January 23, 1906
Twenty-one-year old Nevada Taylor, on her way home from her
job in downtown Chattanooga, is raped by a black man "with a soft, kind
voice" shortly after 6:30 p.m. in St. Elmo Cemetery. Sheriff
Shipp directs a search for the rapist, witnesses, and evidence.
search turns up only a black leather strap used in the rape.
January 24, 1906
Shipp offers a $50 reward to anyone providing information that
to the arrest and conviction of the St. Elmo rapist. By the next
day, the reward fund grows to $375.
January 25, 1906
Will Hixon, a white man who worked near the rape scene, tells
that he saw a black man "twirling a leather strap around his finger"
before the rape. Hixon later calls Shipp to report having seen
suspect walking toward town. Shipp eventually finds the suspect,
Ed Johnson, riding on an ice truck and arrests him. Shipp
Johnson for three hours, but Johnson claims to know nothing of the
Over 1,500 people gather in the courtyard in front of the jail where
assume Johnson is being held. Many in the crowd have guns or
The lynch mob storms the jail. Tennessee Governor Cox orders the
National Guard to protect the jail, but it is heavily damaged.
who had been moved to Nashville earlier in the day out of a concern
he might be lynched, is unharmed.
January 26, 1906
Shipp, in an interview in the Nashville Banner,
outrage over the attack on his jail.
January 27, 1906
Nevada Taylor travels to the county jail in Nashville to
her attacker. Johnson and another black man are asked to stand in
front of her and speak several sentences. Taylor says Johnson was
"like the man as I remember him." She says he "has the same soft,
kind voice." Taylor also issues a statement deploring mob
Shipp telegrams Judge S. S. McReynolds and asks him to proceed with the
grand jury. That afternoon, Hamilton County District Attorney
Whitaker presents evidence against Johnson. The grand jury votes
to issue and indictment of Johnson for the rape of Taylor.
January 28, 1906
Judge McReynolds appoints Lewis Shepherd, W. G. M. Thomas, and
Cameron to represent Ed Johnson.
February 2, 1906
The Nashville Banner publishes an interview with Ed
in which he protests his innocense. Shepherd and Thomas meet with
their client for the first time in a Nashville jail.
February 6, 1906
Johnson is returned under a heavily-armed guard to Chattanooga
the start of his trial. Nevada Taylor testifies, identifying
as her attacker. Will Hixon tells the jury, "This defendant here
is the Negro I saw" with a strap in his hand. Johnson testifies
he was at the Last Chance Saloon at the time of the rape, a claim
by a number of saloon patrons.
February 7, 1906
The defense calls 17 additional witnesses, then rests.
February 8, 1906
Taylor testifies for a second time. Asked by a juror
she "can state positively that this is the Negro," Taylor answers, "I
not swear that he is the man, but I believe he is the Negro who
me." A juror yells, "If I could get at him, I'd tear his heart
right now." Closing arguments are delivered and the case goes to
February 9, 1906
After seven hours of deliberation, the jury returns its
of "Guilty." Fearing a lynching, defense lawyers convince Johnson
to waive his right to appeal. Judge McReynold's sentences Johnson
to be hanged on March 13.
February 10, 1906
Skinbone Johnson, Ed's father, visits black attorney Noah
and tells him his son does want to appeal. Parden and his
law partner, Styles Hutchins, agree to plan an appeal.
February 11, 1906
Parden convinces Lewis Shepherd to assist in Johnson's appeal.
February 12, 1906
Johnson's attorneys tell Judge McReynolds they plan to
The judge suggests that they return the next day to file their motion.
February 13, 1906
Parden and Hutchins file a motion for a new trial. Judge
denies the motion, holding that it was filed one day too late.
February 20, 1906
Parden files a writ of error and asks the the Tennessee
Court to postpone Johnson's execution.
March 3, 1906
The Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously declines to postpone
March 7, 1906
Parden files a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal
court in Knoxville. He alleges that his client was denied due
a fair and impartial trial, and equal protection of the laws in
of the U. S. Constitution. District Judge Charles Clark issues an
order temporarily preventing Sheriff sShipp from taking Johnson from
where he was imprisoned, to Chattanooga.
March 10, 1906
A hearing is held in federal district court in Knoxville to
Johnson's constitutional claims. District Attorney Whitaker
the state's actions in the Johnson case.
March 11, 1906
At 12:47 a. m., Judge Clark issues his ruling. He holds
the 6th Amendment guarantee of an impartial trial does not apply to
trials. He does, however, stay Johnson's execution until March 23
to allow time for an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
March 12, 1906
Shipp and other official publicly question whether a federal
has the power to postpone the execution for ten days.
March 13, 1906
Governor Cox, with the consent of Judges McReynolds and Clark,
to resolve the debate over which execution date to follow by setting a
third date: March 20.
March 15, 1906
About 1:30 a. m., someone sets fire to the woodframe building
which Parden and Hutchins rent office space. The fire is
without major damage. In the afternoon, Parden boards a train for
Washington, D. C.
March 16, 1906
Parden meets with Emanuel Hewlett to discuss Johnson's
petition to the Supreme Court.
March 17, 1906
Parden and Hewlett plead Johnson's case for a writ of habeas
before Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the justice who
in the famous case of Plessy vs. Ferguson.
March 18, 1906
Parden boards a train for Chattanooga. Justice Harlan
with other Supreme Court justices at the home of Chief Justice
In an unprecedented move, the Court decides to issue an order granting
Johnson's appeal and staying his execution.
March 19, 1906
Parden and Hutchins celebrate their victory. About 8:00
m., a group of men carrying guns approach the jail where Ed Johnson is
being held. The mob begins an attack on the jail. They
their way through one door after another until they get into Johnson's
cell. Johnson closes his eyes and recites the 23rd Psalm.
11:20, the thugs finally get to Johnson, throw a rope over his neck and
march him outside to the cheers of the mob. Johnson is paraded
blocks to the Walnut Street Bridge. His last words before he is
by rope over the Tennessee River are "God bless you all. I am
March 20, 1906
Blacks in Chattanooga protest the lynching of Ed Johnson by
home from work. The mayor orders all saloons closed and 200 men
deputized. In Washington, justices of the Supreme Court meet to
what might be done about the lynching. Justice Harlan says, "the
mandate of the Supreme Court has for the first time in the history of
country been openly defied by a community." Justice Oliver
Holmes tells reporters, "In all likelihood, this was a case of an
man improperly branded a guilty brute and condemned to die from the
President Theodore Roosevelt also condemned the lynching, calling it
of the Court."
March 21, 1906
President Roosevelt meets with Attorney General William Moody
orders an investigation by the Secret Service of the lynching. In
Chattanooga, 2,000 mourners attend Ed Johnson's funeral.
March 25, 1906
In his Sunday sermon at the First Baptist Church in
the city's establishment church for whites, pastor Howard Jones
criticizes the lynchers and their sympathizers.
March 27, 1906
Joseph Shipp is re-elected sheriff in a landslide.
April 5, 1906
Chattanooga papers report that Rev. Jones told Secret Service
that he had called the police to report the lynching, but found them
to act. At night, Jones' home is set on fire.
April 20, 1906
Secret Service agents file a report indicating that they had
implicating 21 members of the mob and officials, including Sheriff
May 17, 1906
Attorney General Moody meets with Chief Justice Fuller and
Harlan to plan the federal response to the lynching. Moody agrees
to charge those involved with criminal contempt of the Supreme Court, a
charge never before brought.
May 28, 1906
The Department of Justice files papers at the Supreme Court
named individuals, including Shipp and his deputies, of contempt of
October 15, 1906
The defendants and their lawyers appear in Washington before
justices of the Supreme Court to enter their pleas. All members
the mob plead "not guilty,"claiming alibis or mistaken identities.
December 4, 1906
Oral arguments are held before the Supreme Court on the
of whether the Court had jurisdiction to consider the contempt charges
against the 27 defendants. Arguments continue for two days,
focusing on whether the Johnson case had raised a genuine constituional
issue. At one point in the argument, Justice Holmes asks a lawyer
for the defendant, "But you would agree that this Court has the
to determine that the Sixth Amendment [guarantee of a fair trial] is
on the state courts, do you not?" Defense lawyers also argue that
their clients sworn statements entitle them to discharge from the
December 24, 1906
In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Holmes, the Court
that it has jurisdiction to try the 26 defendants.
February 12, 1907
James Maher, deputy clerk of the Supreme Court, begins taking
in the United States Custom House in Chattanooga in the trial of Shipp
and the other defendants. Testimony from 31 government witnesses
concerning the lynching continues for five days, then the trial is
June 15, 1907
Defense lawyers began presenting their witnesses.
June 29, 1907
The defense rests.
The Court dismisses charges against 17 defendants. The
announces that it will hear oral arguments in March before rendering a
verdict in the nine remaining cases, including that of Sheriff Shipp.
March 2, 1909
Attorney General Charles Bonaparte present the closing
for the government before the Supreme Court in Washington.
March 3, 1909
Defense attorneys present closing arguments for the nine
May 24, 1909
Chief Justice Fuller announces the Court's decision in United
vs. Shipp et al. The Court concludes "it is absurd to contend"
Shipp "did not know a lynching would probably be attempted on the
that he "acquiesed" in the lynching, and that he demonstrated "utter
for this court's mandate." The Court found Shipp, the jailer, and
four members of the lynch mob guilty. The other defendants were
not guilty. The Court ordered U. S. marshals to arrest Shipp and
the other convicted persons and to bring them to Washington for
November 15, 1909
Chief Justice Fuller asks Shipp and the other convicted men to
before the bench of the assembled justices of the Supreme Court.
Shipp and two other defendants are sentenced to 90 days imprisonment in
the U. S. Jail in the District of Columbia. The other three
receive 60 day sentences.
January 30, 1910
Having completed his sentence, Shipp arrives home to a hero's
10,000 Chattanooga residents greet Shipp at Terminal Station.
September 18, 1925
Shipp dies. He is buried a few days later in Forest
Cemetery, the same cemetery in which Nevada Taylor was raped.
February 24, 2000
Hamilton County Criminal Judge Doug Meyer overturns Ed
conviction and death sentence. Leroy Phillips, co-author of a
book about the Shipp case (Contempt of Court: The
Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism), filed the
on behalf of Johnson to have his 94-year-old conviction overturned.