Entry Category: Law - Starting with B

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Blockbusting

Blockbusting, or “panic peddling,” was a process whereby real estate agents urged white property owners to sell their property at low prices (often below market value) in response to their fear that black families would move into their neighborhood. Emerging primarily out of the Great Migration, or the resettlement of African Americans from the rural South seeking employment in the industrialized North between approximately 1915 and 1970, blockbusting matured as a real estate tactic amid population growth in urban areas of major cities all over the country and the racial tension accompanying it. Other processes in the housing market aided real estate agents who operated as blockbusters. With mortgage lenders denying loans to residents of certain areas who were deemed …

Blue Laws

Arkansas’s first blue laws, also called Sunday-closing laws, were enacted in 1837, only a year after Arkansas’s statehood. Though no blue laws have been in effect since 1982, they influenced the state’s culture and commerce for nearly a century and a half. Blue laws have been part of American history since people began emigrating from Europe, where the laws were common. Virginia established the first blue law in the American colonies in 1610. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbidding the establishment of religion may have called into question the legality of Sunday-closing laws, but it did not stop nearly all states from adopting them. Historically, courts have ruled that state legislatures could proclaim a weekly day of rest …

Bocage, Joseph William

Judge Joseph William Bocage was a prominent pioneer settler of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He served as attorney for the Second Judicial District from 1844 to 1849 and as judge of the county court. In 1847, he prosecuted the first trial in Jefferson County to result in an execution. He was a successful planter, lumberman, inventor, manufacturer, and building contractor. Late in his life, he served as mayor of Pine Bluff. Joseph Bocage was born on May 8, 1819, on the island of St. Lucia in the French West Indies. His father, William Coit Bocage, owned a large sugar and coffee plantation, a mercantile, and a shipping business. He died at the age of twenty-one, when Bocage was an infant. …

Bonnie and Clyde

aka: Barrow Brothers
aka: Barrow Gang
Arkansas was frequented by Bonnie Parker, Clyde Chesnut Barrow, and their associates, collectively known as the Barrow Gang, between 1932 and 1934. The gang’s criminal exploits in Arkansas included murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, and automobile theft. Western Arkansas was also on the circuit of back roads Clyde Barrow used to evade lawmen from other states. The most serious crime committed in the state by the Barrow Gang was the murder of Marshal Henry D. Humphrey of Alma (Crawford County), committed while the gang was hiding out in a tourist camp in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in June 1933. Bonnie Parker (October 1, 1910–May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (March 24, 1909–May 23, 1934) both grew up in poverty in …

Boodle Prosecutions

aka: Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908
The Boodle Scandal of 1905–1908 dealt with pervasive bribery (“boodle” is a slang term for bribe money) in the 1905 Arkansas General Assembly uncovered by Lewis Rhoton, prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District (Pulaski and Perry counties). Rhoton’s unmasking of legislators’ corruption in Arkansas in these years advanced the rise of Progressivism as a political force. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 25, 1905, he praised Rhoton’s effort to hold public officials to account. The president also decried difficulties in prosecuting the wealthy or influential, including difficulties created by the legal system itself. Problems with Arkansas’s law and judicial procedures were partly at fault for Rhoton’s lack of widespread success in proceeding against boodlers. …

Bowen, Thomas Meade

Thomas Meade Bowen was a Civil War officer for the Union, president of the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention, and an Arkansas Supreme Court justice. He was involved in the extremely factionalized Republican Party during Reconstruction in Arkansas. After serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court, Bowen accepted an appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant to become governor of the Idaho Territory. Bowen returned to Arkansas shortly after and then moved to Colorado to pursue mining ventures. There, he also served in the Colorado State Senate. Thomas Bowen was born on October 26, 1835, near Burlington, Iowa. He attended Mount Pleasant Academy and began practicing law at age eighteen in 1853. In 1856, Bowen was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. …

Bowen, William Harvey

William Harvey Bowen was a senior partner in Arkansas’s largest law firm, president of the state’s largest bank, chief executive officer of a health insurance company, and dean of the state’s largest law school, which was later named the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. He was a friend and adviser to Bill Clinton and managed the governor’s office for a year while Clinton was running for president. He was also a friend and adviser to Dale Bumpers and David Pryor when they were governors and U.S. senators. William H. Bowen was born on May 6, 1923, in Altheimer (Jefferson County), one of five children of Robert J. (Bob) Bowen, who farmed and managed …

Bowles (Lynching of)

Sometime around August 22, 1892, an African-American man identified only by his surname, which was Bowles, was hanged near Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly raping sixteen-year-old Nellie Wilkes. Public records reveal no additional information about either Bowles or Wilkes. Although the incident was apparently not covered in Arkansas, several publications across the country reported on it, including a German-language newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland. According to the Hamilton, Ohio, Daily Republican, Bowles, a “burly negro,” “outraged” Wilkes and then fled the scene. This aroused the neighborhood, and a mob was soon in pursuit. He was discovered at a farmhouse, where he had compelled the occupants to give him food. He was brought back to the scene of the crime, where he …

Boyd, Leonard (Lynching of)

On August 2, 1887, a white man named Leonard Boyd was lynched outside of Jacksonport (Jackson County) for having allegedly murdered his wife. The brief account of the lynching of Leonard Boyd in Jacksonport appears only as a paragraph in the “Arkansas State News” column of several state newspapers, such as the Southern Standard of Arkadelphia (Clark County) and the Osceola Times of Osceola (Mississippi County). According to this account, a coroner’s jury was conducting an inquest regarding the death of Boyd’s wife, who had allegedly committed suicide. However, the jury concluded that “she had come to her death by being hanged by the neck by a rope in the hands of her husband.” Specifically, the inquest concluded that “she …

Branch, Charley (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1882, Charley Branch (sometimes referred to as Charles, Charlie, or Charles B. Branch) was lynched by a mob of African Americans near Varner (Lincoln County) for allegedly raping and murdering Cora Wallace, the daughter of Dock Wallace. Both Branch and his alleged victim were African American. At the time of the incident, Charley Branch was reported by the Arkansas Gazette to be thirty-five years old. There is no likely listing for a Charley or Charles Branch in either the 1860 or 1870 Arkansas census. One possible Charles Branch listed in Arkansas in 1880 was living in Monroe Township in Mississippi County. However, there was also listed in the 1880 census one “Chas. Branch.” Born around 1857, he …

Branton v. State

When the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1944 that Southern states could no longer bar African Americans from voting in party primaries because it violated the U.S. Constitution, Arkansas legislators and Democratic Party officials set about to thwart the expected flood of new voters in the primaries. These steps, including loyalty oaths, produced so much confusion at the polls in 1946 that they were abandoned, and Black voters surged to the polls for the first time in the Democratic primaries of 1948. The white Democratic-led response resulted in the criminal investigation, prosecution, and conviction of a young civil rights advocate who later became one of the South’s most renowned civil rights lawyers. The Arkansas Supreme Court case upholding the conviction …

Branton, Wiley Austin, Sr.

Wiley Austin Branton was a civil rights leader in Arkansas who helped desegregate the University of Arkansas School of Law and later filed suit against the Little Rock School Board in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper v. Aaron. His work to end legal segregation and inequality in Arkansas and the nation was well known in his time. Wiley Branton was born on December 13, 1923, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), the second child of Pauline Wiley and Leo Andrew Branton. His father and paternal grandfather owned and operated a taxicab business. His mother was a schoolteacher in the segregated public schools prior to her marriage. He had three brothers and a sister. Branton was …

Bratton, Ulysses Simpson

Ulysses S. Bratton was a prominent Arkansas attorney in the first part of the twentieth century. His advocacy on behalf of the state’s African-American population made him enemies in the white community, and in the early 1920s he left Arkansas and resettled in Detroit, Michigan, where he established a successful law practice. Ulysses Simpson Bratton was born on July 28, 1868, in Leslie (Searcy County) to Benjamin Bratton and Mary Redman Bratton. (He was probably named for General Ulysses S. Grant, as his father served with Union forces in the Third Arkansas Cavalry during the Civil War.) According to Fay Hempstead’s Historical Review of Arkansas, Bratton studied at Searcy County‘s public schools and at the Rally Hill Academy in Boone …

Briggs, Clinton (Lynching of)

Clinton Briggs, a twenty-six-year-old soldier who had just returned to Star City (Lincoln County) after serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, was lynched on September 1, 1919, after allegedly insulting a young white woman. According to the 1910 census, eighteen-year-old Briggs was living on a rented farm in Bartholomew Township, Lincoln County, with his parents, Sandy and Catherine Briggs. His father was a farmer, and Clinton was listed as a laborer. Clinton could both read and write, although he had not attended school. On June 5, 1917, he registered for the draft. On his draft registration, he stated that he was working for a farmer named Alex Dutton. Briggs served in the army from June 19, 1918, …

Brill, Howard Walter

Howard Walter Brill, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), earned a national reputation as an authority on legal ethics and served sixteen months, in 2015 and 2016, as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. His 1986 book, Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics, and seven subsequent editions dictated the state’s regulation of the conduct of lawyers and judges for more than a generation. Howard Brill was born on October 18, 1943, in Englewood, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. His parents, Edwin Lois Brill Jr. and Catharine Linsmann Brill, were born in the Bronx and married there but moved across the river to New Jersey before Howard and …

Brinkley, John Richard

John Richard Brinkley made a fortune in medical quackery, radio, and advertising in Del Rio, Texas. In the late 1930s, he moved his practice to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where his dishonest career came to light and collapsed. Born John Romulus Brinkley on July 8, 1885, in Jackson County, North Carolina, he was the illegitimate child of John Richard Brinkley and Sarah Candace Burnett, the twenty-four-year-old niece of his long-suffering wife, Sarah Mingus. There is some dispute as to why his middle name was changed from Romulus to Richard. The official biography by Clement Wood attributes the change to the Methodist minister who baptized Brinkley and rejected the name Romulus as heathen. Brinkley’s own account is that he took the …

Broadway, Joseph Eddy (Joe)

Joe Broadway tried four times in the 1960s to rob a tiny branch bank in his hometown of Bauxite (Saline County) and succeeded twice, but he was caught the third time with an accomplice while they were hiding in some bushes, and both men spent several years in prison. His fourth robbery, while he was on a Christmas furlough from prison in 1969, was a quick disaster: After a shootout in the bank lobby with employees, Broadway fled and was captured six months later in St. Louis, Missouri. The colorful newspaper accounts of the robberies, the bonhomie between Broadway and the employees whom he held up at gunpoint, and his freewheeling accounts of how he squandered the money made Broadway …

Brock, Ed (Lynching of)

On August 10, 1923, a young African-American teamster named Ed Brock was lynched at Murphyville in Union County for allegedly insulting a white woman. In 1922, oil was discovered in what is known as the Smackover field in Union and Ouachita counties, and by 1923, J. T. Murphy was operating a number of wells there. Murphyville, which the Arkansas Gazette described as being located six miles northeast of Norphlet (Union County), was probably an oil camp. According to the Gazette, Brock had allegedly insulted Mrs. W. C. Ranoff, the wife of an oil field worker. She reported the incident to her husband, who got a gun and captured Brock on the afternoon of August 10. According to reports, Ranoff intended …

Brodie (Lynching of)

On May 16, 1900, an African American named James (Jim) or John Brodie—accounts differ—was killed near Raggio (Lee County) for allegedly attacking a local planter and merchant named John Blunt. The murder is considered a lynching by many institutions that keep track of lynchings across the nation. According to the June 15 edition of the Forrest City Times, the lynching happened as a result of a disagreement between Blunt and Brodie in the middle of May. Brodie allegedly tried to shoot Blunt, and they exchanged several shots before another African American shot Brodie in the face. Brodie appeared before a magistrate and was placed in the custody of two Black constables. Blunt sent to Marianna (Lee County) for a deputy …

Brooks (Lynching of)

In some cases, conflicting newspaper accounts make it difficult to identify the actual victim of a lynching, as well as other individuals mentioned in the story. Such is the case with an African American man named Brooks, who was shot in St. Francis County on May 20, 1894, for reportedly asking to marry his white employer’s daughter. An early Kentucky article on the lynching identifies the victim as William Brooks, and this name was listed in The Red Record by Ida B. Wells and by the Equal Justice Initiative. A contemporaneous article in the Forrest City Times, however, identifies the victim as Harry Brooks. Similarly, Brooks’s employer is alternately described as W. A. Saylor and W. A. Taylor, and Saylor/Taylor’s …

Brown, Barney (Murder of)

On December 19, 1895, an African American man named Barney Brown was captured by a group of seven or eight Black men near Wrightsville (Pulaski County) and taken to a pond, where he was subsequently drowned. The incident is labeled as a “lynching” in some sources from the time period. On December 22, 1895, the Arkansas Gazette reported that Brown had been repeatedly threatened by Calvin Ellett for living with Ellett’s former wife. On Thursday, December 19, Ellett gathered several friends and told them that he was going to whip Brown. He sent Jake Howard to Brown’s house to lure him out. When Brown emerged, Ellett confronted him and drew a gun, and the group bound Brown and took him …

Brown, Frank (Lynching of)

On September 22, 1905, an African-American man named Frank Brown was hanged at Conway (Faulkner County) for an alleged assault on Arlena Lawrence and her two young sons, resulting in the death of the older son, Elzey. Contrary to some sources, this was not the only lynching in Faulkner County. Two people had been lynched previously in the county: Thomas Wilson, an African American, in 1884 and Albert England, a white man, in 1895. According to Robert Meriwether’s account of the lynching, Lawrence’s age was “about 35,” and it was reported that she had been raised near Greenbrier (Faulkner County) with the maiden name of Butcher. There is no one named Arlena Lawrence in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses …

Brown, Lyle

Lyle Brown was a lawyer and historian who capped a career in politics by serving for twenty-one years as a circuit judge and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Brown earned some renown as the only justice on the court at the time to insist on the right of the state’s public schools to teach evolutionary theory. When a legal challenge to the state’s 1928 initiated act that forbade the teaching of evolution reached the Arkansas Supreme Court late in 1966, there was intense pressure for the court to be united in upholding the law, which was widely believed to protect the biblical account of the creation of the universe from perceived scientific attacks. To satisfy two justices who originally …

Brown, Robert Laidlaw (Bob)

An attorney with a successful career in politics working for Dale Bumpers and Jim Guy Tucker, Robert L. Brown served as associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1991 until his retirement in 2012. Brown authored several opinions that changed the landscape of Arkansas history, including the Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee public school lawsuit and U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, which was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Laidlaw (Bob) Brown was born in Houston, Texas, on June 30, 1941, to Robert and Katherine Brown; he had two sisters. His father Robert Raymond Brown was an Episcopal priest who began his ministry in Harlingen, Texas. Brown began his education in public school at …

Bruce, William Harvey (Harve)

Harve Bruce was a moonshiner who resided on Oak Mountain in Van Buren County. Pursued by local and federal authorities, Bruce shot and killed two U.S. marshals, although his sentences for moonshining were longer than his sentence for killing the marshals.  William Harvey (Harve) Bruce was born on June 23, 1847, to William and Sarah Bruce of Georgia. The family moved to Winston County, Alabama, to earn money through tenant farming. However, the Civil War began soon after, and his father joined the Confederate army. Without any financial support, his mother moved the family closer to relatives in Cherokee County, North Carolina. Two years into the fighting, Harve Bruce joined the Confederate army after turning sixteen. Serving for the remainder of the war, he fought in the infantry division Company D, Thomas’s Legion, led by Colonel William Holland Thomas. This was one of the few regiments in which Cherokee and …