Willie Earle

The Lynching of Willie Earle

The last man to be lynched in south Carolina was Willie Earle. On February 15th, 1947, Thomas Brown, a taxi driver in Greenville, South Carolina was robbed and stabbed to death by a unidentified passenger. Brown told police, a black man attack him. Police arrested Willie Earle assuming he was the culprit. He was placed in a Pickens county jail. Early in the morning of February 17, a white mob that included:Cab drivers, a cafe operator, and two young business men broke into a the home of a Greenville county jail worker demanding him to release Earle to them. The men held the employee at gunpoint; therefore, he quickly abided and released him to the mob. The mob then broke into the prison and dragged and abducted him; eventually, they beaten, stabbed, and shot him dead. Willie Earle’s dismembered body and face was found twenty miles from the Pickens jail in West Greenville. Earle’s face was blown apart as a result of the direct gunshot blast to his face during his murder.
The next day, FBI agents from Charlotte North Carolina began investigating the crime with county, city, and state law enforcements members to apprehended thirty-one of the white men they believed were guilt of the mob lynching of Earle. Twenty-six of the accused men adminited their involvement in Earle’s murder. It is reported that during day ten of the trial, the defendants “chewed gum and chuckled each time the victim was mentioned” ( ). The Defense attorney also compared Earle to a, “mad dog” that deserved killing.( ).
Though twenty-six defendants proudly confessed to the murder, an all white jury comprised of an all white male jury, quickly acquitted all thirty-one men.
The opinions of Greenville natives were divided, while some believe the defendants should be criminally charged for Earle’s murder, others believe Earle deserved to be killed for allegedly killing Brown. Law enforcement agents did not investigate Brown’s murder because it is a possibility, Earle was innocent in the crime that subsequently lead to his lynching. The court ordered the serving countries involved would pay the mother of Earle two thousand dollars; however, in 1948, when she tried to obtain the money, her claim was denied because the defendants were acquitted, the court claimed, there was no evidence her son was lynched. Willie Earle’s marker has been vandalized multiple times. Each time it was vandalized, the marker was in a rural area. The marker is now behind a Church in Clemson, South Carolina, and it remains undisturbed.



Abel Baptist Church, Clemson, SC 29631 ~ Behind the Abel Baptist Church, is where Mr. Earle's marker resides.