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Jordan Jameson (Lynching of)

Jordan Jameson, an African-American man, was burned to death on November 11, 1919, on the town square in Magnolia (Columbia County) for having allegedly murdered the local sheriff. Only a handful of lynchings in Arkansas were carried out by means of burning the victim while alive, most notably the 1892 lynching of Ed Coy in Texarkana (Miller County), the 1919 lynching of Frank Livingston near El Dorado (Union County), and the 1921 lynching of Henry Lowery in Mississippi County.

At the time of the lynching, Jameson was described in newspaper reports as fifty years old and living four miles west of Magnolia. The 1880 census records a Jourdan Jameson, born about 1872 and living in Magnolia at the time, while the 1910 Census records a John J. Jameson, born about 1871 and living in the vicinity of Lamartine (Columbia County) with his wife, Lonnie. Some early reports on the lynching gave Jameson’s name as John, and these could feasibly be referring to the same person. On November 7, 1919, Columbia County sheriff Benjamin E. Greer, along with deputies Duke Emerson and John Althin, traveled to Jameson’s home for the purpose of arresting the man on charges of beating his wife. However, as the sheriff entered the home, Jameson reportedly exchanged fire with him, fatally striking Greer in the head with his second shot. Jameson then escaped into the woods.

Following the murder, a posse was formed, bloodhounds were sent from the Cummins Prison Farm, and local businessmen offered a $500 reward for his capture (later increased to $1,000), but Jameson remained at large. The Arkansas Democrat reported that men from El Dorado (Union County) traveled to participate in the hunt, and posses searched a black settlement along Big Creek bottoms. In the meantime, Governor Charles Hillman Brough appointed Dave Futch of Magnolia to serve as sheriff. Heavy rains in the area complicated the search, and Jameson remained at large until about 1:00 a.m. on November 11, when he was captured by a posse of ten men from Waldo (Columbia County), reportedly at a “negro home” five miles northwest of Magnolia. After discovering Jameson’s wife on the scene, the posse surrounded the home and compelled Jameson to surrender by threatening to burn the house down around him. The Arkansas Gazette gives the names of the posse members as J. T. Bussey, Will Moody, Otha Dickson, Charles Dickson, Charley White, J. A. Sands, Monroe Henry, Ernest Kimball, W. M. Owen, and Will Toland.

News of the capture spread, and a mob formed and took Jameson from the posse as it was on its way to Magnolia. According to a later report in the Gazette, Sheriff Futch “endeavored to persuade the mob which lynched Jameson to desist and succeeded in maintaining order in every other respect.” Around 5:00 a.m., Jameson was taken to the public square in Magnolia and tied to a stake. A fire was built around him, and he burned to death as an ever-increasing crowd gathered to watch his execution. His body was subsequently “turned over to the negroes here, who buried it.”

The National Equal Rights League, an African-American organization that was then petitioning the governor to stay the execution of the men sentenced to death in the aftermath of the Elaine Massacre, sent a telegram to Governor Brough asking that he “exert every power for punishment of white persons who burned Jordan Jameson alive in public square.” The governor responded by saying that, while he deplored the recourse to lynching in the Jameson case, he had no intention of being influenced by the league when it came to matters arising from the Elaine Massacre.

For additional information:
“Brough to Ignore the Negro League.” Arkansas Gazette, November 16, 1919, p. 24.

“Equal Rights League Is Getting Active.” Arkansas Democrat, November 13, 1919, p. 11.

“Governor Scores Actions of ‘Equal Rights League.’” Arkansas Democrat, November 15, 1919, p. 1.

“Negro Evades Posses.” Arkansas Gazette, November 11, 1919, p. 7.

“Negro Who Slew Sheriff of Columbia County Is Burned at Stake by Mob.” Arkansas Democrat, November 11, 1919, p. 1.

“Police Seek Black Who Killed Sheriff.” Arkansas Gazette, November 8, 1919, p. 1.

“Posse Searching for Negro Slayer of Sheriff Greer.” Arkansas Democrat, November 8, 1919, p. 1.

“Sheriff’s Slayer Burned at Stake.” Arkansas Gazette, November 12, 1919, p. 9.

“Sheriff’s Slayer Still at Large.” Arkansas Gazette, November 9, 1919, p. 5.

Guy Lancaster
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 3/1/2018

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