[Chattanooga Times, 3/20/1906]
Ed Johnson's Last Words Before Being Shot to Death By a Mob Like a Dog
Mandate of the Supreme Court of the United States Disregarded and Red Riot Rampant.
Terrible and Tragic Vengeance Bows City’s Head in Shame
Johnson Taken From County Jail Last Night, Marched to County Bridge and Hung While Red Rioters Complete Their Hideousness By Riddling Body With Bullets.
Practically No Resistance Offered in the Lynchers Who Number Less Than One Hundred Men.
Only the Night Jailer Present When the Mob Makes the Onslaught on the County Prisoner.
The Tragedy on the County Bridge an Exhibition of Passion Unparalled in the History of Chattanooga-The Helpless Victim Strung Up to a Beam of the Bridge-The Rope Breaks Before Strangulation Is Accomplished  and the Falling Body Is Riddled by Bullets.

Protesting his innocence to the last and with the words “God bless you all” on his lips, Ed Johnson, the negro convicted of assaulting Miss Nevada Taylor in St. Elmo on the night of Jan. 23 was shot to death on the county bridge last night.  The awful penalty was meted out by a small but determined band of men who stated that the courts had been given all the time due them and that they had made up their minds to take the law into their own hands.

Johnson’s life was ended just as the court house clock struck 11.  At 7 o’clock the negro was resting calmly in his cell happy over an official order from the United States supreme court which gave him an indefinite time to live.  At the same hour the city was quiet and there was but little talk or thought of trouble.  A half hour later there were rumors that a few men were getting together to lynch the negro, but nobody seemed to take the report seriously.  An hour later the jail was invested, and disinterested spectators who had seen lynch law carried out before knew that the negro had only a short time to live.

At 8 o’clock a dozen men, a few with handkerchiefs over the lower part of their faces and the rest undisguised in any manner, walked into the jail office.  A few minutes later another half dozen men came.  Close upon the heels of these a few more strolled in.  In all there were only about twenty-five, but each man seemed to know just what to do and the twenty-five did the work as efficiently as it could have been done by hundreds.

When the mob  reached the jail only jailer Gibson was on duty.  The leaders made demand upon on him for the keys. The jailer refused to yield and tried to argue with the men while he made a play for time.  While the argument for the keys was going on a few of the men ran up the stairs to the corridor where Johnson was confined and one of them attempted to break the lock with a hammer.  The attempt was only partially successful and delayed the mob more than anything they could have done.  Meanwhile the men below had secured the keys from Jailer Gibson.  They rushed upstairs and tired to turn the bold but the sledge hammer had made the keys useless.

Then began the work of battering the two heavy doors down.  Man after man took his turn with the hammer and axe and rivet after rivet was knocked out.  Men streaming with perspiration yielded their implements to others as their strength gave out and the work went on steadily.  At 10:30 the first of the two doors was torn out, and the workers began on the second.  It took only about five minutes to batter and pry the second door open and then the way to the Negro was clear.

The systematic manner in which the mod it its work was shown by the fact that when the doors were broken open only a half dozen men entered the corridor.  One of these had the key to cell No. 7 the one in which Johnson was confined and he opened the door slowly and carefully and his helpers in the corridor seized the Negro and bound him with a rope which one of them carried and the doomed man was led outside and down the stairs.

As Johnson was brought out of the corridor and to the head of the stairs there was a cheer from the crowd awaiting him.  About half of this crowd was made up of idle spectators who had done no work at all.  Some of these became wildly excited at sight of the Negro and some of them began howling “Kill him now!”  The men from the section where the crime was committed, however, had no intention of permitting a shooting in the jail.  “To the county bridge,” was the command of the leaders and to the county bridge the march was taken up.

Almost as dramatic as the lynching itself was that walk out Walnut street to the bridge.  The men who had taken Johnson from the jail and meant to take his life were around him in a group.  They had but little to say and they made no noise.  Surrounding them was an excited mob or seventy-five or more who yelled at the top of their voices and pushed each other from one side of the street to the other.

When the bridge was reached it seemed the intention of the leaders to swing the unfortunate negro to the first span.
“The second span!” yelled the mob, and with this demand the leaders complied.  When the place chosen was reached two men scrambled up the ironwork and pulled the rope, one end of which was around Johnson’s neck, over the beam.  The negro was then given a chance to talk and he was urged to make a confession.  To all questions and demands for a confession he would only say, “I’m ready to die, but I never done it.”

Finally it was decided that time was being wasted, and the order to hoist up the negro was given.  Eager hands began to pull, but the rope slipped and more time had to be spent in adjusting it.  When the hoisting finally began, the now frenzied lynchers  could restrain themselves no longer, and a fusillade of shots was turned loose.  One of the first bullets cut the rope and the body came tumbling to the bridge floor.  Then the frenzied men from the suburban district, every one of whom had a gun or pistol, gathered around and emptied the contents of their weapons into the prostrate negro.  When all the firearms had been discharged the Negro was seen to move his head slightly.  “He’s not dead!” yelled men close to him, and this was followed up with demands for another gun.  Then a big, broad-shouldered man, who had done much of the work, slowly refilled the chambers of his revolver.  When his weapon was loaded to his satisfaction, he walked up to the Negro, stood directly over the body and fired five shots into it.  This ended the work of the lynchers and they left the bridge so rapidly that the idly curious hardly knew they were going.

Dr. Cooper Holtzclaw reached the bridge a few minutes after the lynching.  He said the Negro had been shot fifty times, and any one of the shots was sufficient to produce death.  The body lay on the bridge for about an hour.  Chapman finally sending a wagon for it.

The Lynchers Take Two Hours to Reach the Prisoner, Meeting With Little Resistance.

It was near the hour of 8:30 when a company of men-many of them extremely youthful-gathered at the jail.  An organization had been formed with silent thoroughness that insured to the participants from the start the final grim success.  The young men came principally from the suburbs, Alton Park being most largely represented.  Neighbors of Miss Taylor were there in considerable numbers to aid in carrying out the purpose of alleged revenge for the outrage committed upon her.  The Ninth ward and Sherman Heights had their representation with a springling of men attracted from the street when vague hints of something doing began to be whispered about town.

In three separate parties the crowd made its way to the jail, junction of them all being formed at the corner of Seventh and Walnut.  There were not more than thirty men all told.  The were not openly armed to any great extent only two or three Winchesters being in sight.

Arriving at the jail there was no person in sight.  Night Jailer Gibson was alone inside for some purpose, locking himself in according to his custom.  It was at the door that shut in the jailer that the mob met its first repulse.  It is a steel door, the rods of which extend into the stone cements and are fastened there by means of a heavy lock.

A few heavy strokes with a sledge hammer and a few attacks with a large crow-bar removed this barrier to the interior halls.  Every man seemed familiar with the location of the ward in which Johnson was a solitary prisoner, for without any hesitation or inquiry they made their way up the steps to the third floor and at once began an attack upon the door leading into the circle by which an entrance could alone be made to the ward.

The first few strokes with the big hammer in the hands of a large, muscular man brought Mr. Gibson hurrying to the top floor.  He was at once recognized by many in the crowd and called upon for the keys which they saw suspended in a large bunch at his belt. Mr. Gibson attempted to reason with the crowd but he soon learned that reason had no influence with the mob, and one man no power of resistance.  He selected the long slender key that belonged to that lock and attempted to open the door.  He soon discovered, however, that the blows upon the door had injured the lock and they key would not turn.

The only angry moment noticed during the whole evening’s work was when a suggestion was passed around that Mr. Gibson was fooling them.  He was known to them all and he was at length able to make his appeal heard that he could not turn the bolt.
The crowd then pushed the jailer into the insane ward and once more began the attack.  Sullenly the heavy steel rivets held fast and the door did not even shake on its hinges.  Blow after blow was delivered and apparently foiled in its endeavor and the men left promising soon to return.

Mention of dynamite at this point startled all who stood near and the prisoners within hearing. No one knew but that some hotheaded person would carry out that diabolical suggestion and there was general alarm.  The more thoughtful the crowd prevailed to stop such a movement and when the crowd returned it was with heavier sledge hammers and a fine steel axe which was to serve as a cold chisel.

Sheriff Shipp, having received warning of the mob while at his home, appeared at this time. For some reason the mob thought he could gain access where the jailer had failed.  The men caught Capt. Shipp and fairly carried him up the stairs.  He was constantly protesting but his words were drowned in the babel of sounds that prevailed continuously at this time.

Arriving at the head of the stair case the demand was made by a dozen or more speaking at once that the sheriff open the door.  He could not convince the crowd of his utter lack of keys until a bystander interrupted and convinced the rioters that the sheriff could not open the door.  They then took the sheriff and forced him into the bath room that is just outside the hospital ward and closed the door.  Later the guard on the door was relaxed and Capt. Shipp came out but he was kept imprisoned on the balcony just above where the mob worked and a guard stood over him all the time.

In the meantime the work of braking open the door went regularly on.  Five or six muscular men took each his turn with a 20-pound sledge while another man held the axe in place.  Seven heavy steel bolts were cut.  Dozens of strokes were required to cut each belt but the patience of the stormers did not flag.  Steadily the heavy strokes resounded through the jail, striking terror to the hearts of the prisoners throughout the prison, absolute uncertainly prevailing as to when an explosion was to wreck the entire building.

While this work was in progress the crowd kept up a continual run of jibes directed at Johnson with now and then a sally of wit at the expense of Justice Harlan and certain local lawyers.  “You’ll need all the religion you got yesterday.”  “Better be sayin your prayers.”  “Guess now you’re sorry you done it, ain’t you!”-such were some of the remarks addressed to Johnson who was in plain hearing of the entire performance.

Finally the last bolt was cut and a few pries with the crow bar set the lock free.  A pull at the over-head lever and the circle turned and with a shout the workers announced their victory over the chilled steel that for two hours had resisted all attacks.
From the time that the mob first entered the jail about 8:45 o’clock until Johnson had been carried away two hours later, not a policeman came around the premises and there was never any attempt made to stop the attack.  In fact, there were very few persons in that vicinity during the evening and so quietly and quickly did the mob do its work that very few pedestrians passing the place knew that anything out of the ordinary was occurring.  As none of the jail officers knew that the attack was being made save Sheriff Shipp and Jailer Gibson the officials allege there was no way to notify police headquarters and ask for aid.
At a late hour last night Sergeant Hogan at police headquarters stated that no call for help was received by him and that he did not know any attempt to lynch Johnson was being made until after 11 o’clock.  Very few patrolman claimed knowledge of the lynching until they were informed by persons who had been to the scene and were returning home.

Had No Intimation That as Attempt on the Jail Would Be Made.

Sheriff Shipp did not arrive at the jail for an hour or more after the mob reached the place and had begun its work.  When he entered the lower corridor two or three members of the mob grabbed him and demanded the keys to Johnson’s cell.  The sheriff replied that he did not have tem and could not tell where they were.

At this juncture three of four more determined member of the mob who were on the second floor called on those below to bring the sheriff up to the top floor where an effort was being made to gain entrance into the negro’s cell.  The sheriff remonstrated and declared that the would not go upstairs.  Hid efforts were of little avail, however, as he was grabbed and bodily carried up the winding stairs.  When he once got on the floor with the majority of the members of the mob, Sheriff Shipp attempted to talk, but he was not given a hearing "We want Johnson and we are going to have him."  " Give us the keys and let us get in,"  "We came after him and we'll get him before we leave."  These and other remarks were made to the sheriff, and thought he used every effort to get a hearing, it was impossible for his voice to be heard above the noise of the mob.

Fifteen or twenty minutes before the leaders of the mob succeeded in breaking down the outside cell door the sheriff was forced back into a corner, where two of the mob made an unsuccessful effort to learn from him where the keys to the cell were.  At that time the keys were in the possession of a part of the mob, but could not be used as t he lock had been injured by constant hammering with heavy sledges.  Sheriff Shipp told these men that he did not have the keys, would not tell them where they were, and would lend them no assistance towards the effort to get Johnson out.  The sheriff's stand was not appreciated by the members of the mob.  When they found he could be of no use to them they turned him loose, but effectually barred the passageway downstairs so that he could not leave the top floor.

To a Chattanooga Times reporter who was near, Sheriff Shipp stated that the first knowledge he had of the matter was a message from The Chattanooga Times office.  He was at home at that time and the mob had been at the jail for forty or fifty minutes.  He hasten to the scene, only to find that he had arrived too late to be of any protection to the negro.
Sheriff Shipp stated that he had received no intimation that an attempt would be made to storm the jail, and he did not believe that any of his officers thought there would e trouble during the night.  He said that at the time the mob reached the jail the only officer on hand was Night Jailer Gibson, who was attending to some of his duties on the second floor at the time the mob broke through the first entrance on the lower floor.

During the entire time Sheriff Shipp claims to have used every means in his power to appease the spirit of the mob.  When he was overpowered and became thoroughly convinced that nothing could be done to detract the mob from its purpose, he turned his attention towards saving the property in the jail.  His efforts were of little avail, however, as the mob was bent on getting to Johnson's cell and would save no effort to gain its end.

Gives up the Keys But They Proved Useless Where Sledge Hammers Had Been.

From the time that the mob entered the jail until Johnson had been removed and the march to the river bridge began, Night Jailer J. Gibson was completely at the mercy of the men who were at the head of the lynchers.

According to his own statement Gibson was on the second floor where the mob went in the jail.  In a few minutes he heard the men attempting to break down the first doorway and fearing that if he went down they would demand the boys and kid him if he did not give them up, the jailer remained on the second floor.  It was but a few minutes until the mob had torn away the lock on the first door and started up the stairs.  In the meantime he had hid in another cell and was not discovered until the lock on the doorway heading to Johnson’s cell had been so damaged that it was impossible to use the keys after he gave them over.
When the members of the mob tried all the keys that were in Gibson’s possession they had but little time for him.  While they would not allow him to go down stairs they did not object to him having free access of the corridor above him and he went around with even more freedom than Sheriff Shipp.

While the rivets on the big iron cage leading to Johnson’s cell were being pounded off some of the younger members of the mob took Gibson and in a playful spirit locked him up in the hospital ward.  The night jailer objected strenuously to this but as the boys had his keys and outnumbered him ten to one he could do nothing but submit.

During the first scuffle when members of the mob were searching the jailer for his keys, some one took a new Smith and Wesson revolver from him and at a late hour last night the jailer had not recovered it.  When the mob left eh jail he followed and while the leaders were stringing up their victim at the county bridge the jailer was around asking everyone if “he had seen the man who has my pistol”  The revolver according to Gibson was brand new and had cost him $18 last week.  At last accounts nothing had been seen of the weapon.

The Coolest Calmest Man in the Dread Excitement Was the Victim-Hanged and Then Riddled With Bullets.

From this time leaders of the mob were continually cautioning   their followers against further destruction of public property.  They had secured the key that would unlock the cell in which Johnson was confined and had learned that he was in cell No. 7.  Three members of the mob stepped inside the door, the circle turned and they were within the corridor leading to the cell of the condemned negro.

After an absence of about five minutes they again appeared at the opening stepped inside the circle, it turned and Johnson, bound about the waist with a cotton rope and securely held by his captors stepped forth into the midst of the crowd determined to encompass his death.

The prisoner was the calmest person in the jail.  Not a quiver of the lip or utterance of  a sound betrayed the slightest fear or terror.  Firmly he walked toward the stairway except when the jam became so great as to lift him from his feet.  Thus he was conducted down the stairs and through the office to the street.  Again were heard the cautions of leaders to be orderly and refrain from shooting.  It was reported at this time that Johnson had confessed his guilt.  One of the leaders told that when they approached the negro's cell he was asked whether he was the one that committed the crime at St. Elmo, and he replied that he was.  The narrator stated that he was asked again whether he committed the crime and again he said yes.  This was said to have occurred while yet within the cell.

"To the county bridge," was the cry as the crowd reached the street.  Some said the public square was the proper place for executing such a criminal, while yet others said he should be taken back to the dark spot in St. Elmo, where the crime was committed.

The county bridge idea prevailed and the march was at once taken up northward on Walnut Street.  As the crowd marched along, some person tied a hangman's knot in the small cotton rope designed for use in the coming execution and the noose thus formed was slipped over the negro's head.  Not more than 10 minutes were required to reach the bridge.  Street cars were stopped and motormen commanded to cut off the headlights on the cars.

It was decided to conduct the hopeless negro to the second span of the bridge and stop under a light where the prisoner would be called upon to make his final statement.  With difficulty the crowd was quieted and the while none man climbed aloft to fix the rope, the negro tried to talk.  He was told in advance that nothing he could say would change his fate and that he had as well tell the whole truth.

"I am going to tell the truth,'" the negro began.  "I am not guilty.  I have said all the time that I did not do it and it is true.  I was not there.  I know I am going to die and I have no fear to die and I have no fear at all.  I was not at St. Elmo that night.  Nobody saw me with a strap. They were mistaken and saw somebody else.  I was at the Last Chance Saloon just as I said.  I am not guilty and that is all I have to say."

He was questioned at intervals while he was making his protestations.  He stood absolutely calm and viewed without emotion the rope extending from his neck to the steel girders above, but his never quailed. The first attempt to pull him aloft failed because of some person taking hold of the wrong end.

During the pause that ensued on that account the negro was again called upon to say something, and it was then that he uttered his last words. They were: "God bless you all! I am innocent."

At a signal the rope was pulled and the negro's body given a hoist and he swung for two minutes or slightly longer, suspended to the bear.  A bullet from a revolver cut the slender rope, letting the body fall quivering to the floor.  Some person in the mob had previously fired one pistol shot, but it could not be told whether the bullet had struck the body.  It was evident that the negro was insensible from strangulation as he lay on the floor when a fusillade of shots was fired, it being possible to almost count the bullets as they struck the inert body lying in a heap where it had fallen.

Pistols appeared as if by magic and persons who were standing near the body make haste to get out of range.  Sufficient consideration was shown by somebody to lift the dead body from the car tracks to the sidewalk and the same person seemingly doubting the entire extinction of life, stepped close to the body and emptied the contents of six shooter into it.

The crowd then proceeded to disperse as quietly as it had gathered.  There were no shouts or other boisterous noise heard near the bridge after the mad desire to take the negro's life had been fully satisfied.  The body was not further disturbed.  Neither was any care exercised concerning its fate.  A policeman coming up made inquiry as to where it was, and soon thereafter telephoned to the coroner that a dead negro was lying on the county bridge.

Remains of the Victim Removed to Chapman's Morgue-Inquest Today.

In less than ten minutes after Johnson was dead, a white woman who had come out as far as the end of the bridge on a Hill City Street, walked up to where the dead negro was lying.  She was accompanied by her husband, and after two peered through the crowd at the prostrated form of the dead man they returned towards the street car.

A few minutes after an old negro woman came across the bridge.  She was by herself and evidently did not know what had occurred until she saw the crowd.  When she reached a point close to the dead man she stopped and asked about the lynching.  A minute later she edged her way into the crowd surrounding Johnson and looked at his lifeless body.  “Is he dead, white folks?’ she asked a number of the mob.  On being answered in the affirmative the old woman shook her head and said, “Well, I swan,” and walked on towards the city.

Before the body was removed there were at least a half dozen or more women on the scene.  They walked out with escorts and wnet up to a distance of fifteen or twenty feet of the dead man.  One woman came out in a carriage and after driving past where Johnson’s body was being examined by the crowd, ordered her driver to turn and go back to the city.

Disposition of Johnson’s Body.

The lynching occurred exactly at 11 o’clock and for an hour or more a large crowd of curious persons streamed from the city to the county bridge and looked at the remains which were lying on one side of the street car tracks.

Shortly after midnight, Chapman’s dead wagon went to the bridge and took the remains.  It is understood that an inquest will be held sometime today.

The remains were dressed for burial and were put in the morgue at Chapman’s undertaking establishment.  Whether of not the public will be allowed to view the remains today is not known.

Johnson’s Jail Neighbor.

Mrs. Baker, a woman brought to the local jail from Ducktown and held on the charge of selling whiskey without a license, was the only other person on the same floor with Johnson and she attracted considerable attention.  She thought at first that the mob intended to do her violence and her cries attracted the men, who quickly reassured her that they were after a negro and that she would not be injured.

She did not seem to understand the meaning of what was going on around her and during the entire time stood at the front of her cell and asked questions.  She talked to everybody who came along who would stop and listen to her.  She told of her trouble in Ducktown, how she happened to be arrested and the plea of innocence the she intended to make when her case comes in court.  She also told some other things which the men didn’t ask her but which she told to arouse considerable curiosity  and interest in her.

During the height of the trouble Mrs. Baker calmly called a spectator and asked him to go in the bathroom which was next to her cell and get her some water.  The man took his hat and filled it nearly full, returned and by forming the hat into a funnel shape let the woman drink through the bars of her cell.  She was very gracious in her thanks.

Life and Death

Yesterday at Noon Johnson Was Apprised of the Action of the United States Supreme Court.

So near to his final and violent end as yesterday forenoon was Ed Johnson apprised of the, to him, welcome news that the highest judicial tribunal in the United States had taken up his case, and that the gallows awaiting him in the basement of the jail would yet wait before swinging his body into eternity.  The word had been received by telegram from Washington on Sunday night, but Johnson’s jailers did not learn the news until after the closing hour.  Johnson was therefore not told until yesterday morning.

The negro, well aware of the swift approach of his hour of doom as ordered by the state authorities, showed the slightest interest possible in the announcement.  He merely said, “All right,” when told by Capt. Brown that he had yet many days to live.
Sheriff Shipp yesterday received hi orders from federal authorities constitution Johnson a United States prisoner and commanding him as highest peace officer of the county to keep the prisoner in his custody as a federal prisoner until the supreme court had finally acted upon the appeal.  No definite date was set for any hearing and promised for the final decision.  It was therefore accepted by the sheriff as an unavoidable situation that the handing that was to have taken place this morning was postponed by an authority beyond all courts in Tennessee, and a decided uncertainty held out as to when the execution would occur, if ever.

Shortly before 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon Judge McReynolds received the following telegram from the clerk of the supreme court:

Washington, D. C., March 19.

Hon. S. D. McReynolds, Judge Criminal Court of Hamilton County, Chattanooga, Tenn:
“Supreme Court of United States has allowed appeal of Ed Johnson from order of Judge Clark denying application for habeas corpus, and ordered that all further proceedings be stayed and custody of accused retained pending appeal here.  See section 706, Revised Statues U. S. Please notify Attorney General Whitaker.
“James H. McKenney”
“Clerk Supreme Court, U. S.”

A special from Washington received last night by The Chattanooga Times says:
“The highest court of the land today intervened and for the time being save the life of Ed Johnson, of Chattanooga.”
“The full court granted an appeal applied for by the defendant’s attorneys.  The action by the court will act as a stay of proceedings and will prevent the hanging and may ultimately send the case back to the trail court for another trial.  It has been many years since the United States supreme court has interfered with a death sentence passed by a state court and the court’s decision today has occasioned considerable comment.”
Inquiry yesterday among the officials at the court house developed an uncertainty as to the status of the case,  It was agreed that if had become one of national prominence, that the proceedings had been almost without a parallel and that no one could make a reliable prophecy as to what the outcome would have been.

N. W. Parden, the negro lawyer, is still in Washington.  It has been impossible to learn whether he presented the application for a writ of error and supersedes order from Judge Clark’s court or whether he secured the services of some Washington lawyer and was admitted that somebody had conducted the proceedings who knew well how to do it.  Parden is expected to return to the city today.

Such Was Johnson and Federal Authorities May Take a Hand in the Reckoning.

Now that mob law has intervened, the question arises as to what action the federal authorities will take.  Following the receipt by Judge McReynolds of the telegram of the clerk of the supreme court, that official promptly advised Sheriff Shipp that the custody of the prisoner was at the instance of the United States, to whom the sheriff could look for the expense of the prisoner’s maintenance….

The Crime of Which Ed Johnson Was Convicted and Which Cost Him His Life.

On Tuesday night , Jan. 23, a crime was committed at St. Elmo, which stirred this community to a frenzy of excitement without a parallel in years, a Negro strangled Miss Nevada Taylor, daughter of William Taylor, keeper of Forest Hills cemetery, into insensibility by placing a stran around her neck; threw her by sheer force over a high board fence and committed an outrage upon her.

Miss Taylor was en route home from the store W. W. Brooks, where she had been employed as cashier and bookkeeper.  She arrived at the cemetery station by a Chattanooga electric car at 6:22.  Alighting from the car she stated toward the cemetery gate, her nearest route home.  Without warning she found herself caught from behind, a strap was thrown about her neck and thus disqualified to make any struggle she was victimized by the Negro and left lying insensible on the ground.
A soft voice that she afterward said yet rang in her ears, warned her not to struggle or scream or her throat would be cut.  That voice and the telltale strap were the points of evidence that afterwards convicted Ed Johnson of the crime.

Very soon officers were on the trail with bloodhounds.  The spot was located by finding the young lady’s umbrella where she said she lost it, but the dogs never at any time struck a trail that meant anything to the officers.  After a day of puzzling search to learn something, however slight, of the identity of the rapist, Sheriff Shipp found that a young man name Hixson had seen a Negro at St. Elmo that night after 6 o’clock twirling a narrow strap around his fingers.

This clue led to the arrest of Johnson on ‘Thursday afternoon, Jan. 25.  Another Negro named Broaden or Wyatt had been arrested as a suspect early that same day.  Fearing violence by an enraged neighborhood, Sheriff Shipp, by orders of Judge McReynolds carried both negros to Nashville, starting within an hour of Johnson’s arrest.

That night a mob of uncertain numbers stormed the county jail.  It was seeking the man Broaden, Johnson’s arrest and the proof against him not yet having been published.  The jail was in the hands of the mob for about three hours, police and military force finally dispersing it.

On Saturday the grand jury, called in special session heard the state’s theory regarding Johnson’s guilt and returned an indictment.  Criminal court was then in session and the trial was finally set for Tuesday, February 6.  That trial will long stand in court annals here as the most intense, dramatic and exciting ever tried in the state.  The eyes of the whole country were upon it and newspapers from ocean to ocean published columns concerning its tragic events.

A climax was reached when at the solicitation of a juror Miss Taylor took the witness stand the second time.  She was confronted with the Negro Johnson and asked whether that was the guilty person.  With her hand uplifted to heaven, in a voice of quiet emphasis she spoke the words that no doubt tied the lynchers’ knot last night: “I would not take the life of an innocent man, but before God I believe that is the guilty Negro.”

The actions of members of the jury, the impassioned pleas by attorneys on either side, the long and weary wait for a verdict the abandonment of the case by appointed counsel-all were events that added to the memorable character of the trial.  It was decided not to appeal but four days later two Negro lawyers attempted to file motion for a new trial.  The were outside the limit of court rule and failed in their attempt.  The supreme court of Tennessee reviewed the record and handed down a written opinion that no error had been committed in the trail.

Ten days ago the case went before Judge Clark at Knoxville on application for a writ of habeas corpus, which he denied.  The appeal from that court was made in Washington last Saturday and at noon yesterday the Supreme Court ordered the stay of execution that precipitated the events of last night.

Shipp Trial Page