Manhunt Halts After Clash in Which 4 Perish

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: Montgomery Advertiser
Place of publication: Montgomery, AL
Date of publication: 1930

Con-vinced that their quarry had escaped arm-ed possemen late today abandoned their search for four negroes in connection with the slaying of two white men late yesterday which resulted in the death of two negroes, one of them being lynched.

Possemen seeking the slayers of Gro-ver Boyd and Charlie Marrs, white men,  said this afternoon it was apparent the negroes had eluded them and escaped into Mississippi. Quiet was restored here tonight.

The negroes slain were John Robert-son, shot down resisting a posse asking to search his home, and Jacob Robert-son, his nephew, who was lynched by a mob last night.

The negroes, Tom Robertson, and his sons, brothers of the lynching victim, Esau, Ollie, and John, were sought throughout the night by between 200 and 300 armed men, after they had beaten up Clarence Boyd, nephew of Grover, who was slain as he sought to aid him.

A coroner’s jury late today returned a verdict that the two negroes came to their death at the “hands of party or parties unknown.” Officials had made no indication that an investigation would be conducted.

Jim Ayres, white, was suffering from a cheek wound received in a battle with the negroes last night, and Clarence Boyd, nephew of Grover, was injured severely about the head with a bottle in the hands of one of the negroes.

Negro Hanged to a Tree

Grover Boyd was shot down from be-hind by one of the negroes and Charlie Marrs was killed while possemen and en-raged citizens stormed John Robertson’s house last night were the negroes had taken refuge. John Robertson was killed as he fled the house and Jacob Robert-son was hanged to a tree by the enraged mob.

First reports of the trouble were great-ly exaggerated, the death list being given as high as eight and wounded numbering many more, but during the forenoon the excitement died down and the search settled into a grim, determined manhunt.

Sheriff W.D. Scales who took charge of the search last night and tried to control the unruly mob 300 to 400 enraged men today checked the affair thoroughly and found only four dead and two wounded The sheriff, however, expressed the opinion that the two wounded negroes were hiding in the woods.

Check of reports that two negroes had been burned to death also proved un-founded. A search of the ruins of John Robertson’s home showed no evidence of anyone having burned to death.

The trouble was precipitated  yesterday afternoon when Clarence Boyd found Jacob Robertson at a barbecue and de-manded payment for a storage battery he had sold him.

Boyd Attacked

The negro said he didn’t have the money, and Boyd seized the battery. Later the negro appeared at a store where Boyd was and asked to talk to him. Boyd stepped outside and found in addition the negro’s brother, Oliver, and his fa-ther, there. The three were said to have jumped on Boyd and began beating him.

Grover Boyd, uncle of Clarence and Carl Scales, hearing Clarence’s cries, went to his assistance and one of the negroes fired four bullets into Grover Boyd’s back. Boyd dropped dead, Scales and others who came up seized Jacob, but the other two negroes disappeared.

Jacob was held by the crowd which grew steadily until last night, when he was taken to the woods and hanged. In the meantime, Sheriff Scales and his deputies arrived and a search for the other two negroes was instituted. When the posse called at the home of John Robertson, brother of Tom, he met them with gun dire and in turn was slain. La-ter it was discovered that Marrs had been shot and Ayres wounded. Enraged, the mob fired the house.

While the flames roared in John Rob-ertson’s home, possemen formed and be-gan a search of the section for the other two negroes, but late this afternoon they had not been captured. The mob that numbered between 200 and 300 during the night dwindled today to between 25 and 50 grimly determined men who continued the hunt.

Peaceful Negroes Unharmed

Negroes not implicated in the shoot-ing were unmolested by members of the mob that ranged the section. Sheriff Scales said and many offered what aid they could.

Sheriff Scales said reports that a race riot was in progress were untrue, but he expressed fear that the two negroes sought would be killed if captured.

A squad of State law enforcement of-ficers from Montgomery and another squad from Birmingham were en route to here, dispatched by Gov. Graves, and it was believed their presence might aid in preventing violence toward the negroes.

Wild rumors and reports of the ne-groes being surrounded and others that they had been captured flew thick and fast throughout the day, one such report causing two carloads of men from York to come here and aid in capturing the negroes.

Tonight the negroes were believed in hiding in the dense swamp near the Mis-sissippi line, but their capture did not seem imminent.

Governor Offers Rewards

Gov. Graves late yesterday, authorized state rewards of $300 each for the arrest and conviction of each of the four ne-groes sought all day in Sumter County by possemen, in connection with the killing of two white men, Grover Boyd and Charlie Marrs, at Emelle, Friday evening.

By direction of the governor a squad of state law enforcement officers from Montgomery, Birmingham, and Tusca-loosa, proceeded to Sumter to cooperate with local authorities there in restoring quiet and order and rendering any other assistance requested.

The state officers reached Livingston during the afternoon and were to report to the Governor as soon as they had made a complete survey of the situation at Emelle following the disorders there Friday night which resulted in the deaths of four people, two white men and two negroes.

Because of the difficulties encountered in long distance telephone communication between Montgomery and Emelle which is a rural community some 17 miles North of Livingston, it was believed im-probable that a report could be made to Gov. Graves here before some time to-day.

The Governor last night withheld any statement regarding an investigation of the trouble at Emelle, or any other ac-tion by the executive department in ad-dition to the offering of rewards, un-til he had all the facts before him.

First reports to reach the Governor’s office at the Capitol during the forenoon yesterday regarding the killings in Sumter were to the effect that there were five dead, two white men and three ne-groes. Later, however, the information was received that the fatalities totaled only four, and that all was quiet at Emelle.

Immediately following receipt of the first message, the Governor issued the order detailing the squad of state officers to go to Livingston to assist the sheriff there.