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Chronology of Claude Neal Lynching

Posted May 6th, 2015 at 09:10 AM by Baltis
Updated May 7th, 2015 at 05:45 AM by Baltis

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Chronology of Claude Neal Lynching



Characters:
Claude Neal – 26 year old black man living with his common law wife and child sharing a home with extended family near Greenwood in Jackson County, Florida. The second victim.
Sallie Smith – Claude’s Great-Aunt and the owner of the house they resided in.
Annie Smith – Claude’s mother who also lived in the Smith home.
Lola Cannady – 19 year old white girl who lived with her parents on a farm close to the Smith home. The first victim.
Wilford Cannady – brother to Lola. Said that Claude “had been raised with my sister and me and worked for us all his life.”
George Cannady – father of Lola
Sheriff W. F. ‘Flake’ Chambliss – Sheriff of Jackson County




October 18, 1934, morning – Sunny with blue sky and cool fall air. 19 yr-old Lola Cannady (90lbs and 5’ tall) doing her chores. She struck out on a foot path to the hog pen ¼ mile away on the edge of a field. Wilford Cannady was in the field working with a plow. The neighbor, Claude Neal, had been helping Wilford “break a mule to the plow.” At noon, Claude went home to lunch with his wife, child, and Sallie Smith, his great-aunt. Claude then left into the field in search of a lost sow.

October 18, 1934, early afternoon – Claude came upon Lola at the hog pen and suggested they might have sex. “How about me being with you?” Lola dismissed the request, “you must be a fool.” (Rumor in the black community claims the two were regulars for sex. Cannady’s vehemently deny this as she was engaged at the time to a white man.) Claude continued on and Lola began to call out for Wilford who was out in the field. Claude placed his hands around her neck and choked Lola so she could no longer cry out. The pair struggled a bit and at this point, Claude raped Lola (or otherwise had sex with her). Knowing he now had a serious problem on his hands, Claude took a nearby oak branch and struck Lola in the head knocking her unconscious. He pulled some logs and branches over her to hide the body. Claude started back to the house (Sallie Smith) but looked back and noticed Lola trying to pull herself out of the branches. Realizing she wasn’t dead, Claude went back and finished the job. (Some would later claim he had sex with her dead body).

October 18, 1934 – Late Afternoon – Claude returned home, bloody from his encounter. His wife and mother knew something terrible had occurred and began trying to wash the blood out of his clothing while Claude went into hiding. The Cannady family noticed Lola was missing and began to look for her at the hog pen. They found signs of a struggle. Word spread rapidly and neighbors descended on the Cannady farm to help the search. The men find tracks leading to and from the Smith house. They find a second trail of a man and woman leading to a nearby woodlot. The woman’s tracks showed drag marks.

October 18, 1934 – Night – Fires light up the entire 80 acre tract where the search was focused. The individual searchers used torches and lanterns to cover the entire area between the Cannady house and the hog pen where Lola was last known to go. Several men followed the tracks to the Smith house where they found Sallie and Claude’s wife washing a man’s bloody clothing. (no other male in the house) News began to spread that Claude was under suspicion and the search expanded to include him. Neither Lola nor Claude were found overnight.

October 19, 1934 – 6 A.M. – Sheriff Chambliss is called from Greenwood. Obviously dead for several hours, Lola’s badly beaten body was found in the woodlot by her uncle and cousin covered with logs and pine boughs. Chambliss examined the area and found a watch stem and ring from a pocket watch and a torn swath of bloody cloth.

October 19, 1934 – 9:30 A.M. – Medical Examiner (local doctor named George S. Hodges) examines Lola and finds bruises and lacerations. He concludes she was raped and murdered. George Cannady described the body. “Her throat was bruised and scratched where he had choked her so she couldn’t cry out. . . . Her head was beat in and she had been choked so hard her eyes were coming out of their sockets, her arms were broken and she was all beat up.”

Chambliss arrested Sallie Smith as an accessory to murder and had her taken to jail in Chipley, Florida where they had a more secure facility than at Jackson County Jail in Marianna.

Claude Neal by Deputy Coullette arrested a few miles from Greenwood near the border with Alabama in the town of Malone. Claude does not resist. His hands are cut-up and his pocket watch is missing part of its stem and ring. (50 years later a witness to the arrest indicated that Claude confessed with a simple explanation of “Yes sir, the Devil was in me.” This does not jive with Sheriff Chambliss later need to obtain confession from Claude.) With Claude in custody, Coullette stops by the Cannidy farm so Sheriff Chambliss can interview Neal. He gets nothing useful from Claude. Chambliss sends Coullette to drop the physical evidence by their office in Marianna on the way to the jail in Chipley with Claude.

October 19, 1934 – Noon - At the request of both Sheriff Chambliss and State Attorney John Carter, Dr. A. D. MacKinnon arrived at the Cannidy farm to examine Lola’s body for a 2nd opinion. He reported “no bruises or lascerations” and “no signs of rape appear, but she had had intercourse.” (This notation in Sheriff Chambliss report has been cited as significant for those who believe Claude and Lola had an existing relationship).

October 19, 1934 – Late Afternoon – Sheriff Chambliss investigated a claim by Claude’s family that a white man named Calvin Cross had dropped off the bloody clothes to be washed by Sallie Smith. The sheriff reported later that Cross had witnesses to his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

Lola Cannady buried in the cemetery at her family’s church after an emotional service at 4 P. M. Annie ‘Kitten’ Smith (Claude’s mother) arrested for assessor to murder and sent to jail at Chipley. (probably for telling that story about Calvin Cross).

Claude is transferred to Panama City jail to cut off mob action by those rumored to be already interested in lynching him.

October 19, 1934 – Evening - While Sheriff Chambliss was back at his office in Marianna reviewing the evidence with State Attorney Carter, Deputy Hamm called in at 7:30 to report a convoy of suspicious looking cars “passing through Cottondale going toward Chipley and Panama City.” Sheriff Chambliss called down to the Panama City Jail and arranged for Claude to be transferred to Camp Walton via boat, then on to Pensacola by car where he would be in the custody of Sheriff Gandy. “Mobs storm Chipley and Panama City jails for Neal within thirty minutes after he is removed from Panama City.” The Panama City Pilot ran this on October 25, 1934 – “The mob of over 100, in 27 cars, unmasked, composed largely of farmers, reached Panama City at 9:30 and went directly to the jail demanding the negro. Jailer Will pledger told them that Sheriff Hobbs had left with the negro and he did not know where they were headed for. Jailer Pledger allowed leaders of the mob to make a complete search of the jail and premises. When the negro was not found, the crowd still waited around the jail. Sheriff Hobbs had returned then and explained to the crowd that he had been requested to remove the negro by the officers of Jackson County, and that the negro was then out of Bay county. He asked the men kindly to disperse and expressed deepest sympathy for them.” The reporter described the crowd as “orderly, quiet and determined, talking in undertones. None were masked. There was no display of arms, no worse than murder.”

Sheriff Chambliss later report had this to say of the evidence review: “Piece of cloth fitted into torn sleeve of Neal’s shirt, and the ring is fitted into the watch.”

October 20, 1934, 2:30AM – A crowd showed up at Sheriff Chambliss home demanding to “know whereabouts of Neal, but information refused.”

October 20, 1934, 10:30AM – Sheriff Chambliss begins interrogation of Sallie and Annie Smith in the Chipley jail but the two women keep quiet. A mob showed up demanding the two women be delivered to them but Sheriff Chambliss confronted them successfully. The mob promised to return.

October 20, 1934, 4:30PM – Sheriff Chambliss rejects an offer from the mob that “if he will cut down size of the guard transporting Neal after conviction mob would probably let him be brought to trial.”

October 21 1934, 10:30AM – Mob from Jackson County returned to the Chipley jail but the deputy refused and called Sheriff Chambliss. The mob threatened to return with welding torches “to cut into the jail.” When Sheriff Chambliss arrived the two scared women confessed to the sheriff they had heard Lola’s screams and that the bloody clothes being washed belonged to Claude.

Monday, October 22, 1934, Early Morning – The coroner’s jury released the official investigation with the conclusion that Lola was ‘brutally raped and murdered by Claude Neal.’ At 9 A.M. Judge Lewis ordered the Jackson County grand jury to convene in two days for indictments.

Sheriff Gandy of Pensacola called Sheriff Chambliss to report that Neal made “a complete confession and implicated a negro named Herbert Smith of Malone.” (no mention of why Neal would suddenly confess but assumption of some beating/threats is assumed). Gandy wanted Smith brought to Pensacola so they could put Smith and Neal together and see what happened. Around 10 A. M. Chambliss put Deputy Coulliette on the task of investigating Herbert Smith.

October 22, 1934, Afternoon – Deputy Coulliette picked up Smith and drove him to Tallahassee for safety.

October 22, 1934, Evening – After having moved Claude Neal to a jail in Brewton, Alabama, Sheriff Gandy gets written confession from Neal detailing how Smith and Neal raped Lola but that Smith had taken the lead and done the killing. (In later years, author Cox and historians took Neal’s story of Smith’s actions as if he had described his own acts.) According to Neal, Smith made a pass at Lola but was rebuffed at which time “Herbert pulled her on over the fence” choking Lola into silence while the two men dragged her into the woodlot. Lola fought Herbert with her hands and tried to kick him off but Smith overpowered her and then Neal also raped the girl although he stated that, “I didn’t want to do that.” Afterwards, Smith hit Lola in the head with a branch until she lay still. Once Lola hadn’t moved for a time they used some logs to cover her up even though they could see she was still breathing and “not quite dead at the time.”

October 23, 1934 – Interviews with the Cannady family and stories of Lola’s murder continue to appear in newspapers (sometimes embellished by aggressive editors) across the country.

Herbert Smith was transported from Tallahassee to Pensacola at Gandy’s request to confront Neal.

October 24, 1934 – Wed Morning – Gandy brought Smith to Brewton for the confrontation. Neal immediately recanted the accusations against Smith and confessed, adding: “I got to thinking I had done played the devil and she was half dead anyhow, so I went back and killed her.” (some think Neal chose to accuse Smith because of an earlier fight between the two men) Author Cox states that Sheriff Chambliss never believed the accusation since the physical evidence pointed to a single perpetrator.

October 24, 1934 – Late Night – Sheriff Byrne of Brewton told an AP reporter that Neal confessed. Author Cox asserts that Byrne tried to convince the reporter Neal had been moved but was not believed and news of Neal’s whereabouts went out over the wire service.

October 25, 1934 – Early Morning – The Jackson County lynch mob reassembled and made plans for an armed raid on the Brewton Jail. Neal amends his written confession to exclude Smith’s participation.

October 25, 1934 – Late Afternoon – The heavily armed Jackson County lynch mob chooses six men as the leaders (called the “Committee of Six”) who dressed in dark suits or in similar attire to Florida deputies. At dark the mob rolled out in a long caravan along the back roads toward Brewton. (Cox says Chambliss had “no idea that an attempt to seize Neal was underway." In another book, author McGovern says that Sheriff Byrne of Brewton was warned by a visit from a member of the lynch mob.

October 25, 1934 – 8 P. M. – In an unrelated but very distracting incident, Deputy Ham of Jackson County is shot while transporting some bank robbers from Marianna to Chipley for trial. Sheriff Chambliss goes to Chipley to investigate the shooting and health of his deputy.

October 26, 1934 – 1:00 A. M. – The mob rolled quietly into Brewton and broke into small groups of 3 or 4 cars each and drove around the town scouting to see what was up. One group was stopped by a policeman who provided directions to the jail. By 2 A. M. they were ready to move on the jail. A local reported a mob of about 300 people getting gas at 1:45. He warned the police who warned Jailer Shanholtzer they were coming.

Sheriff Byrne rushed to the jail. He described the confrontation: “When I got to the jail there were two or three cars there and two of the men got out of one of the cars and talked to me and one got out holding an automatic shotgun on me. They demanded the Negro of me and I gave them assurance that he was not in the jail, but had been carried away. I attempted to placate them by assuring them that if he was in my jail I would be glad to turn him over to them, and went so far as to offer carrying them through the jail and letting them see for themselves, feeling that I had safely concealed the Negro in the death cell, and that after looking over the Negro prisoners in the regular cells, they should leave satisfied. They expressed confidence that I had told them the truth, shook hands with me and left.”

As the men drove out of town, Sheriff Byrne followed them to make sure they left. Once they were gone, a second group from the mob pulled up to the jail and rushed in the outer door taking jailer Shanholtzer by surprise. They demanded the keys and held him at gunpoint while bringing in dynamite to blast the cell open. “He said that he would blow the place off the corner if they did not find what they were looking for. They took the keys from me and being unable to unlock the cell, held their guns on a white trusty in the jail and compelled him to unlock the doors. They might have overlooked the Negro in the death cell if he had not rushed to the door to see what it was all about, but as soon as they saw him they expressed satisfaction, had the cell unlocked and took him away.” They told the jailer Neal was headed back to Marianna where Lola’s father wanted to kill him personally.

The 2nd group took their prisoner and sped out of town right past Sheriff Byrne who reported the kidnapping to Sheriff Gandy over in Pensacola.

October 26, 1934 – 8 A. M. – Sheriff Chambliss returned to his office from the Chipley hospital and spoke with Sheriff Gandy from Pensacola. The Jackson County lynch mob had taken Claude from Brewton.

October 26, 1934 – 9 A. M. – The mob arrived in Cambellton and made plans for a lynching to take place between 8 and 9 p. m. that evening at the Cannady farm. George Cannady was promised to be the first to strike at Neal. The ‘Committee of Six’ took Neal to a deserted place at the old riverboat landing near Parramore on the Chattahoochee River.

Sheriff Chambliss returned to Chipley to wait on Ham and investigate the shooting. Jackson County and Claude Neal were left to his remaining deputies.

October 26, 1934 – Afternoon – Word of the lynching had spread throughout the region and the Dothan Eagle came out with the story on its front page in the afternoon edition. The Jackson county newspapers missed announcing the time and place for the lynching but did run a story that Claude had “made a complete confession to the crime and intends to plead guilty when arraigned.” The Jackson County Floridan story went on to congratulate the sheriff for his efforts to protect Neal from those who “have strongly favored the court of Judge Lynch.” The governor contacted Sheriff Chambliss with an offer of National Guard troops but it was declined.

The Eagle story: “As disclosed by an informant in touch with the mob, the Negro is to be carried to the spot where he committed the crime a week ago, mutilated and tied to the stake. There, the men folks of the dead girl are to have the first blow – and then, the Eagle’s informant said, the Negro will be mutilated and burned at the stake. This will take place just after dark and crown the week’s hunt for the Negro which has carried determined mobsmen into every county seat in Northwest Florida and culminated with the assault on the Brewton jail where the jailer was cowed by guns and the Negro removed.”

October 26, 1934 – Late Afternoon – Folks started arriving at the Cannady Farm and soon a crowd estimated at 3,000 people gathered to watch the spectacle. A reporter from the Marianna Times-Courier noted “men, women and children” in ‘ringside seats’ at a “well organized” event in the same field where Lola’s murder had taken place.

October 26, 1934 – 8 P.M. – Nervous about the size of the crowd, the Committee of Six fail to produce Claude Neal at the farm. The crowd gets rowdy and drunk but Claude is not produced, they begin to drift away.

October 26, 1934 – 10 P. M. – At Peri Landing, the Committee of Six begin to torture Claude Neal in a variety of ways. With Neal strung up by his neck through a fork in a tall tree, one committee member used a sharp knife (he had been sharpening the blade with a whetstone all evening) to cut strips of flesh from his body while another pulled Claude up and down with the rope so that his feet only barely reached the ground, choking the unfortunate prisoner and making his legs swing in a wild dance, but never quite killing him. Once Claude’s knife wounds were exposed and bleeding, a hot welding torch was applied to provide pain and keep him alive. The men developed a pattern of cutting, choking, and burning that continued for a couple of hours. During the ordeal Claude alternated between submissive confession, begging for his life, and cursing his attackers. At one point, a committee member cut-off Neal’s genitals and may have even tried to make Claude eat them. Finally, just after midnight, Neal was shot and killed.

October 26, 1934 – 11 P. M. – The majority of onlookers gone, the hardcore members of the mob that remained began to turn hostile.

October 27, 1934 – 1 A. M. – The Committee of Six drove Claude’s body to the Cannady Farm for display to the lynch mob. The last few hundred yards they dragged his body down the dirt road tied to the bumper of a car. Once at the farm, a man cut the rope and the Committee members drove away into the night leaving George Cannady and the mob to their fun. (Later reports indicate that George was actually so upset at not being given first revenge he went crazy) One NAACP informant indicated, “a woman came out of the Cannidy house and drove a butcher knife into his heart, then the crowd came by and kicked him and some drove their cars over him.” The body was shot a number of times.

October 27, 1934 – 3 A. M. - The local reporter on the scene told the rest. “. . . Another mob was organized and they brought him to Marianna at 3 o’clock this morning where it hanged him to a tree on the east side of the court house lawn. His nude body was hanging at that place at an early hour this morning. After stringing him up in the tree, the mob quickly dispersed. Neal’s body was mutilated. Three fingers of one hand and two on the other had been amputated, besides other mutilations.”

October 27, 1934 – 5 A. M. – Sheriff Chambliss wakes up to news that one of the bank robbery prisoners died at the hospital. He gets dressed and drives starts to the hospital. In the sheriff’s report to Governor Sholtz, at 6 A. M. “Body of Neal discovered by sheriff hanging to tree in Court House grounds. Taken down by Sheriff and taken to jail yard. Body was cold; had been dead some time. Now understand that dead body was hung there just before daylight.”

October 27, 1934 – “8 A. M. – Marianna full of people, demanding to see body and demanding that it be hung up again; all of which was refused by Sheriff. Circuit Judge requests that crowd be permitted to view body at the jail in orderly manner, which was done.”

October 27, 1934 – 10 A. M. – Neal’s body taken to Nubbin Ridge Cemetery near Greenwood and buried in an unmarked grave. The gravesite purposefully obscured to prevent desecration and/or attempts to place it back on display. The Circuit Judge suspended court on “account of the mental condition of the people.”

October 27, 1934 – Noon – “Toward noon a white man struck a Negro who sought to defend himself and in the struggle with the white man, hurled a pop bottle at him. By this time a crowd had gathered and the sight of a Negro resisting a white man (threw) the crowd into a frenzy. The Negro finally tore himself away from the mob and ran across the street and into the courthouse, where he was given protection by a friendly group of white men. The mob clamored for another victim, but they were held at bay by a machine gun.” (Author Cox indicates there was no actual machine gun but only a threat of one. However, this account from the NAACP should be otherwise ‘reasonable’.)

October 27, 1934 – 12:30 P. M. – With an angry lynch mob still surrounding the Jackson County Jail and Courthouse, Associate Justice of the Florida Supreme Court (who happened to be in the courthouse that day) appeared on the front steps of the courthouse and addressed the mob in a loud booming voice. His words are not known but he was successful in turning the mob away from the courthouse. On the inside of the Jail, Deputy Cooper called the Governor’s office to report the situation in Marianna.

October 27, 1934 – 12:50 P. M. – Governor Sholtz called in the National Guard units from Tallahassee and Panama City to bring peace to Jackson County.

October 27, 1934 – 1:00 P. M. - Deputy Ham died of his wounds in Chipley. The mob begins talk of lynching the shooter (white prisoner named Mears) who was in the jail.
The Marianna Riots erupted:

Sheriff Chambliss reported the afternoon riots: “12:00 – 3:00 P.M: Numerous outbreaks against negroes in Marianna, consisting of kicking them off the streets by crowds of white people, mostly drinking, and mostly from Alabama and Georgia, and surrounding counties. These mobs forced their way through several private dwellings searching for negroes, and presented themselves to numerous business establishments in Marianna demanding the negro employees. Several business men kept them out at the point of a gun.”

Howard Kester’s NAACP pamphlet of two weeks later: “. . . I am reliably informed that this mob was led by a young man from Calhoun County, who has money and comes from a ‘good’ family. The mob apparently started from the west side of the plaza and began driving Negroes from the streets and stores where some were engaged in buying and selling and working for white employers. An observer stated that, ‘the mob attacked men, women and children and that several blind persons were ruthlessly beaten.’ Another observer said: ‘They (Negroes) came from the town in droves, some driving, some running, some crying, all scared to death. . . In several instances the mob met resistance on the part of white employers of Negro labor. A Negro porter was serving a white customer in front of his employer’s store. Before he knew what was happening the mob was upon him. With a knife he slashed his way through the mob and gained the front door of the store. His employer locked him in a room and kept the mob away with a shot gun. . . Some women sent their maids home, others hid them in closets. One man whose wife shielded her maid from the mob said ‘Saturday was a day of terror and madness, never to be forgotten by anyone.’”

Either by intimidation or cooperation, the police force in Marianna completely disappeared from the scene and were nowhere to be found during the riots. Mayor Burton explained later that he only had two policemen and “to send them against that mob meant probable injuries and death for somebody; what I did was tell them to circulate among the crowd . . . and spot the leaders for later arrest.” (There was no explanation as to why two trained officers, familiar with the community, were unable to later identify any of the mob members.)

October 27, 1934 – 4:00 P. M. – A caravan of 75 cars with 250 members of the American Legion rolled into town and cause the riots to stop. Many of the mob members actually believe they are National Guard troops. Thirty minutes later at 4:30, the National Guard troops arrived and deployed at key points around the town square within minutes. Within a few hours all positions are in place and order is completely restored. The mob had drifted away and dispersed during the placements. Marianna is occupied and under martial law.

Although several people were injured, no one died. An eerie silence was said to settle over the community.

October 28, 1934 – Sunday Morning – The nation awoke to all the gruesome details of Claude Neal’s lynching and the subsequent riots in Marianna, even with a few extra details thrown in for a better story. A media circus quickly starts descending on the community. Sheriff Chambliss spends much of the day at Deputy Ham’s funeral.

October 29, 1934 – The National Guard presence continues but greatly scaled back. They leave that night. Judge Lewis orders a Grand Jury to convene on November 5.

October 31, 1934 – Sheriff Chambliss files his report with the governor. He says, “I have not been able to learn any of the details of the Neal lynching; and do not know whether he was killed in Alabama or Florida. I am making further investigation along this line, and will advise you of results.”

November 1, 1934 – Sheriff Chambliss delivers his report to Governor Sholtz who then gave a statement to the press requesting a “vigorous and thorough effort to run down the ring leaders of this mob and prosecute them. It has been reported here that some of the ringleaders are supposed to be known.”

November 2, 1934 – The Jackson County Floridan ran an editorial defending the practice of lynching by reference to the Supreme Court’s recent grant of a new trial to the Scottsboro Boys. “Lynch law is deplorable. But civil institutions must be greatly strengthened before they will supplant the lynching evil. Lynch law is a challenge to the weakness of legal procedure. If the Scottsboro, Ala., case is a living example of “the law taking its course,” the outlook for the suppression of lynch law any time soon, is dismal.”

November 7, 1934 – NAACP investigator (Howard Kester) reported having an extensive interview with ‘Red’ who was “a member of the mob which lynched Claude Neal. He described the scene in all of its horror, down to the minutest detail. I was quite nauseated by the things which apparently gave this man the greatest delight to relate. I met him by chance and as yet I haven’t been able to discover his name or address. I am doing my best to discover the leaders but I am already under suspicion and I have to move with the greatest care possible.”

Kester also stated that Claude and Lola were known to have “for some time been having intimate relations with each other.” There was an alternate story in the black community that Claude had killed Lola because she wanted to break it off with him and there was no rape. Kester concluded that “there is little room for doubt that Neal actually killed Lola Cannidy but no evidence at all that there was any rape.”

November 9, 1934 – Grand Jury reported its findings to Judge Lewis. Claude – guilty. Perpetrators – unknown. Sheriff – exonerated. “. . practically all of our evidence and information being in the nature of hearsay and rumors. However, we find that Miss Lola Cannidy was brutally raped and murdered in the county on the 18th day of October, 1934, by Claud Neal, a negro, and that Claud Neal came to his death in this County on the 26th day of October, 1934, at the hands of a small group of persons unknown to us, after being forcibly removed from the jail at Brewton, Alabama, about 175 miles from here, by persons unknown to us.
We find that the sheriff of this County did everything within his power under the circumstances to protect his prisoner, and we commend him for his action in performing his duty.”

A grand jury in Escambia County, Alabama investigated the kidnapping of Claude Neal from the jail in Brewton. They found no fault in the local sheriff’s department and were unable to identify any of the perpetrators.

November 30, 1934 – The NAACP released its final report as a pamphlet titled, The Lynching of Claude Neal. The pamphlet ended with five conclusions:
1. The Mob intended to lynch Claude Neal from the beginning
2. That the nature of the press reports confirmed their intention.
3. That the statements occurring in the local press incited to lynching.
4. That the local officials and the Governor of the state must have been aware of the probability of lynching, and
5. That insufficient protection was given the prisoner.


Claude Neal’s mother and Aunt were kept in protective custody for a couple of months after which they remained in Pensacola with assistance from some local women. In 2011, the FBI opened a new investigation under the Emmitt Till Act of 2008 but nothing new.

Author/Historian Cox claims to know the names of the Committee of Six in his book but refuses to name them to prevent embarrassment to their current descendants. An article by Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times came out in October 2011 that provided transcript of an interview between Cox and one of the Committee members. It is quickly apparent that much of the detail on Claude’s death came from that interview, reprinted here from that story:

“He was scared to begin with, telling us he didn’t do it but that he would point out the man that did. Stuff like that. But then after he got relaxed he started to get mad and uppity. He said he had done it and if she weren’t dead he would do it again. We was supposed to take him to ole man Cannady’s house and let him do the killing, but we heard from our man there that there was so many people that showing up with him would just get people hurt. So instead we took him down to Peri Landing and chained him to a tree on that little rise there where the road cuts down through the hill back from the river. Know where I mean?”

“Well, we kept asking him weren’t he sorry for what he had done, but he kept saying no sir, he wasn’t. We beat on him some, I reckon, and started cutting him and letting the blood run then burned the blood with a torch. We did a lot to him, I reckon.”

“Well, I guess we was pretty liquored up and I ain’t like that no more, but we cut off his balls and made him eat them and say they was good. Then we cut off his pecker and made him eat it and say it was good. Burned him up some. Whipped him some. I know everybody says we cut off his fingers and toes and all that but we didn’t really do that. Other people did that later. After he was killed.”

“Oh, well, we decided we couldn’t risk carrying him alive up to Cannady’s place, so somebody shot him.”

“Well, we put him up on the back of the car and carried him in slow procession I guess you could say up to Parramore and then on up the Bascom road. We stopped there at your granddaddy’s and showed him what we had done. You ever hear of that?”

“From there we went on up the old road near abouts to Bascom then on over to the Cannady place. When we got there we kicked him off the bumper and drug him on up there. The old man and old woman came out and was pretty mad with us. He kept saying that we had promised him he could do it, but we hadn’t promised nobody nothing. ------------ came out and shot a round of bullets into him but he was already dead. -------------- cut off the little finger on his left hand too. Everybody that wanted a look took a look and some of the kids poked with sticks or kicked at him. Somebody then said that if old Flake (Sheriff’s nickname) wanted him so bad, we should take him on up there and give him to him. So we took him up to the courthouse and hung him in a tree right outside Flake’s office. That’s pretty much what we did.”

“Well, I don’t think much on it. It just seems like it were something that happened but it don’t seem so real nowadays. I mean I don’t feel bad about it because he raped and killed that girl. There weren’t no doubt about that. He were a bad man. A bad man.”
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