16 February 2017

Charley Anderson Lynched for Murder of Marshal

According to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of Charley Anderson is referenced in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930.  The article immediately below, from a Florida newspaper, gives the particulars.  Following that, a somewhat surprising opinion of dissent from a Georgia newspaper.

Tampa Tribune (Florida)
27 September 1909, pg. 1 [Viewable online at GenealogyBank]





Body Riddled With Bullets and Allowed to Hang From Tree Limb for Some Time Before Moved

(By Associated Press)
LIVE OAK, Fla., Sept. 26. – Swinging from a limb in front of his shoeshop [sic] in Perry, Taylor county, the dead body of Charley Anderson, a negro, was found early this morning, a mob having imposed the death penalty as required for the bullet the negro sent into the heart of Marshal Hawkins, of Perry, last night.

The place of the lynching was almost at the spot where Marshal Hawkins was slain, the officer having been in the act of placing the negro under arrest when he met his death.

Anderson was wanted for a minor offense and was in his shoe shop when the officer went to arrest him.  Hawkins was at the door of the shop when the negro appeared armed with a pistol and before the officer could defend himself, Anderson shot him to death.  Anderson was caught several hours later and at 2 o'clock was in the hands of a mob which made quick work of him.

Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
28 September 1909, pg. 6 [Viewable online at GenealogyBank]

To shoot down an officer of the law in the discharge of his duty, and for attempting to make an arrest, is a terrible crime.  Certainly, in such cases, the law must be strong enough to mete out the severest penalty, quickly and positively.  The most thorough protection and support are to be given the men who are employed in the name of the law to enforce the machinery of the law.

The man who kills a law officer because he is a law officer commits a double crime.  That his punishment for such an act shall be swift and sure and the severest possible is the unanimous demand.  In fact, there are those that hold that the responsibility of the state does not end with the punishment of the criminal in such cases, but that this responsibility should further extend to the caretaking of those dependent on the victims of such outrages against the law.

When the negro Charley Anderson shot and killed Marshal Hawkins, at Perry, Fla., the murderer deserved to be put to death for his act.  Whether there was real of fancied cause for the attempted arrest of the negro by the marshal is not to be taken into consideration.  That is of no consequence.  When the marshal sought the men in the name of the law, the authority of the law represented in the officer demanded respect and obedience.  But the negro, who was wanted to answer for petty infraction, instead of giving obedience, shot down the marshal [and] opened fire on the law.  For his act he deserved death.

But not at the hands of a mob.  Where the law is not strong enough to assert itself, where its enforcement must be turned over to a crowd of enraged citizens, there is not much law.  Nor will there be respect there for the law.  The men who lynched this Florida negro committed an awful crime, but against their community, their neighbors and themselves.  They outraged the law.  They set it up that they and their people have no respect for law and are incompetent to make and enforce law.  They insulted the law as did the culprit whose life they exacted, though of course in a different manner.  They made invitation that the machinery of the law be disregarded.

Lynch law is never right in a government like ours.  There was no excuse for it in the Florida case.  The people there are not ready to say that they wish to conduct their affairs by mobs and crowds.

The negro murderer merited death, but at the hands of law and not at the hands of a gathering of law breakers.

From NY Public LibraryA simple search on Google will give you the statistics. The Tuskegee Institute kept track of lynchings in America from 1882 - 1968. There were 581 in Mississippi, 531 in Georgia, 493 in Texas, 391 in Louisiana, 347 in Alabama, and so on. Total from all states: 4,743. That's more than one lynching and victim a week.

I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog. There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers. How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place. Imagine when there were none. Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person. As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion. Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases. People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day. So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

As a family historian, I am saddened to think (1) these revolting deeds took place, and (2) while statistics are easy to find, the names and stories of the individual victims are much harder to locate. A list of lynching victims will unfortunately never be complete. I hope that in a small way, posts such as these will serve as a memorial to those who were victims of Judge Lynch and his frightful law.

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