Edgar Thomas

Background

On October 13, 1945, Edgar B. Thomas Sr., a 63-year-old wealthy business man and shop owner, was shot to death by Officer Dewey Bradley. It appears that Thomas was targeted because of his relative prosperity and independent spirit.

Edgar Thomas’ father, John L. Thomas had been forced to leave the Union Springs area at the turn of the century. Reportedly he had been purchasing large portions of land, subdividing it, and selling it to African – American tenant farmers. John L. Thomas was arrested, then forced to flee town and was living in Chicago at the time that his son was killed.

On October 7, 1945, five days before his murder, Edgar Thomas was beaten by Officer Dewey Bradley and then arrested. That morning, Thomas was in the store with a friend before it opened when Bradley and another officer forced their way into the store through a rear entrance. The officers beat Thomas and arrested him on a charge of disorderly conduct.

After Thomas was released on bail he addressed the mayor and members of the City Council, requesting that the officers be disciplined for mistreating him. As a well respected citizen of the community, Thomas was supported by residents of both races.

In the days following Thomas’ release, Bradley claimed that Thomas was threatening his life. On October 13, Bradley and another police officer entered Thomas’ store a second time. According to reports, one of the officers had two pistols and Bradley wielded a sawed off shot gun. The officer with the pistols covered the entrance to make sure no one entered the store, while Bradley shot Thomas. According to an eyewitness, as the police officers entered the store they told Thomas “[w]e have come to get you,” to which Thomas replied “[w]hat in the name of the Lord are you going to get me for?”

Legal Status

The death certificate of Edgar Thomas was signed by the sheriff and lists the cause of death as “homicide.”

Although Officer Bradley was eventually relieved of his duty as a City Officer, there is no evidence that he was formally charged in connection with Thomas’ death.  Bradley was involved in three shooting incidents in a period of three months. After the Thomas killing, the officer was implicated in the death of another man from Union Springs, one Jessie Hightower.  He also shot a third man, Alger Lee Gary in the eye, blinding him. For more on this story, see the page “Police Terror in Union Springs.”