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Home / Browse / Race & Ethnicity / African American / Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)
On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune.
According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain went to Sam’s home to arrest the brothers. Sam asked to go into his house to get his coat and then slammed the door on Cain. When Cain forced it open, he was immediately shot.
Sam Blakely escaped and was suspected of hiding in the swamps in nearby Chicot County. Sheriff C. M. Matthews formed a posse and began to pursue him with dogs. He apparently got onto a northbound freight train somewhere between Montrose (Ashley County) and Dermott (Chicot County). An officer in Dermott recognized him, but when he asked Blakely to halt, Blakely shot at him. Additional dogs were brought to Dermott by train, but by the following day, Sam Blakely had not been found.
In the meantime, Joe Blakely had been taken into custody as an accessory. While under arrest, he reportedly threatened to kill Bud Harper. In consequence, although he had not in fact murdered Cain, he was lynched. The Salt Lake City Broad Ax opined that “the lynching of the brother of the man who is charged with shooting Deputy Sheriff Cain is what they call red-handed justice, down in dark and bloody Ark.” Sam Blakely was captured on June 2 in Mississippi and is believed to have been returned to Arkansas, but no further record has been found.
According to the Gazette, Cain was survived by “his wife, who is said to be unprovided for, and a large number of relatives.” In 1910, Cain’s widow, Annie, was living with his parents in Portland.
For additional information:“Deputy Shot and Killed by Negro.” Arkansas Gazette, May 30, 1909, p. 2.
“Killing of a Dog Leads to Lynching.” Arkansas Gazette, May 31, 1909, p. 1.
“Murderer’s Brother is Lynched.” Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, Utah), June 5, 1909, p. 2.
“Sam Blakely is Captured.” Arkansas Gazette, June 3, 1909, p. 1.
Nancy Snell Griffith Clinton, South Carolina
Last Updated 6/19/2015
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