Lamar County, Mississippi Genealogy and History


Pamela J. Gibbs County Coordinator

Lori Thornton,  State Coordinator
Deb Haines
, Assistant State Coordinator

WPA History of Lamar County, Mississippi


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 next.
        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 "not guilty".


        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 behind him.
        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, 1933.


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