Walter Gunn

Background

Walter Gunn was a thirty-four year old African American man from Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama. He was married to Sallie Hill Gunn, and they had four children. He either drove a truck or did construction for Tuskegee Army Flying School. He worked at his brother’s garage on Saturdays.

Gunn developed a friendship with a woman named Ollie Jackson. Sheriff Edwin E. Evans was interested in Jackson. He and his deputy Henry F. Faucett frequently beat prisoners, particularly African Americans, to force confessions. He focused on Gunn in particular because of Gunn’s friendship with Jackson. In October 1941 Gunn was beaten at St. Esther’s Church and his clothes were torn off. Evans warned Gunn to stop being in cars with Jackson.

On June 27, 1942, Gunn drove home from his brother’s garage. He wanted to pick up his wife to bring her to town. He arrived home at around 6:00 PM followed by the car of Evans and Faucett. The deputy sheriff said that Gunn was drunk and had almost killed them driving recklessly. However, both Gunn’s father Eddie Gunn and Edwin Baker had driven with him part of the way home and said he had not been drinking and was not drunk.

As Gunn arrived home, Evans and Faucett followed him in the sheriff’s car. Faucett fired three shots at Gunn’s car. Gunn got out of his car and ran around to the back of the house. His wife and four children were in the front yard. Faucett followed Gunn and shot at him again. The third shot hit Walter’s leg. Then Faucett beat Walter over the head with his gun and kicked him in the chest. Evans first spoke to Sallie Gunn, claiming that Gunn had tried to kill them and that he wanted Faucett to kill Gunn. He then went to help Faucett drag Walter from the back of the house. Several neighbors including Horace and Hattie Davis were next door at the home of Carrie Conner and witnessed.

Evans and Faucett forced Horace Davis to help them put Gunn in the back seat of Gunn’s car. Faucett drove Gunn’s car with Gunn in the back seat and Davis in the front. Evans drove his car to Joe Gunn’s garage. He forced Joe Gunn to come to the hospital and to take Walter from the car into the hospital. Walter was admitted to the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital at 9:00PM and was treated by Dr. John A. Kennel. He was bleeding in the ears and had a bruise above his right ear. He had bruises on his chest, and the bullet had broken his leg. Gunn died at 8:40 PM on June 28 without ever regaining consciousness.

 

Legal Status

Although Gunn’s death certificate lists homicide as the cause of death and although Eddie Gunn, Gunn’s father, tried to get his son’s murder investigated, no state charges were ever filed. In 1943, a federal investigation was conducted into the murder as well as the beating of prisoners by Evans and Faucett following a request by Assistant Attorney General Wendell Berge. Evans and Faucett were indicted by a grand jury in October 1942 under 18 U.S.C. 52 for depriving Gunn as well as ten other individuals of their due process rights. They were tried in the Middle District of Alabama in the federal district court in Opelika, Alabama. Judge C.C. Kennamer presided. Edward Burns Parker, the U.S. Attorney for the district, prosecuted the case along with G. Maynard Smith, a special assistant to the Attorney General in the Civil Rights Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. They were both acquitted on June 26, 1943 after a three-day trial.