansas Correctional School District and Riverside Vocational Technical School), and the Office of the Criminal Detention Facility Review Coordinator, along with the administrative functions of the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committees, Parole Board, Sentencing Commission; and State Council for the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. The Division of Correction (ADC) enforces the court-mandated sentences for people convicted of crimes at a variety of prison facilities located in twelve counties across …

Arkansas Division of Community Correction (ADCC)

The Arkansas Division of Community Correction (ADCC) oversees the state’s non-traditional correction programs, such as probation and parole, as well as community correction centers that offer drug/alcohol treatment and vocational programs. ADCC’s mission is “To promote public safety and a crime-free lifestyle by providing cost-effective community-based sanctions, and enforcing state laws and court mandates in the supervision and treatment of adult offenders.” ADCC was originally named the Arkansas Department of Community Punishment, which was created by Acts 548 and 549 of 1993. The act noted that “the ever increasing numbers of offenders in traditional penitentiaries” brought “added fiscal pressures on state government” and thus sought to bring the cost down “through the use of community punishment programs and non-traditional facilities” …

Arkansas Highway Police

The Arkansas Highway Police is the oldest statewide law enforcement agency in Arkansas and serves as the law enforcement branch of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The duties of the agency have changed over time, but the emphasis remains on protection of the state’s highway and transportation system. The Highway Police is overseen by an agency director with the rank of chief. The chief serves at the pleasure of the director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Highway Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) next to the central office of the Department of Transportation. The Highway Police is divided into five districts, each of which is commanded by an officer with the rank of captain. …

Arkansas State Crime Laboratory

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was established by Act 517 of 1977, Act 864 of 1979, and Act 45 of 1981. The laboratory offers services to state law enforcement agencies in forensic pathology, toxicology, physical evidence (serological and trace evidence), drug analysis, latent fingerprint identification, firearms and toolmarks, digital evidence, and DNA. The laboratory also participates with several federal agencies in the collection of data in the areas of DNA, through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS); latent fingerprints, though the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS); and firearms, through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). In 2019, the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory was placed under the newly created umbrella agency the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), along …

Arkansas State Police

A division within the umbrella agency of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (ADPS), the Arkansas State Police is the state’s primary statewide law enforcement agency. Although it has had many duties since its inception, the primary functions of the agency remain criminal investigation, traffic safety, and highway patrol. As a state agency, the State Police is overseen by a director bearing the rank of colonel who serves at the pleasure of the governor. The State Police’s main headquarters are located in Little Rock (Pulaski County), with the highway patrol organized into twelve regional “troops,” each commanded by a captain, and the criminal investigation division organized into six regional “companies,” each commanded by a lieutenant. The creation of a centralized, …

Armstrong, J. M. (Execution of)

J. M. Armstrong, convicted in a doctor’s killing that he claimed was in self-defense, was hanged at Perryville (Perry County) on April 30, 1886, one of two Arkansans to die on the gallows that day. On February 11, 1885, Dr. Thomas Ferguson failed to come home after visiting a patient, though his horse returned. His body was found on a road about sixteen miles southwest of Perryville the next day by a search party led by J. M. Armstrong. Suspicion fell on Armstrong and John Roland, two “hard characters” who had been seen heavily armed in the area on the previous day. “The crime created so much excitement that on the day of the burial a posse arrived at the …

Arterberry, William (Lynching of)

William Arterberry, an accused arsonist, was shot to death by a mob at Harrison (Boone County) on October 22, 1880. William Arterberry, a twenty-seven-year-old farmer, lived in Harrison with his wife Elmira and their son and two daughters. In the fall of 1880, the floor of the local jail was “saturated with coal oil” and set ablaze; the fire was discovered and quickly extinguished. Arterberry was “arrested, charged with the deed, and it was only circumstantial evidence against him.” On the evening of October 22, 1880, Arterberry and his three guards were returning to Harrison after eating at a nearby hotel when they were “halted by a number of mounted men and immediately surrounded by overwhelming numbers.” The guards drew …

Barnes, Lee (Execution of)

Lee Barnes was hanged at Dover (Pope County) on May 21, 1886, for the murder and robbery of a Conway County gambler. Lee Barnes, twenty-three, who stood five feet nine inches tall and weighed around 130 pounds, moved from Blount County, Tennessee, to Plumerville (Conway County), where he worked for Charles Hollman, a gambler who ran a Wheel of Fortune gambling device at various events and gatherings. Barnes conspired with two men, John Cullens and Russell Watson, to kill and rob Hollman, who was also known as the Jewelry and Spindle Man, when he took the Wheel of Fortune to a “negro festival” about three miles from Plumerville. On the night of November 20, 1885, Barnes and Hollman bedded down …

Beard, Willis (Execution of)

Willis Beard was hanged on May 29, 1857, at Van Buren (Crawford County) for killing a man in the Indian Territory. Willis Beard was convicted in U.S. District Court in November 1856 for killing a man named John Kelley in the Cherokee Nation. While no details of the murder appear to exist, Van Buren’s Arkansas Intelligencer wrote that “his was a remarkable conviction, made entirely on circumstantial evidence. All pointing to him as the guilty person, to the exclusion of every other hypothesis.” On a rainy Friday, May 29, 1857, Beard, who continued to protest his innocence, was placed in a wagon with his coffin and taken to the execution site, where a large crowd had gathered. The Intelligencer wrote …

Bennett, Rush (Execution of)

Rush Bennett was hanged in El Dorado (Union County) on February 4, 1881, for the murder of a former employer two years earlier. Rush Bennett, labeled a “mulatto” in press reports, was born around 1850 and was enslaved by a planter near New Orleans, Louisiana. When the Civil War began, he spied for Confederate forces, but after the Union captured New Orleans, he worked for the Federals and gave “minute intelligence of the movements and numbers of the Confederates along the Louisiana and Arkansas border.” Bennett moved to Arkansas after the war, working on cotton plantations and hunting for a living. Among his employers was A. C. Jameson, a lawyer and planter who lived near El Dorado, and a newspaper …

Binns, William (Execution of)

William Binns was hanged in Warren (Bradley County) on June 11, 1880, for the murder of another African American man who was a romantic rival. William Binns and livery-man T. P. Edwards were both, according to reports, “sustaining criminal relations” with a Black woman named Caldonia Crook (also referred to as Dora or Dona Cook) in Monticello (Drew County). On June 23, 1879, Edwards “was found speechless and dying” in Crook’s eastern Monticello home, his skull crushed and cheekbone shattered. A bloody axe was found in the room. Local authorities thought Binns a likely suspect in the case, and when he was found wearing bloody clothing and “utterly failed to give any satisfactory account of himself,” he was arrested, as …

Black, William (Execution of)

aka: Henry Black (Execution of)
William (or Henry) Black was executed at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on June 28, 1892, for what he claimed was the accidental killing of his stepdaughter. William Black (he was called William in Arkansas newspapers and Henry in St. Louis, Missouri, papers) lived at Red Bluff (Jefferson County), on the west bank of the Arkansas River, with his wife and her daughter, Georgia Smith, aged sixteen. On February 13, 1892, while arguing with the teenager after she refused to run an errand, he fired a shot toward her as she ran off, killing her. On May 2, Black was convicted of first-degree murder for Smith’s death, which he claimed was accidental, after the “quickest trial that ever occurred in the …

Blalock, Jerry (Execution of)

Jerry Blalock, a young gambler, was hanged at Jacksonport (Jackson County) on May 12, 1883, for a killing he claimed was committed in self-defense. Jerry Blalock was born in Jackson County on March 6, 1859; he said he was abused as a child, adding, “but when I grew up I permitted no one to insult me.” He joined the Campbellite church in 1879, the year before the murder he was convicted of committing. While no record of his trial for the 1880 slaying of Thomas Brandenburg near Tuckerman (Jackson County) appears to exist, and newspaper reports are sketchy, it can be inferred from Blalock’s later statements that testimony indicated he was hired by his brother-in-law W. D. Carter to kill …

Bogle, Gus (Execution of)

Gus Bogle was a young African American man hanged in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on July 6, 1888, for the murder of a white man in the Choctaw Nation, a crime for which Bogle died protesting his innocence. On June 28, 1887, residents of Blue Tank, Choctaw Nation, found William D. Morgan’s dead body, strangled and beaten. Morgan was a coal miner suffering from tuberculosis who had left home the day before to travel to a climate healthier for his condition. He apparently got drunk that night and was removed from a train at Blue Tank along with four young African American men, three of whom were bootblacks in Denison, Texas. Gus Bogle, sometimes called Bogles, was arrested on June …

Brewer, Brown (Execution of)

Brown Brewer, a young African American man, was hanged on May 2, 1873, near Searcy (White County) for the murder of another Black man a few months before. Brown Brewer was born in Tennessee around 1848, where he was enslaved by Colonel Bradford Brewer, whose name he was given. He was living in White County by 1873. Brown Brewer apparently was keeping company with a woman employed by Charles Bayley, who lived near West Point (White County), which angered Bayley and led to threats to kill Brewer. In early February 1873, Brewer went to Bayley’s house “to get his hair wrapped” and got into an argument during which he shot the older man with a load of buckshot. Brewer was …

Brinkley, Alex (Execution of)

Alex Brinkley was hanged at Morrilton (Conway County) on October 14, 1898, for the murder of a doctor. He went to his death denying having committed the murder, and seven years later, another man made a deathbed confession that he had actually done the deed. On June 16, 1897, Dr. G. C. Chamness was sleeping on the front porch of his Center Ridge (Conway County) home when a “cowardly villain” crept up at 11:00 p.m. and shot him in the head. The bullet “went in at the top and right side of the head and ranged downward, making a ghastly wound from which the brains oozed out.” Noting that “the circumstances of the killing were most atrocious,” the Arkansas Democrat …

Brown, Whit (Execution of)

Whit Brown was an African American man hanged in Jefferson County on February 24, 1882, for a murder that he died denying having committed. Robert Yonley, “a reputable saw mill man” who lived near Little Rock (Pulaski County), went to Red Bluff (Jefferson County) on August 8, 1881, to look after some timber interests he had in the area. His body was later found in the Arkansas River. Whit Brown, a local man who was born in Randolph, Tennessee, in about 1849, was summoned to serve in a coroner’s inquest jury, during which he “betrayed agitation and guilt and asked to be excused,” which was granted. Little Rock detective Sid Boyce, who knew Brown as “a barber, gambler and robber,” …

Brown, William (Execution of)

William Brown was executed on October 19, 1838, in Pope County for murdering his pregnant wife. Brown and his wife had immigrated to Arkansas from around Concord, North Carolina. By 1838, they had five children, the eldest fourteen years old and the youngest two years old. Mrs. Brown was pregnant when her husband killed her on June 15, 1838. According to the Weekly Arkansas Gazette, the Browns’ children said that Brown had threatened his wife on that day, pointing his rifle at her as she hid behind a tree until “he finally told her to not make a fool of herself, that he did not intend to injure her.” Mrs. Brown then left her shelter and sat down under a …

Burnett Family (Executions of)

Three members of the Burnett Family were hanged in late 1845 for the brutal murder of Johnathan Selby, “a well to do bachelor about forty years of age,” near Cane Hill (Washington County). A neighbor found Johnathan Selby’s body on the morning of August 12, 1845, “his head literally chopped to pieces.” As investigators sought Selby’s killer, suspicion fell on Crawford and Lavinia Burnett and their son John, who lived in the area, and whose nephew John Sharp worked in Cane Hill. The elder Burnetts were taken into custody while their son fled the area. A special session of the circuit court was convened to try Crawford and Lavinia Burnett; future governor Isaac Murphy of Huntsville (Madison County) was among …

Burnett, Henry (Execution of)

Henry Burnett was a young African American man hanged near Lonoke (Lonoke County) on August 27, 1885, for the axe murder of an acquaintance. In the 1880 federal census, Henry Burnett was a twelve-year-old classified as a “mulatto” living in Lonoke County’s Tollette Township with his father, farmer laborer William Burnett, mother Cologne, and three siblings. One of their neighbors was laborer Nelson Anderson, twenty-nine, who lived in the same township with his wife Lizzie and two daughters. Henry Burnett was later described as “slight with somewhat pleasant features,” though “his temper was fierce and ungovernable.” In mid-February 1885, Henry Burnett (then eighteen), Willis Butler, and Anderson traveled five miles to Carlisle (Lonoke County) to conduct some business, with Anderson …

Caldwell, Charles (Execution of)

Charles Caldwell was an African American man hanged at Jonesboro (Craighead County) on April 29, 1893, in the first legal public execution in Craighead County. His corpse was afterward used in a bizarre experiment with electric batteries. Charles Caldwell and Tab Freeman, whom he would later be charged with murdering, both lived at Big Bay, a sawmill station for the Kansas City and Memphis Railroad about ten miles east of Jonesboro, now the community of Bay (Craighead County). Freeman lived with a woman of whom Caldwell was also enamored, leading to bad blood between the two—Freeman at one point tried to kill Caldwell with an axe. The two men were part of a group playing cards at the woman’s house …

Capital Punishment

aka: Death Penalty
The death penalty was practiced in Arkansas even before the state was admitted to the Union in 1836, with the first legally sanctioned execution reportedly occurring at Arkansas Post in 1820. The Arkansas criminal code provides for the death penalty or life without parole upon conviction of capital murder or treason. Those convicted of rape were also subject to the death penalty until January 1, 1976, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Coker v. Georgia that a death sentence for rape of an adult woman was disproportionate to the crime and violated the Eighth Amendment. The first Arkansas penitentiary was authorized in 1838. Shortly thereafter, the state purchased ninety-two acres for $12 per acre and authorized $80,500 to …

Carroll, George (Execution of)

George Carroll, convicted of drowning his wife, was hanged at Searcy (White County) on April 30, 1886, one of two Arkansans to die on the gallows that day. George Carroll, who “bears a hard name” in his hometown of Beardstown, Tennessee, by 1885 was living on a farm about ten miles north of Searcy with his wife Lizzie, their two children, and his half brother’s widow Vina (or Vinia) Tidwell, who would help the twenty-five-year-old Carroll with farmwork as his wife kept house. Carroll and Tidwell became “so intimate that he decided to murder his wife to get rid of her.” He originally plotted to kill Lizzie Carroll, described as “a highly educated lady, and an earnest, industrious wife,” by …

Carter, Nathan (Execution of)

Nathan Carter, who was hanged at Helena (Phillips County) on January 19, 1893, was one of two African American men executed for the murder of Prince Maloy, a “well to do negro planter.” Prince Maloy, fifty-nine, and his wife Matilda, fifty-one, lived on Island No. 64 in Phillips County’s Mooney Township south of Helena with their son William, age eighteen. Maloy hired local men—including Nathan Carter, Isom White, and his step-son Henry Young—to work in his fields, and their relationships could be tense; a newspaper report said that a few weeks before Christmas 1890 they got into an argument, “and but for the prompt interference of Molloy’s [sic] wife they would have killed the old man.” Maloy was known to …

Cary, James Alexander

James Alexander Cary, a park policeman at Hot Springs National Park from 1923 to 1927, was the first employee of the National Park Service to be murdered in the line of duty. His body was found on March 12, 1927, in Hot Springs National Park within a few feet of the spot where he had arrested men transporting illegal whiskey across federal property three months before. The case remains officially unsolved. James Cary was born on December 19, 1895, in Osage, Missouri, to Lillie D. Cary and James B. Cary. He grew up on a family farm in Osage as the third of five children. On June 1, 1917, Cary joined the U.S. Navy and served until February 4, 1919. …

Casat, Deno (Execution of)

Deno Casat was hanged at Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 17, 1883, for the murder of an Iron Mountain Railroad employee. Deno Casat and his father Isador both worked at the Iron Mountain Railroad shops in Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County), but the elder Casat was fired from his job as a mechanic. The pair drank heavily during the morning of October 31, 1882, and around 1:45 p.m., Isador Casat shot himself in the head and died. Deno Casat went to the train shops about three hours later looking for R. M. Richardson, who had fired his father, but instead encountered George Barnes, the bookkeeper and head clerk of the shops. As other railroad workers watched, …

Casey, Frank (Execution of)

Frank Casey was a young Black man hanged in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 26, 1884, for the brutal stabbing death of a young farmhand at a saloon in Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Frank Casey, a twenty-two-year-old, five-foot-ten-inch Black man who worked as a farm and railroad laborer, lived in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) with his mother, two brothers, and stepfather Stanford Willis. Casey was reportedly “inclined to be wild and daring.” He was drinking and dancing at an Argenta saloon when three white farmhands entered the bar shortly before midnight on October 8, 1884. Among them was twenty-two-year-old Charles Watson, a West Virginia native who had moved to Arkansas in July. Casey and Watson got into …

Causby, Robert Albert (Execution of)

Robert Albert Causby, though senseless at the time of his execution, was hanged at Batesville (Independence County) on November 25, 1904, for murdering the county sheriff. 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 …

Chambers, Abe (Execution of)

Abe Chambers was hanged at Newport (Jackson County) on January 21, 1887, for the murder of a young African American man, a crime he denied having committed. Abe Chambers, “a negro of herculean frame,” came to Newport in late October 1886 as part of a traveling circus troupe; different accounts say that eighteen-year-old Jonas Williams either also came with the circus or that he lived in Jackson County, though he does not appear in the 1880 census there. The two men were constant companions for several days before leaving Newport. Again, accounts of what happened differ, with the Arkansas Gazette reporting that the town marshal was notified of a young man in distress in the White River bottoms and found …

Conner, Laura Cornelius

Laura Nancy Cornelius Conner was a prison reformer, educator, and farmer. In the 1920s, she served on the penitentiary board during the governorship of Thomas McRae. Conner was shocked by the conditions in the Arkansas prisons, but despite support from prisoners, community leaders, and legal experts, she was unable to make progress in reforming the penitentiary. She returned to her hometown, where she was an educator and planter until her death. Laura Cornelius was born on October 24, 1864 in Augusta (Woodruff County). She was one of eight children born to William Cornelius and Arabella White Cornelius. Arabella Cornelius died when Laura was three. After the death of her father in 1876, Laura moved in with her sister Ella and …

Corrothers, Helen Gladys Curl

Helen G. Corrothers is a well-respected figure in the world of criminal justice who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the United States Parole Board and then the United States Sentencing Commission in the 1980s. Helen Gladys Curl was born on March 19, 1937, in Montrose (Ashley County) to Thomas Curl and Christene Farley Curl. Her father died when she was two. Following high school, Corrothers earned an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts from Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She then entered the U.S. Army, serving from 1956 to 1969. She earned the rank of captain. Over the course of her army career in the Far East, Europe, and the United States, …

County Coroner, Office of the

Coroners originated in England during the twelfth century—initially being called “crowners” due to their service to the king. As the English set their sights on the land that is now the United States, the office of the coroner was one of the ideas that set sail with them. With his appointment on January 29, 1637, Thomas Baldridge of Maryland became the inaugural coroner of England’s venture into the continent. Since Baldridge’s service, the office of the coroner has evolved, yet it has maintained an important place as a medicolegal facet in death investigation in the modern United States. By 2018, twenty-seven states operated under some sort of county coroner system, while seven states were operating under a county medical examiner …

County Judge, Office of

Each county in Arkansas has a county judge, who is the chief executive officer of the county, as well as several other countywide office holders including a quorum court (legislative body) made up of justices of the peace elected from single-member districts. The county judge is custodian of county property and public buildings. Counties are essentially subdivisions of the state government. The Arkansas General Assembly controls them to the extent it desires, except as forbidden by state constitutional law. According to the Arkansas Supreme Court, a county is a political subdivision of the state established for a more convenient administration of justice and for purposes of providing services for the state. The highest county executive office is that of county judge. …

Crawford County Executions of 1843

Two enslaved African American men named Frank and Dennis were hanged at Van Buren (Crawford County) on December 22, 1843, after being convicted of raping a white woman. The Arkansas Intelligencer newspaper reported that a grand jury convened in Van Buren on May 15, 1843, and indicted two men “for committing a rape on the person of Mrs. Susan Rose.” One of them, named Frank, was tried the next day, and the Intelligencer reported “the jury retired, and in a few minutes returned a verdict of guilty.” The other man, Dennis, was tried the next day and likewise found guilty, with the newspaper reporting “the evidence was the same in each case, and not one particle of evidence was in …

Criminal Justice Institute

The Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) is a nonprofit educational entity that provides programs and services designed to enhance the proficiency of Arkansas law enforcement professionals. As a division of the University of Arkansas System, the CJI delivers advanced education and training across the state in progressive areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement management, forensic sciences, computer applications, traffic safety, school safety, and drug issues. The Criminal Justice Institute was founded in 1988 on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) campus to address the management education and training needs of Arkansas law enforcement. Act 1111 of 1993 designated the institute as coordinator and manager of all supervisory, managerial, and executive education and training for Arkansas law enforcement. The …

Crittenden County Executions of 1871

John Roseborough and Henry Harris, both African American men convicted of murder, were hanged at Marion (Crittenden County) on June 9, 1871; before the execution, they attempted to keep from going to the gallows by barricading themselves in a cell. No accounts appear to exist of their trials, but Roseborough was convicted of killing “old man” William Freeman, while Harris was sentenced to death for the murder of John B. Crockett. Both were to be executed on June 9, 1871. A Memphis, Tennessee, newspaper reported the day before the scheduled execution that the Crittenden County sheriff “has been selecting a guard of white men to surround the scaffold during the executions because he feared a rescue by the negroes, ten …

Crumpton, Boudinot (Execution of)

aka: Bood Burris (Execution of)
Boudinot Crumpton, twenty-two, sometimes known as Bood Burris, was hanged on June 30, 1891, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) for a murder he denied having committed. Boudinot Crumpton, who was a Cherokee man, and his companion Samson Monroe Morgan, a twenty-six-year-old native of Georgia, set out from Morgan’s residence in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) on the morning of Sunday, November 3, 1889, riding a pair of Morgan’s horses. Crumpton returned later that day riding one horse and leading the other and “having in possession Morgan’s overcoat, gun and pistol.” Crumpton explained that they had encountered a man in a buggy who had offered Morgan a job herding horses in the Pawnee Nation, and so he had returned alone. Around …

Cummins Prison Break of 1940

The Cummins prison break on the morning of September 2, 1940, which was Labor Day, involved the escape of thirty-six white men from Cummins Unit (often referred to as Cummins prison farm), the largest of the three prison units in the state. The escape is the largest in Arkansas history. All the men were ultimately captured or killed by authorities. Four of the escapees were executed in Louisiana in 1941 for the murder of a deputy the day after they broke out of Cummins; these men claimed they escaped because of the horrible conditions at the prison farm. Despite an investigation into conditions at the prison, no serious attempt at reform was initiated. The 1940 escape was the first major …

Cummins Prison Strike of 1974

The Cummins prison strike of 1974 was a non-violent incident involving 200 inmates who stopped work for twenty minutes on Monday, October 14, to protest conditions at the Cummins prison farm. At 1,350 inmates at that time, Cummins—located five miles southeast of Grady (Lincoln County)—was the largest of the Arkansas prison farms. The strike was swiftly stopped by Cummins superintendent Art Lockhart, who used riot guards to ensure that prisoners returned quickly to work without any violence. By Tuesday, Cummins had returned to normal. The strike revealed that inmates could peacefully protest at that time without fear of severe physical punishment. It also showed that unrest still existed, and the prisons had more work to do before they achieved compliance …

Cummins Unit

aka: Cummins Prison Farm
Cummins Unit is a 16,600-acre maximum-security prison located five miles southeast of Grady (Lincoln County). Cummins is run by the Arkansas Department of Correction and houses male and female inmates. It is also the location of Arkansas’s facilities for administering the death penalty. Cummins is the oldest and largest of the state’s working “prison farms,” which use inmate labor to grow crops and produce livestock. In 1897, the Arkansas General Assembly established that the state could purchase “any lands, buildings, machinery, livestock and tools necessary for the use, preservation, and operation of the penitentiary.” In 1902, the state bought 10,000 acres of property—consisting of land from the Cummins and Maple Grove plantations—to create the Cummins prison farm. Cummins would later gain …

Davis, Jim (Trial and Execution of)

Beginning in the 1880s and increasingly as Jim Crow laws were instituted across the South, newspapers across the United States began to expand their coverage of Southern lynchings. In addition, publications like the Chicago Tribune and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. In her 1895 book The Red Record, Ida B. Wells-Barnett also attempted to include a comprehensive list of lynchings. Further examination of some newspaper accounts, however, shows that subsequent articles, particularly local to the site of the lynchings, later corrected these stories to indicate that no lynching had indeed happened. Other events that were described as lynchings were actually …

Dewees, Mary

A renowned reformer and advocate for prisoners’ rights, Mary Dewees was the first superintendent of the Arkansas State Farm for Women, the state’s first women’s prison, from 1920 to 1924. Mary Dewees was born on July 5, 1895, to Thomas B. Dewees and Lillie Dewees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bucknell University, where she studied social work and became well versed in the latest forms of progressive penology, especially ways to reform so-called wayward women. Dewees became director of education at New Jersey’s Clinton Farms reform school for women in 1918. At the age of twenty-five, Dewees was recruited by Grace Robson, another women’s reform pioneer who helped organize New Jersey’s first women’s reformatory in 1919. The following year, …

Dickinson, Thomas (Execution of)

Thomas Dickinson was hanged for murder at Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) in 1820 in the first legal public execution in the Arkansas Territory. A man named Thomas Dickinson was charged with rape in 1820 in the first criminal indictment ever returned by a grand jury in Arkansas. Dickinson was tried on January 8, 1820, and after deliberating twenty minutes, a jury convicted him of raping and impregnating a woman named Sally Hall. Judge Andrew Scott ordered that Dickinson “be castrated according to the law in that behalf provided, by a skilful [sic] physician, under the direction of the sheriff of Arkansas county, on the 15th February, 1820, between ten o’clock, A. M., and three o’clock, P. M., of that day.” …

Dixon, Giles (Execution of)

Giles Dixon (sometimes spelled Dickson or Dickerson) was hanged at Rockport (Hot Spring County) on September 7, 1877, for the shooting death of Nathaniel (or Matthew) McCall, a man in Clark County, several years earlier. The 1870 federal census shows Giles Dixon living in Clark County’s Caddo Township with his wife Mary, six children, and his 102-year-old mother. The thirty-five-year-old African American man was employed in a brick yard. On the evening of December 30, 1873, McCall, who lived on the Draper farm south of Arkadelphia (Clark County), opened the door to his house to see why his dog was barking and was shot with a double-barreled shotgun, which the Southern Standard newspaper reported was “loaded with buckshot, three taking …