John Jones

Background

John C. Jones was killed at the hands of a white lynch mob on August 8, 1946. He shared the ordeal of his imprisonment, abduction, and assault with his seventeen year old cousin Albert Harris, Jr.

On July 30, 1946 Albert Harris was arrested in connection with an alleged intrusion in the yard of his white neighbor Sam Maddry, Jr. He was held for several days in Minden jail. Immediately after his release Harris was abducted by a carload of armed men and taken to a wooded area where he was beaten and interrogated. His assailants proposed that Harris’s cousin, John C. Jones, was the individual who had been spotted in Maddry’s yard. They only released Harris once he accepted this version of events.

On August 4, Harris was re-imprisoned alongside Jones. The two men were beaten and questioned by Sheriff Haynes and Sam Maddry, Sr., but both denied any wrong doing. After four days the prisoners were released. As the cousins exited the jail they were seized by an armed mob and driven to a wooded area about three miles southwest of Minden where they were severely beaten. Only Harris returned from the woods alive; his older cousin died in his arms. A later NAACP investigation reported that the attack on Jones bore evidence of “bestial sadism”.

Legal Status

The Jones lynching attracted national attention. Press interest was heightened by the fact that local law enforcement refused to commit to any arrests or prosecutions. The NAACP launched an in-depth investigation into the lynching. They gathered testimonies from Albert Harris and his father and compiled a list of suspects. Through the combined efforts of the NAACP and FBI sufficient evidence was collected to provide for a federal prosecution.

The U.S. Justice Department opened a case against six suspects including Officer Haynes and Sam Maddry, Sr. In a high profile trial, the defense counsel played upon enduring Southern hostility towards federal government, representing the case of the prosecution as a politically motivated attack on the South. This strategy, combined with appeals to the racial prejudices of the jury, proved successful; all of the defendants were acquitted of the charges against them.

In August 1947, a year after Jones’s death, his widow brought a civil suit against Sheriff Haynes. Carrie Lee Jones sued the sheriff for $50, 000, charging that he failed to provide for the safekeeping of her husband. The Sheriff fought the suit which was dismissed by the district judge. No further legal action was taken.