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The Death of Louis Rice

7 Aug

From the Washington Progress (Washington, North Carolina) January 17, 1901 edition.

Washington Press Jan 17 1901

Washington Press Jan 17 1901

Louis Rice’s crime was that of testifying in favor of his friend, Henderson House, in House’s murder trial. House had been accused in the murder of Duncan Goodrich, a white man, after a fight that occurred during gambling. House was lynched for the crime and his friend Rice was lynched March 23, 1900. What makes this interesting is that House was not lynched until September 18, 1900. The accused lived longer than his friend who testified for him.

You can read more about Henderson House here -> The Story of Henderson House – A Hanging in Ripley

When looking at the dates of the lynchings of Rice and House it occurred to me that this all took place in 1900. January 1900 was the date of what could be called Lauderdale County’s most infamous lynching, that of the Gingery Brothers. It is safe to say that after an incident like that that the people of the county would be on edge. It amazes me that Rice was brave enough to even testify in the trial given what the atmosphere of the county would have been like at this time.

My attempt to find out more about Louis Rice was unfruitful. Rice was a very common surname for Lauderdale County during this time. Unfortunately for my search I found more than a few Louis/Lewis Rices between Lauderdale and Haywood counties. Because he died in 1900 it is unlikely that he would have a death certificate.

So what do we know about Louis Rice?

Margaret Vandiver in her book, Lethal Punishment, points out some interesting things to note in both the cases of Louis Rice and Henderson House.

Louis Rice

– Had been described by various newspapers as a physician. Had also been described as having committed a murder himself prior to this.

– His only offense was taking too much of an interest in the case. Apparently, he had taken it upon himself to interview witnesses and submit affidavits through an attorney with more evidence that would have possibly proved House innocent.

– Some in Lauderdale County “greatly regretted” and “deeply deplored” his lynching.

Henderson House

– A petition was started by white citizens of Lauderdale County and Shelby County, TN to spare him the death penalty. Hundreds of signatures were sent to the governor. Whites of Lauderdale County and Shelby County, TN (where House’s family lived) believed another man, Alf Halliburton, to have truly been the shooter. Alf Halliburton had been acquitted of any wrong doing.

– Tennessee’s Governor, Benton McMillin, refused to commute the sentence despite the efforts of locals and House was ultimately lynched.

Rice was lynched for trying to free House and that cause was ultimately picked up by whites in Lauderdale County who later tried to do the same thing after Rice’s death.

 

Atlanta Journal Constitution March 24, 1900

Atlanta Journal Constitution March 24, 1900

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Washington Press (Washington, North Carolina) January 17, 1901 edition, Lethal Punishment by Margaret Vandiver p.46 – 48, The Atlanta Journal Constitution March 24, 1900 edition, US Census Records

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The Story of Henderson House – A Hanging in Ripley

1 Aug

On Tuesday, September 18, 1900 the first legal execution was performed in Ripley, TN. Henderson House was hanged in what was known as the Negro Cemetery better known today as Canfield Cemetery. The crime which was committed by Henderson House was murder of a white man. On October 4, 1896 at the Isabel Bar located on the Mississippi River in Plumpoint Henderson House murdered a White man named Duncan Goodrich. According to newspaper accounts at the time a whiskey boat had been drawn up to the banks of the Mississippi River and was dispensing liquor to a crowd of Blacks and a few White people. A craps game was also in progress between Goodrich, House, Alf Halliburton and a few others. A dispute arose and Goodrich was shot in the back. Henderson House and Alf Halliburton were identified as the murderers.

 They were officially charged with the crime by a grand jury in November of 1896. While awaiting transport back to Ripley to face charges Alf Halliburton escaped and was not captured again until 1898 in Atoka, TN. He was later acquitted. Henderson House left Lauderdale County, TN the night of the crime. He was later captured in Jonesboro, Arkansas in August of 1899. He was tried in March of 1900 and sentenced to be hanged on May 18, 1900. His case was appealed to the state Supreme Court and affirmed with a new date of execution to be August 18, 1900. He was granted a reprieve by Governor McMillian until September 18, 1900.

 On September 18, 1900 Henderson House was brought from the Shelby County Jail in Memphis, TN by train. He was transported by a closed carriage to Canfield Cemetery. While on the scaffold he professed to committing the crime stating that he realized he must die and did not want to go on with a lie on his lips. The execution took place at 11:00 am and the trap was sprung by Ira Barfield. He was pronounced dead by Dr. James Lackey, the county physician. Only 8 people attended the execution and none of them were relatives of Henderson House. At the request of House a Black preacher named Rome Johnson was present and delivered a short message and a prayer. House was buried near the place of execution.

 

SOURCE:

 “A Peep Into the Past.” Lauderdale County Enterprise [Ripley, TN] 17 Sept. 1926. Print.