Lynch mob of two dozen goes unidentified, unpunished

On this day in 1935: Just days after Sen. Josiah Bailey of North Carolina helped filibuster to death a federal anti-lynching bill, a black man is lynched in Franklin County.

The lynch mob — unmasked and in full daylight — takes Govan “Sweat” Ward from the custody of Sheriff John Moore and two deputies and hangs him from a scrub oak with a cotton plow line. Ward, 25 years old, was accused of decapitating a white farmer with an axe.

The sheriff will claim later that he recognized none of the two dozen lynchers and failed to note the license number of the car that carried away his prisoner (“I wish we had,” he says).

In spite of Gov. J.C. Ehringhaus’s calls for action, Ward’s murderers will remain anonymous. About 100 lynching deaths occurred in North Carolina after 1882; Ward’s will be the last in which the killers go unpunished.

 

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