19 April 2011

Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer?

I first posted a news item about Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson and the death of her husband at the Southern Obituaries blog. A single short comment by Marian Pierre-Louis of Marian's Roots & Rambles encouraged me to learn more about the story. I found a fascinating tale of questionable sanity, battered wife syndrome (about 50 years before it was even acknowledged), infidelity, divorce, murder, capital punishment history and debate, feminism, and more. I cannot possibly retell the tale in a single post, so look for this series to continue over the next few days.

The Killing

When Cora Lou Vinson fired the shot that killed her husband, it seems it was heard "round the world" (or at least the United States). Newspapers from every part of the country ran the headlines:

· "Wife Kills Husband: Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson Fires Fatal Shot"

· "Atlanta Woman Kills Husband"

Two articles that set the stage for the "he said, she said" fight (though the "he" was dead) are below.

Daily Record, North Carolina
31 March 1922
Called Her Husband Cruel and Beat Him Frequently, at Last Ending His Life With Bullet
ATLANTA, Ga. March 31 -- Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, who was held in the county jail here, today charged with killing her husband, Dr. W. D. Vinson, who was shot to death in his office here late yesterday, had by threats forced him to deed all his property to her before they finally separated, according to a copy of his petition for divorce.

The petition charged that she had frequently threatened to kill the physician and that once she met him in a downtown drug store talking to other men and kicked him. It cited occasions where she is alleged to have attacked him with tongs, a hatchet and an umbrella. Her counter petition to the suit claimed that she had been a faithful wife and accused him of inhumane treatment.

The divorce suit was to have been heard next Monday while a suit by which Dr. Vinson sought to recover his property, he is alleged to have deeded to Mrs. Vinson, was pending, and a warrant charging Mrs. Vinson with being insane had just been settled last Tuesday by a lunacy commission refusing to send her to the asylum...

Dr. Vinson was shot while writing prescriptions in his office in the rear of a drug store, one shot being fired before he knew his wife was in the room,...a clerk in the drug store told the police that after the doctor fell from the chair to the floor with his face towards Mrs. Vinson, she fired three more shots directly into his face and walked out of the drug store to a waiting taxicab.

Dr. Vinson, who was 65 years old, died shortly after being shot without having regained consciousness. His wife is 44 years old.
Marietta Journal, Georgia
6 April 1922

Both Dr. and Mrs. Vinson are well known in Marietta and by Cobb County People

Marietta and Cobb county people, who know both members of the Dr. Vinson family, were shocked to learn of the tragic death of the doctor in Atlanta last Thursday. The following extract is taken from Friday's Constitution:

Dr. W. D. Vinson, 65 years old, was shot four times by his wife, Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson from whom he had been separated for several years, at 4:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon while he was writing prescriptions in his office located in the rear of Pierce's drug store, 790 Marietta street, and died an hour later at the Grady hospital as the result of the bullets, all of which entered his head. Mrs. Vinson is being held at the Fulton county jail, without bond, charged with murder...

Dr. Vinson came to Atlanta nearly half a century ago from Roswell, where he was born and raised. He comes of a family of well-known physicians.

He is survived by three sons, Dr. T. D. Vinson, W. B. Vinson, and Master Louis Vinson; two daughters, Mrs. Fred Brown and Miss Ruby Vinson; a sister, Mrs. Fannie Robinson; and four brothers, Dr. George Vinson, of Marietta; Dr. Sam Vinson, of south Georgia; and Luther and John Vinson.

Funeral services will be held from St. James church at 2:30 o'clock Sunday and Atlanta Lodge F. & A. M., No. 59, will have charge of the funeral. Interment will be in West View.
Tomorrow: "She Said."


Greta Koehl said...

Wow - I definitely want to find out what "She said"!

James R Dailey II said...

Would you be interested in an original photo of Dr Ginson? Feel free to contact me. jdaileyii@yahoo.com