Entry Category: Law - Starting with R

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, …

Ruled by the Whip

Ruled by the Whip: Hell behind Bars in America’s Devil’s Island, the Arkansas Penitentiary is a 1958 self-published autobiographical account written by Dale Woodcock. One of the few printed accounts by an Arkansas prisoner, the book chronicles Woodcock’s experiences at Cummins prison farm in the 1950s. While the book garnered little attention when it was written, its tales of violence, corruption, and brutality corroborated abuses documented later during the governorship of Winthrop Rockefeller, who began work to reform the prisons. The author was born Charles Dale Woodcock on March 21, 1925, in Rogers (Benton County). He was the son of Henry Lee Woodcock (1900–1928) and Lillie Dell “Honey” Townsend Woodcock (1907–1988), both of whom were Arkansas natives. After the death …

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 …