Monday, Jan. 23, 2017
1934 Riot, Part 7: The aftermathPosted Thursday, December 31, 2009, at 12:24 PM
Last of a 7-part series
This series goes into details of the December 1934 rioting in Shelbyville in which Bedford County Courthouse was burned after rape suspect E.K. Harris wasn't turned over to a mob. Information is taken from The Bedford County Times and national wire services of the time. Reader additions and comments are welcome.
SUNDAY, DEC. 23, 1934
No incidents occur as the Shelbyville police and Bedford County Sheriff's Department resume normal operations with help from the vigilante force. Many people, possibly from out-of-town, visit the square and photograph the courthouse ruins.
In January 1935 several citizens, including the Rev. Oliver Largen, a local Methodist Episcopal, South minister, form a committee to see who is at the bottom of the "mob."
All ministers preach on law enforcement.
Largen, a young widower with three small children, receives two anonymous letters telling him "to quit meddling in matters of protecting Negroes against white people."
The Rev. N.J. Warren of First Presbyterian Church and the Rev. J.T. Parsons, a Southern Methodist minister, also receive warning letters.
Largen's home is burned in late January. The minister has sent his children to stay with relatives in Lincoln County, having heard rumors of possible violence against him. He is awakened by flames and narrowly escapes with his life.
The courthouse is rebuilt, using the foundation and part of the outside walls of the burned structure. It remains in use today.
E.K. Harris is tried in Nashville, convicted of rape after a jury deliberates five minutes, and receives the death penalty. He continues to say no rape occurred. A prison warden, minutes before Harris' electrocution May 22, 1936, tells the press that Harris has allegedly admitted to the rape.
Sheriff Gant eventually moves to Georgia.
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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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