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 Texas : Features : Columns : Bob Bowman's East Texas

Hanging a Dead Man

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
George Hughes of Sherman may have been the only man in East Texas to be lynched while he was dead.

Hughes was working on a farm near Sherman in May of 1930 when he went to the farm to collect his wages. The man who owned the farm wasn’t home and his wife told Hughes to come back later.

Described as being “a little wild,” Hughes came back with a shotgun and demanded his money and assaulted the woman.

When he fled, Hughes fired shotgun blasts at officers investigating the incident.

Hughes surrendered to lawmen the following Monday, May 5, and was indicted for criminal assault during a special meeting of the Grayson County grand jury. His trial was set for May 9.

As tensions increased in Sherman, lawmen removed Hughes from the jail to another location to prevent a mob from seizing him.

When the trial date arrived, Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, joined by other rangers and a local policeman, escorted Hughes to the courthouse. Only those involved in the case were allowed in the courtroom, but a mob outside began to swell in size. Some managed to gain access to the courthouse corridors.
Sherman Tx 1876 Grayson County Courthouse
The Grayson County Courthouse
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

When the trial began, the mob outside began throwing rocks at the courthouse, breaking windows.

When the jury was selected and the first witness was called, the mob forced open the courtroom doors. The Texas Rangers fired three warning shots and the jury and Hughes were rushed from the courtroom.

The mob made another rush on the courthouse and the Rangers pushed them back with tear gas volleys.

District Judge R.M. Carter conferred with lawyers and said he was considering moving the trial to another town. Hamer said he doubted the trial could be held without bloodshed.

Around 2:30 p.m., two mob members threw an open can of gasoline through a broken window into the courthouse’s tax office. A fire quickly spread in the courthouse, forcing officials and those involved in the trial to climb down on ladders.

When the deputies guarding Hughes offered to escort him from the building, Hamer said the courthouse vault was the safest place for him.

On the ground, the mob held fireman back and cut their water hoses. The courthouse was soon engulfed in flames. By late afternoon, only the walls of the courthouse and the vault remained.

The mob attacked the vault, knowing Hughes was inside, and used dynamite and acetylene torches to open the door. Whether Hughes died from the dynamite or acetylene fumes is not known, but the mob finally pulled his body from the vault.

The body was then dragged behind an automobile and finally hanged from a tree.

A local grand jury indicted fourteen men in connection with the riot, but only two were convicted, one for rioting and another for arson. Hughes was buried at the county’s poor farm.

Bob Bowman's East Texas March 14, 2010 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
Copyright Bob Bowman

See Texas Hangings, Murders, Robberies, Mysteries...

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of mor than 40 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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