Roosevelt Townes and Robert “Bootjack” McDaniels

Background

On December 30, 1936 George Windham, an owner of a small store outside of Duck Hill, MS was shot and killed while locking up his store for the night. It was reported that money had been taken from the cash drawer, leading one to conclude robbery was the motive for the killing.

Roosevelt Townes had allegedly been in Duck Hill before the murder and disappeared immediately after it. Convinced that Townes’ disappearance was related to the murder, local authorities caused Townes to be arrested in Memphis, TN in April 1937 where, allegedly, he confessed to involvement in the killing.

On April 13, 1937 Townes returned to Winona county to stand trial for the murder. At their first court appearance, the two defendants, Townes and McDaniels, had been arraigned entered “not guilty” pleas when twelve men from the crowd amassed outside the courthouse broke in and seized the prisoners. One witness told the NAACP investigator, Howard Kester, who arrived shortly after the lynching, that “it was all very carefully planned and executed. Apparently each man had a job to do and did it with dispatch.”

Surrounded by a mob of 300 people, including women and children, the men were hung from a tree and burned to death by a blow torch, one at a time. The physician who examined Townes’ body stated on the death certificate, “I saw this man at undertaker’s parlor on 4/14/37. He was burned to a crisp.” The cause of death is described on the certificate as “homicide by a mob. . . burned with a blowtorch & dead wood.”

Howard Kester investigated the case for the NAACP. He reported, “your investigator is convinced that mob action was anticipated; that the sheriff of Montgomery County took no real precaution whatever to insure the accused a fair trial; that he made no effort to defend his prisoners against the mob; that he did not try to rescue the prisoners from the mob. Your investigator is reasonably convinced that the sheriff was in sympathy with the mob leaders and did not intend to permit the accused men to stand trial; and further that no effort will be made to identify the lynchers or to prosecute the murderers of Townes and McDaniels; and finally that local officials are incompetent to cope with such occurrences and that only the Federal government can safely intervene in such matters on behalf of justice and fair play.”

Legal Status

There were no prosecutions associated with the death of Townes and McDaniels. The ex-mayor of the town told an investigator “there are a thousand people in Montgomery County who can name the lynchers.”