Wesley "Wes" Johnson
Tumbleton Road takes a provocative look into the events surrounding the death of Wesley Johnson and the legacy of bigotry and hatred in the American South. Below, Regis Peoples in his dual role as stunt double for the fictitious "Horace Freeman". The Freeman character is based on Wesley Johnson.
As cited from the article above:
THE DOTHAN EAGLE
FEBRUARY 2, 1937
HENRY MOB RAIDS JAIL, LYNCHES NEGRO
50 Men Seize, Kill Suspect In Sex Crime
Farm Hand Reputedly Confesses to Attack On Henry Woman
BODY IS RIDDLED
Lynching Is First In State In Four Years
By J.D. Brown
(Dothan Eagle Staff Writer)
Alabama’s four years without a lynching were shattered early Tuesday morning when Wes Johnson, giant 18-year old Negro farm hand of the Tumbleton community, was hanged and shot for an alleged criminal attack on a young farm matron,
Body of the Negro-his head and body bearing multiple shotgun and pistol wounds-was found hanging in a wooded section near Tumbleton after a posse of armed men took him from an Abbeville jail shortly after midnight Monday.
Sheriff Louie Corbitt, of Henry County, said the posse held him and his father, Jailer J.N. Corbitt, prisoners until the door of the man’s cell was forced and Johnson placed in a waiting automobile. Jailer Corbitt the mob was composed of about 50 men. Johnson’s body was found hanging said,within 50 yards of the modest four-room home where the attack is alleged to have taken place about noon Friday. The matron told officers the Negro entered through the back door while her husband was away from home and overpowered her. After the attack, she said, he ran into the woods surrounding the house.
A posse was hurriedly organized but was unable to find the man. Johnson was arrested Sunday afternoon and was carried to the Abbeville, jail where he allegedly confessed. The jailer said, he was on duty when the mob arrived on Tuesday morning and his son was in an upstairs room asleep. He said, the leaders of the group did not ask for keys to the Negro cell, but pried it open with a crowbar one of the men carried.
A jesting, laughing crowd of men stood guard over Johnson’s body Tuesday morning to keep it from being carried away. A large blood stain in a ditch about 20 yards from where the body was hanging, led officers to believe the man was shot before he was pulled to the limb of the tree.
Negro residents of the community, kept indoors as armed men patrolled the highway. Johnson, who was six feet, two inches tall, was well known in the community and had lived there all of his life.
Authoritative sources said the woman identified Johnson, as the man who attacked before he was killed. This could be neither confirmed or disproved, however. Charges from her, gunshots fired at close range had almost completely obliterated the man’s features.
Judge J.P. Mitchell of Henry County told the Associated Press that reports he received were that about 25 cars, with an under determined number of men, drove up to the jail Monday night and took the Negro from the jailer.
No arrests had been made in connection with the lynching, Judge Mitchell said.
THE DOTHAN EAGLE
FEBRUARY 3, 1937
SHERIFF SAYS MEN IN HENRY LYNCH KNOWN
Governor Orders Full Inquiry Into Rope Death of Negro
Corbitt Denies State Sleuths Query Him
Spurred by the admonition by Gov. Graves that “mob rule shall not prevail in Alabama. ” State and County Investigators an investigation into the lynching of Wesley Johnson, 18 year old Negro, accused of assaulting a young white matron.
Sheriff Louie Corbitt said, Wednesday, he knew the identity of several persons among the mob of approximately 59 men, who took the Negro from the Henry County jail shortly after midnight Monday and was making an investigation.
“I Won’t Lie”
“I won’t lie about it,” Sheriff Corbitt when asked if he would identify the men in court or before a grand jury. Circuit Judge D.C. Halstead, who conferred with Sheriff Corbitt Tuesday, said he will not call a special jury until a Coroner's Inquest was held, if one is called at all.
Johnson’s bullet riddled body was found approximately 50 yards from the home of the woman, whom he is alleged to have attacked. Officers were of the opinion he was shot before his body was hanged from the tree limb. Sheriff Corbitt said, Wednesday, a court order was necessary before he could move a prisoner. The statement was made in answer to reputed criticisms coming from official resources because the Negro was not carried to another jail for safekeeping,
The Sheriff said, the armed mob arrived at the jail and held him and his father, Jailor J.N. Corbitt prisoners while they forced opened the Negro’s cell with a crowbar. He said the action was unexpected as relatives of the woman said, they were going to “let the law take its course.”
At Montgomery, Gov. Graves ordered Atty. Gen. A.A. Carmichael to make a thorough investigation of the case and “bring Impeachment proceedings against any official if found warranted.”
The Governor also ordered highway patrol investigators into the case, and told Chief Walter K. McAdory to cooperate fully with the Attorney General “In bringing the guilty to justice.”
Sheriff Corbitt said Wednesday he had not been approached by State Investigators.
Johnson was arrested Monday after the woman have alleged to have identified him as the man who attacked her while she was at home alone Friday about noon. It was reported she was under the care of a Physician. The alleged attack took place in the Tumbleton community about five miles North of Headland.