Samuel Bacon

Background

On March 15, 1948, Fayette town marshal Stanton D. Coleman shot and killed Samuel Mason Bacon in Fayette, Mississippi. Bacon grew to adulthood in Natchez, Mississippi, where he was a farmer and community leader. While he was relatively content in his hometown, his wife, restless during the war years when money was to be made in the cities, left Mississippi for Fairfield, Alabama, and one of Bacon’s three daughters moved to Akron, Ohio. Eventually, Bacon closed down his farm and joined his daughter in Akron, where he took a job at the Firestone Rubber Company.

In March 1948 took a trip down South to visit Natchez. The 59-year-old Bacon was well dressed and travelling with his bankbook and some cash. When the bus arrived at the small town of Port Gibson, 42 miles from his destination, the bus driver told Bacon to give his seat to a white man and stand in the colored section at the rear. With white seats still available, Bacon said he would not do so. At the next stop, Fayette, the bus driver threw Bacon off the bus and had him arrested from “creating a disturbance.” Held overnight in the Fayette jail on charges that have never been revealed, Bacon was found dead in his cell on the morning of March 15, three days after he had left Ohio. Coleman had shot him at close range in his cell, once in the stomach and once in the chest. Coleman claimed he shot Bacon in self-defense when Bacon lunged at him an ax that had been in his cell.

Legal Status

After many protests and requests from family members, Mississippi convened a sham grand jury. In September 1948, a grand jury did not indict Coleman, partly based on the testimony of Bill Gray, a 70-year-old black janitor who worked at the Jefferson County Jail. The grand jury voted to return a no bill, meaning that they found insufficient evidence to issue an indictment. The Department of Justice took no action in the case because of the officer’s claim of self-defense and a report from FBI special agent George A. Gunter.