Carbine Williams’ ‘collision of inventive thoughts’

On this day in 1926: Firearms inventor David Marshall “Carbine” Williams, imprisoned at Caledonia Farm, writes his mother:

“I am not in a writing mood. I am at present under stress of an unusual type of blues caused by a collision of inventive thoughts on a certain subject in my mind that is hard pressed to solve with other thoughts that come in, in the form of a most lonesome mood. Inventive thoughts in themselves to me are serious, and when other thoughts far more serious and of a most lonesome nature bombard each other at the same time in one small head [it] generally gives me the blues.”

While in prison for second-degree murder of a revenue agent in a raid on a moonshine still in Cumberland County, Williams develops — with the warden’s permission — the M1 carbine that will be used by 8 million soldiers during World War II.

His invention wins him a pardon from Gov. Angus McLean in 1929. In 1952 Jimmy Stewart will portray him in the movie “Carbine Williams.”


3 thoughts on “Carbine Williams’ ‘collision of inventive thoughts’”

  1. The law enforcement officer killed by Williams was a Cumberland County Deputy Sheriff named Alfred Jackson Pate. Not a revenue officer. Another deputy identified Williams during the preliminary hearing as the person he saw do the shooting. (Fayetteville Observer articles August-November 1921)

    Williams wasn’t pardoned. He received a sentence commutation reducing his sentence from 30 years to 20 years. (Pardons & Commutations by Govenor Angus McLean, North Carolina State Archives)

  2. My grandfather cast the sole vote that hung the jury trying Carbine for first degree murder, and thereby saved Carbine’s life. They later became good friends. I am interested in what others may know about the events surrounding the trial.

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