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Bob Bowman's East Texas

George Washington’s
Execution

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
When the Texas prison system plugged in its electric chair in 1924, would you believe that George Washington was one of the first four men to be executed?

Don’t laugh, it really happened.

But the George Washington who sat in “Ol' Sparky” was not our first president, but a man who lived around Scrapping Valley in Newton County.

I923, Levi Todd, who lived in the same area, made himself a new gambling table and promised George Washington he would give him the left-over lumber.

But Levi gave the wood to another man and Washington was so incensed that he shot and killed Levi as he sat playing poker with some friends seated around his new table.

And to compound his crime, George shot Levi’s terrified wife as she ran past a window in the Todd home. Mrs. Todd, fortunately, didn’t die. George wasn’t so lucky.

He shot the Todds’ dog and emptied his gun trying to kill one of the poker players, Frank Larry. But none of Washington’s bullets struck Larry, and he emptied his own shotgun at Washington, hitting him with a load of buckshot.

When the shooting subsided, Washington ran into the woods.

Sheriff Dave Humphreys rounded up a posse, but failed to find Washington.

Everyone figured that George had skipped the county, but a few days later Rich Martin was hunting along the creek’s banks and stumbled across George sound asleep in the brush.

Rich stepped firmly on Washington’s hands, and he woke up staring into the barrel of Rich’s gun. Washington was jailed at Newton and convicted of Todd’s murder back in 1923.

On February 9, 1924, at the age of 39, George had the dubious distinction of being one of the first four men to be executed by “Old Sparky.”

The source for this story was the Newton County News.


Bob Bowman's East Texas
December 26, 2010Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

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(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of almost 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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