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Mon, 05.15.1916

The Waco Horror Lynchings Occurs

The Waco Horror took place on this date in 1916.  This was one of many lynchings of Blacks by whites in America during the early 20th century.

Of the 492 recorded lynchings that occurred in Texas between 1882 and 1930, this incident received the greatest coverage, both statewide and nationally. The incident began about sundown on the evening of May 8, 1916, near the town of Robinson, TX, eight miles south of Waco.

Twenty-one-year-old Ruby Fryer and her brother, George, white residents, returned home from chopping cotton on the family's 200-hundred acre farm to find their mother, 53-year-old Lucy Fryer, bludgeoned to death near the home.

Jesse Washington was arrested for the death of Lucy Fryer. Washington was a seventeen-year-old Black farmhand, the son of Henry and Martha Washington. He had at least one brother, William. The family had been living and working on the Fryer farm for only five months or so, since the beginning of the year.  Young Washington was a hefty, strong young man and could not read or write.  After confessing that he had both raped and murdered Mrs. Fryer, Washington was transferred to the Dallas County Jail by McLennan county sheriff Samuel S. Fleming.

Washington's trial began in Waco on May 15, in the Fifty-fourth District Court, with Judge Richard I. Munroe presiding over a courtroom filled to capacity. After hearing the evidence, a jury of 12 white men deliberated for only four minutes before returning a guilty verdict against the defendant and giving him the death penalty. Before law officers could remove Washington from the courtroom, a group of white spectators surged forward and seized the convicted youth. They rushed him down the stairs at the rear of the courthouse, where a crowd of about 400 persons waited in the alley.

A chain was thrown around Washington's neck, and he was dragged toward the City Hall, where another group of vigilantes had gathered to build a bonfire.  On the city hall grounds, the leaders of the mob threw Washington onto a pile of dry-goods boxes under a tree and poured coal oil over his body. The chain around Washington's neck was thrown over a limb of the tree, and several men joined to jerk him into the air before lowering his body onto the pile of wood and lighting a fire for torture.

Two hours later several men placed the burned corpse in a cloth bag and pulled the bundle behind an automobile to Robinson, where they hung the sack from a pole in front of a blacksmith's shop for public viewing. Later that afternoon constable Les Stegall retrieved the remains and turned them over to a Waco undertaker for burial.


Patricia Bernstein



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