Entry Category: Law - Starting with W

Williams, Albert (Lynching of)

On April 1, 1883, a seventeen-year-old African American named Albert Williams was lynched in El Dorado (Union County) for allegedly attacking the young daughter of John Askew. The only Albert Williams in the area at the time was the son of El Dorado farm laborer Carter Williams and his wife, Lou. He was approximately twelve years old in 1880; contrary to reports, this would have made him fifteen at the time of the lynching. John Askew was also living in El Dorado in 1880. He was a lawyer, and his household included his wife, Sarah, and a number of children, among whom was a five-year-old daughter named Tennessee. Although Williams’s alleged victim is not named, it is probable that it …

Williams, Ernest (Reported Lynching of)

On June 21, 1908, the Arkansas Gazette reported that an African-American man named Ernest Williams was lynched at Parkdale (Ashley County) by a group of Black women. The report, if true, would be a unique event, with female-led mobs being rare to nonexistent, especially among African Americans lynching a fellow Black person. However, there are reasons to believe that this report was false and, instead, part of a larger pattern of slandering local emancipation celebrations. The report in the Gazette is datelined June 20 from Hamburg (Ashley County) and relays the following information: “A mob of enraged negro women dragged Ernest Williams, negro, to a telegraph pole on the outskirts of Parkdale, a town in this county, and lynched him …

Williams, John (Lynching of)

On July 4, 1912, an African-American man named John Williams was lynched near Plumerville (Conway County) for allegedly murdering a deputy sheriff who was trying to arrest him. Although the Arkansas Gazette calls the deputy sheriff Paul Leisner, most other sources say he was Paul Nisler. Nisler, whose full name was likely Herbert Paul Nisler, was twenty-one years old at the time of his death. He had been in Conway County since at least 1900, when he was living in Plumerville with his parents, Sherman and Nannie Nisler. In 1910, he was still living with his parents (his father this time listed as Andrew S. Nisler) and working on a farm in Howard Township. He was described by newspapers as …

Williams, Sidney Banks, Jr.

Sidney B. Williams Jr. was a pioneering African-American athlete as well as an accomplished businessman and attorney. The first black man to quarterback a Big Ten team when he was at the University of Wisconsin, he later combined his training in chemical engineering with a law degree to become a leading patent attorney. Sidney Banks Williams Jr. was born on December 31, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sidney B. Williams Sr. and Eloise Gay Williams. He grew up in Little Rock as the only child in a single-parent household, being raised by his mother. Williams graduated from Dunbar High School in 1954. At Dunbar, he was president of the senior class and also starred in football, basketball, and …

Wills, Elana Leigh Cunningham

Elana Leigh Wills, a native of Jonesboro (Craighead County), practiced law at the highest levels of state government for more than thirty years, including a stint of two years as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and many years as a deputy attorney general and a member of the state’s Public Service Commission. Governor Mike Beebe appointed her to the Supreme Court upon the retirement of Justice Thomas A. Glaze in 2008. She avoided politics but served in state legal jobs under seven attorneys general; her final state job was at the utility commission by appointment from Governor Beebe. Wills’s mother was a distant cousin of Edgar L. McHaney, who served twenty-one years on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and …

Wilson-Anthony Duel

The only recorded violent death on the floor of the Arkansas General Assembly occurred on December 4, 1837, in a knife brawl leaving state Representative Major Joseph J. Anthony of Randolph County dead at the hands of Speaker of the House Colonel John Wilson of Clark County, who was subsequently expelled and tried for murder. The Arkansas Gazette cited it as “another example of the barbarity of life in Arkansas,” lamenting how it “stained the history of the state.” The events have long been obscured by variants of the narrative. Speaker Wilson, who was presiding over an extraordinary session of the Arkansas General Assembly called by Governor James Conway to deal with a predicted tax surplus, was debating a wolf-scalp bill, sent …

Wilson, Alexander (Lynching of)

On October 20, 1919, an African-American man named Alexander (Alex) Wilson was lynched near Marianna (Lee County) for allegedly murdering Ruth Murrah (identified in many newspaper articles as Rosa or Rose), who was about nineteen years old. Wilson had attacked Ruth, who was killed, and a relative named Estelle, who escaped. There was a Murrah family in Lee County as early as 1880. Charles Murrah was working as a farm laborer in Bear Creek Township and living with his wife, Celia, and their one-year-old daughter, Mary. A family member (probably a daughter) named Clara Belle, age fourteen, married thirty-one-year-old William Clifton in August 1893. By 1900 Murrah, age fifty-four, owned his own farm in Bear Creek Township. Also in the …

Wilson, Hog (Lynching of)

On September 1, 1902, an African American man named in newspaper reports as Hog Wilson was lynched in Ouachita County for having “attempted criminal assault” upon a white woman named Lue Drake. According to a brief report in the Arkansas Democrat, Wilson attempted to rape Drake at her home, about six miles north of Stephens (Ouachita County), “while she was in the garden gathering vegetables, the family being away.” She informed her brother of this upon his return, “and soon he, with neighbors, had Wilson in custody.” The account ends this way: “He confessed his crime and they hung him without delay. No excitement.” In an untitled editorial published the same day as it reported on the lynching, the Democrat …

Wilson, Tom (Lynching of)

In late February 1884, Tom (sometimes referred to as Thomas) Wilson, an African-American man, was lynched near Conway (Faulkner County) for allegedly attempting to assault a woman identified only as Mrs. Griffy. Several other newspaper accounts identify her husband as William Griffy. No further information is available on either Wilson or the Griffy family in Faulkner County. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on February 21, the lynching had occurred “several days since.” According to the Gazette and several other national newspapers, including the Little Falls Transcript, William Griffy was away from his farm overnight when Wilson entered the house and attempted to assault Mrs. Griffy. She screamed and attacked him with a fire shovel, whereupon he …

Wolfe, Paul

Paul Wolfe was a lawyer and World War II veteran who later became the circuit judge for the Twelfth Judicial District of Arkansas (Scott and Sebastian counties) and was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to organize and chair a committee to write what became the textbook for the new National Council of State Trial Judges under the administration of the American Bar Association. He also served as a member of the Arkansas Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. Paul Wolfe was born on January 5, 1908, in Weir, Kansas, to John Walter Wolfe and Myra Este Vasser Wolfe. His first name was Harry, but he preferred to use his middle name, Paul. The Wolfe family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) …

Wood v. Strickland

Wood v. Strickland is the title of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that grew out of a local dispute over a teenage prank perpetrated by three high school students of the Mena Special School District. This case has attained an importance far beyond its origins, helping to define the constitutional rights of public school students and the parameters under which public officials may be sued for monetary damages in federal court. On February 18, 1972, three students—Virginia Crain, Peggy Strickland, and Jo Wall—at Mena (Polk County) confessed to spiking the punch at an extracurricular function with twenty-four ounces of a flavored malt liquor beverage. Principal Duddy Waller suspended the three students for a week. The same day, meeting in a …

Wood, Carroll D.

Carroll D. Wood was an important figure in Arkansas legal history. Although he served on the Arkansas Supreme Court for over thirty-five years, he is arguably best known for his unsuccessful candidacy for governor in 1904. Carroll D. Wood was born on July 8, 1858, in Ashley County; he was the son of Baptist minister John S. Wood and Martha Bussey Wood; Wood’s mother died when he was very young. The Reverend Wood remarried, and his second wife, Mary Kelsey Wood, provided the future jurist’s earliest education. Wood also attended local Hamburg (Ashley County) schools before pursuing a degree at what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Following graduation in 1879, he read law with …

Wood, Wendy Scholtens

Wendy Scholtens Wood, who later became an attorney in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was one of the greatest women’s basketball players in Arkansas history. Earning All-American honors for her play at both Southside High School in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Vanderbilt University, she also played professional basketball in Japan before pursuing a legal career. She was later elected to a seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Wendy Scholtens was born on June 25, 1969, to John Dennis Scholtens and Carol Anne Scholtens in Geneva, Illinois, where her grandparents lived, but she grew up in Fort Smith, graduating from Southside High School in 1987. While the 6’4″ Scholtens also played volleyball and ran track, it was her basketball skill …

Woodman, Joe (Lynching of)

On July 6, 1905, an African-American sawmill worker probably named Joe Woodman (one newspaper identifies him as James Woods) was hanged in Dumas (Desha County) for eloping with a local white girl. According to the Arkansas Democrat, Woodman was the only African American working at a sawmill near Rives, which is on the border between Drew and Desha counties. Woodman allegedly left home on July 5 at the same time the sixteen-year-old daughter of a local man, J. S. Small, was found to be missing. After investigating the girl’s disappearance, authorities determined that a couple fitting the description of Woodman and Small was seen on a northbound train. Authorities notified Jefferson County sheriff James Gould, and he located the couple …

Woodward, William (Lynching of)

William Woodward, a white farmer, was lynched by a mob in Searcy County in June 1900 for killing his step-daughter, Lurena Thomas, after she apparently charged him with sexually assaulting her. At the time of the 1900 census, William Woodward, age thirty-five, was living in Richland Township with his wife, Margaret J. Woodward (thirty-nine), two daughters and four sons ranging from two to eleven, and step-daughter Lurena, then eighteen. (The census rendered the family name as Woodard, but all news reports give the name as Woodward.) According to the Marshall Republican, in a report reprinted in the Arkansas Democrat, Woodward was a farmer known for the ill treatment he afforded his wife and step-daughter, having reportedly whipped both on several …

Wright v. Arkansas

Wright v. Arkansas was a case involving same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Beginning with a May 2014 decision by a state district court judge, which overturned Arkansas’s ban on gay marriage, the case was stalled in the courts for the next fourteen months. In response to the original decision, one that came amidst the turmoil that surrounded the issue of gay marriage nationwide, the state attorney general secured a temporary stay of the ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Subsequently, additional efforts were undertaken to get a full review by the state’s highest court and then, alternatively, in a special court. A change in the occupants of the offices of both governor and state attorney general contributed to delays, however, and …

Wright v. Wright

Wright v. Wright was a 1970 case heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court that addressed the basic question of whether a person who murders his or her parent can then inherit from the estate of the victim. The case of Wright v. Wright had its roots in the September 1953 rifle slaying of Junius Everett Wright and his wife, Macle Cullum Wright, by their son Leslie A. Wright. Accused of a double murder, Wright was convicted for killing his mother and received a life sentence for that crime. Prosecutors opted not to try the seventeen-year-old former high school basketball player for the murder of his father. He was subsequently paroled in 1964, and upon release from prison, he married Lynda …

Wright, Susan Webber

aka: Susan Webber Carter
As a U.S. district judge, Susan Webber Wright received international attention during the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Paula Jones against U.S. president Bill Clinton. Wright later made global headlines in a landmark decision when she found Clinton, as president of the United States, to be in civil contempt of court. Susan Webber was born in Texarkana (Miller County) on September 6, 1948, to Betty Webber and attorney Thomas E. Webber III; she had one younger sister. When Webber was sixteen years old, her father died, and her mother went to work at a bank to provide for the family. Webber won a scholarship to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in …

Wynne Lynching of 1892

On June 29, 1892, an unidentified African-American man was apparently lynched in Wynne (Cross County) for allegedly assaulting a young girl. Although the New York Sun reported that the girl was black and that the mob was made up of African Americans, the Forrest City Times told a slightly different story. According to the Times, passengers traveling south on the Iron Mountain Railroad reported the “loss” of an African-American man in Wynne on the night of the June 29. The unidentified black man had allegedly tried to assault a six-year-old white girl that morning. The two were found in a closet, and the girl reported what had happened to her. The man was jailed, but the next morning the doors …