Hazel "Hayes" Turner

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Hazel "Hayes" Turner (August 15, 1892 – May 16, 1918) was an African American man who was lynched after being accused of murder in Lowndes County, Georgia. His lynching was reported by The Spokesman-Review on May 20, 1918.[1] When his wife, Mary Turner, denounced the murder, she was lynched along with their unborn child.[2]

Accusation[edit]

Hayes Turner, along with several other African American men, was accused of fatally shooting Hampton Smith, a Brooks County farmer, and injuring his wife. Shots were fired through the Smiths' living room window, and a bullet struck and killed Hampton Smith. Mrs. Smith was also in the living room and wounded by a bullet. According to a local newspaper, she identified Sidney Johnson as the shooter. Mrs. Smith claimed that, after she and her husband were shot, she ran into the front yard after the shooter, Sidney Johnson. She said that he beat her, and that a group of black men robbed her home.[1]

Lynching[edit]

Hayes Turner was arrested on the morning of Saturday, May 18, and placed in the jail in Valdosta, the county seat of Lowndes County. Later in the day County Sheriff Wade and a clerk of court took him out, ostensibly to move him to Quitman, the county seat of Brooks County. Along the way, Turner was taken by a mob and lynched near the Okapiloo River in Brooks County, about 3 1/2 miles from town. His body was left hanging from the tree over the weekend and not cut down until Monday.[2]

Aftermath[edit]

After Hayes Turner was murdered, his distraught wife Mary, who was eight months pregnant, publicly denounced her husband's lynching. She denied that her husband had been involved in Smith's killing, and threatened to have members of the mob arrested. The mob turned against her, determined to "teach her a lesson". Although she fled, Mary Turner was captured at noon on May 19. The mob of several hundred took her to the bank in Brooks County near Folsom Bridge, over the Little River, which forms the border with Lowndes County.[2]

According to investigator Walter F. White of the NAACP, Mary Turner was tied and hung upside down by the ankles, her clothes soaked with gasoline, and burned from her body. Her belly was slit open with a knife like those used "in splitting hogs." Her "unborn babe" fell to the ground and gave "two feeble cries." Its head was crushed by a member of the mob with his heel, and the crowd shot hundreds of bullets into Turner's body. Mary Turner was cut down and buried with her child near the tree, with a whiskey bottle marking the grave.[2]

While Georgia governor Hugh Dorsey was given a complete report of his investigation of the Turner murders, which included the names of two instigators and 15 participants, none was ever charged for the Turner killings.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Negro and Wife Lynched by Mob: Four Already Hanged for Murder of White Man". Associated Press. The Spokesman-Review. May 20, 1918. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Inc, The Crisis Publishing Company (1918). The Crisis. The Crisis Publishing Company, Inc.
  3. ^ Bernstein, Patricia (2006-01-18). The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 9781585445448.

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