WPA History of Lamar County,
BOSS WEATHERFORD TO HANG
Boss Weatherford, who was
convicted of the murder of John Dearman last December, and who
was tried at the January term of circuit court in Lamar County
and was convicted of murder but took an appeal to the Supreme
Court, was denied a new trial in the case. The decision was made
public Monday and he is to be hung the 1st Monday of December
Weatherford's case was reviewed by Judge Etherage, who in
commenting on the case referred to it as one of the most
atrocious crimes in the history of the state and that he did not
see fit to set aside the verdict of the 12 men who tried him in
the lower court.
This will be the first hanging
in Lamar County and it will be necessary to build a scaffold for
the occasion as the county has never had one built. Weatherford
is not the first man to be sentenced. Some 20 or 25 years ago
John Brock was convicted of the murder of a Mr. Cale, of
Baxterville, but because of his age the sentence was later set
aside and he was given a life time in the penitentiary. He served
several years of his sentence when he, with several other life
termers accepted a proposition by the state medical authorities
to undergo an experiment to determine the cause and cure of
pellagra. They were fed a certain diet which consisted of corn
meal bread made from musty meal. It was claimed that most of them
developed the disease and after undergoing treatment was cured
and pardoned. Brock had been free only about a year when he was
killed in a fight at or near Picayune, Mississippi.
Attorneys Broadus and
Williamson were appointed by the court to defend Weatherford at
his trial in circuit court and have not stated whether further
attempts will be made to save Weatherford from the gallows.
Mrs. Nellie Dearman, wife of John Dearman, the murdered man, was
also tried for the same crime but the jury returned a verdict of
BOSS WEATHERFORD PAYS WITH LIFE
CONDEMNED MAN GOES TO GALLOWS WITH A SMILE, MAKES NO LAST
At 1 o'clock P. M. Wilie Ross (Boss) Weatherford paid
with his life the debt he owed society for the murder of John
Dearman on December 26, 1933 when the trap was sprung by Sheriff
George M. Cain that sent the condemned man to his death; 18
minutes afterwards Weatherford was pronounced dead by three
physicians, Dr. L. L. Polk, Dr. S. E. Reece, and Dr. J. N. Mason.
Weatherford was brought to Purvis early Thursday morning
by Sheriff Cain and Deputy Joe Cole, and the Town Marshall,
George Thomas from the county jail at Poplarville, Mississippi.
They were accompanied by Pearl River County Officers. Upon
arrival here the prisoner was taken to the county jail, but
before being taken to the cell he requested that he be shown the
gallows. This request was granted and Weatherford seemed very
little disturbed when he looked at it. In fact, every since the
crime was committed he has assumed a cool and jovial attitude,
which never left him in his last few seconds he had to live after
he was placed on the trap door of the gallows.
Hundreds of people crowded the court and jail yards from
early morning until after the execution took place. Only about 25
people actually witnessed the hanging; these had previously been
given permission by Judge J. Q. Langston, upon their names being
submitted to him by the sheriff.
Weatherford was taken to Poplarville, Mississippi when
the State Supreme Court refused to interfere with the death
sentence pronounced by Judge Langston at the January term of
court. He had been in Jackson, Mississippi for safe keeping, it
was said. Until then his attorneys, A. Q. Broadus and T. L.
Williamson and J. D. Hatten taken every legal advantage, but to
no avail. Attorney Broadus, the leading attorney for the defense,
refused to give up hope of saving his client's life until the
very last when he appealed to Governor Conner to commute the
death sentence to life imprisonment.
Just before Weatherford was taken to death trap, the
sheriff read the death warrant to him; his comment after the
reading was, "They gave me plenty, didn't they?"
He was accompanied from the cell to the gallows by the
sheriff, Reverend D. A. Hogan, a number of officers from other
counties and three lady reporters. His first words at the gallows
were, "A fellow might fall through there (meaning the trap door)
and hurt himself." He then looked up where the rope was tied and
remarked, "That looks like a skidder bolt." He then asked if he
would be allowed to talk to the Governor, (evidently he thought
the Governor was present) and when Sheriff Cain told him that it
would be useless for him to do so, that everything had been done
for him that was possible to save his life, he made no further
comment about the Governor. Deputy Joe Cole asked him if he
wanted to talk to any one present and he asked that he be allowed
to talk with Miss Joe Williams, of Poplarville who came forward.
After a few low spoken words were exchanged between them, and
Weatherford then, without assistance removed his shoes for the
rope to be tied around his ankles, Deputy Cole and W. R. Owens of
Columbia tied his arms to his body and then handcuffed his hands
Reverend D. A. Hogan, pastor of the Baptist church here
read from the 13th and 14th Chapter of John, and after a few
remarks offered prayer for the prisoner. Just before the cap was
put over his head Miss Williams, seeing perhaps neither brother
nor sweetheart present to bid him good-bye, stepped up and kissed
him, saying "Good-bye Boss, God bless you." Miss Williams had
also placed her hand on Weatherford's while Bro. Hogan was
praying for him.
The cap was then put on by Deputy Cole and Owens, after
which Mr. Owens put the rope around his neck and adjusted it.
After the cap was put on his head Weatherford never spoke again,
and the very last words spoken before the trap was sprung was
said by the sheriff as he reached with his left hand for the
lever and said, "Good-bye Boss, May God bless you." The prisoner
was then shot through the trap, the rope tightening just before
his feet reached the floor below. The fall broke his neck, and it
was said that not even a quivering of the body was observed after
the drop of eight feet. The calculations by those who prepared
the rope was perfect, as there was only an inch or two of space
between the feet and the floor.
Henry Dearman, brother of John Dearman, the murdered man
was a witness and stood a few inches of the prisoner while he was
being prepared for hanging. All Friday morning Weatherford was in
a joking humor, and laughed and ate a hearty dinner, which had
been especially prepared for him, and never at any time showed
the least trace of nervousness. Just before his execution he took
from his pocket a telegram that was said to have been from his
sweetheart and as he held it, reading it over for the last time,
his hands were just as strong as if they had been made of steel.
In a conversation with Boss Thursday morning the writer
asked him if he had been treated good since he had been a
prisoner, his reply being that he could have been treated better.
He also asked the writer to thank all of the officers and all the
people in general with whom he had come in contact since his
confinement. He asked that Sheriff Sam Russ of Pearl River County
and Judge J. Q. Langston be especially thanked for their many
acts of kindness. He commented at length on the kindness of
Sheriff Cain and his deputies, saying that he had nothing against
them or anyone else. O. W. Ladner remained in the cell with
Weatherford from the time he was brought to Purvis until the
hanging. Weatherford's former pastor, Rev. M. W. Matthews visited
him in jail Thursday morning and told him he had been praying for
his soul, for which the prisoner thanked him and asked him to
come back to see him again.
Weatherford was born in Neshoba County 35 years ago the
31st day of August. He moved to Lamar County when he was a small
boy. His mother died in 1917. He was the eldest of four children,
all boys and all now living. His aged father also survives.
Several years ago Weatherford joined the Tabernacle
Baptist Church here in Purvis but was dropped from the roll when
the crime was committed, according to a statement made by him
yesterday. He followed public work and farming after school.
Although Lamar County was formed in 1904 from the Second
District of Marion County, no one has ever been hung here before,
although several have been given the life sentence.
Weatherford was arraigned for trial at the January term
of Circuit Court, which convened only a month after the crime was
committed. The grand jury in session during that term of circuit
court filed a bill of murder against him.
Being financially unable to employ counsel, the court
appointed Attorneys Broadus and Williamson to defend him. They
associated with him in this case Attorney J. D. Hatten of
Sumrall, Mississippi. To try this case a special venire was
summoned and from this the jury was impaneled. The jury who tried
Weatherford were: N. D. Rankin, Shed Davis, Smith, Clint Yawn,
Guy Howell, Albert Anderson, H. L. Hendrick, J. W. Hemba, G. W.
Slade, W. E. Brock, P. M. Davis and M. C. Bryant. Judge Langston
presided as judge and Toxey Hall, District Attorney and L. C.
Bridges, county attorney prosecuted Weatherford.
The case aroused unusual interest and a plea of guilty
was not allowed by the court. The defendant admitted when put on
the stand that he committed the crime. The jury did not ask the
mercy of the court, therefore under the Mississippi law no other
sentence but death could be pronounced by the judge. Judge
Langston pronounced the death sentence and set the date for March
11 of this year (1933)
Defense attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court delaying
the day of execution and when the case came before them confirmed
the decision of the lower court and set the day of execution on
December 1st. Weatherford being the first man to hang in Lamar
County, the event would ordinarily create a great deal of
excitement, but so smoothly did sheriff Cain and other officials
handle the matter that there was no disturbance whatever, but for
the gathering of an unusually large crowd of people on the court
house grounds, nothing unusual took place. The crowd was well
behaved and preparations for hanging went forward without a
hitch. The very closest friends of Sheriff Cain knew that
although he regretted that it had befallen his lot to carry out
the sentence of death and spring the trap that would send the
accused man to his doom; that due to his respect for law and his
high regard for the sacred path he had taken he would not
hesitate. Thus when the hour struck, with a prayer for
Weatherford on his lips, he did his duty.
The Booster, May 26,