Howard Wash

Background

On October 17, 1942 Howard Wash, a resident on the farm of Clint Welborn in Jones County, MS, was lynched following a dispute with his employer.

The ordeal began when Welborn called him to work early in the morning. When Wash arrived Welborn tried to assault him because he was late.  Wash tried to protect himself from the employer’s blows by striking him with a chair. Seeing Welborn fall dead, Wash fled the farm, leaving behind his wife and children.

Several weeks later, Wash was captured and returned to Jones County. There, he was eventually tried for Welborn’s murder.  On October 16, 1942, after a day long trial, the jury convicted Wash of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following the trial, he was detained in the Jones County Jail in Laurel.

On the next day, October 17, at about 2am, a mob of about 50 people broke into the jail, seized Wash, and hung him from the “Welborn Bridge,” made famous because two other young men, Charles Lang and Ernest Green was hung from the same bridge (see link).

Legal Status

The FBI investigated the Wash murder. The Department of Justice prosecuted five individuals, including one deputy sheriff, who were alleged to have been involved in the lynching. The men were indicted for civil rights violations under 18 USC 241 and 242 (then 18 USC 51 and 52).  This was the second such prosecution to occur in the twentieth century.

After one day of trial, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the federal civil rights case.