By Randy Hopkins –
Tom Owens, also known as Roy Belton, courtesy of the Tulsa Tribune
The words passed down a dark, narrow stairway through the corridors of the Tulsa County Courthouse and into the jammed streets outside — “We got him, boys, we got him!” Cheers erupted from a thousand nighttime spectators, gaining volume as a nineteen-year-old white man everyone then called Tom Owens, hands bound, was led outside by armed, masked men. Hatless, smooth cheeked and slender, Owens puffed on a cigarette he had calmly hand-rolled in his recent hiding spot in the cage called the county jail’s negro dungeon. While there, he asked to be shackled and handed a six-shooter so he could contest his expected captors. He was said to revel in the idea. Now, wavy brown hair blowing around his face, he was shoved into a large Hudson automobile, a vehicle which itself had just been liberated from the control of the Tulsa police. The youth - he was said to have scarcely looked his age - showed no fear and uttered not a whisper of protest.[i]
The Hudson led a parade, followed first by the machines used by an organized gang of fifty masked men who had quietly driven through the heart of the city to descend on the courthouse shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday, August 28, 1920. Two ambulances joined the queue on Boulder Avenue. More autos fell in line, not by the score but the thousand, eager followers cramming their running boards. Celebratory gunfire added glamour to the procession. Through West Tulsa and onto a deeply rutted road past Red Fork they wound, to a spot where the road made a sharp turn in the dismal woods.
There, the parade halted and masked men jerked their prisoner from the car. They asked him questions and he spun them yarns. Lightning and thunder added to the uproar. “What did you kill Nida for?” a rifle bearing man demanded. Owens said he did not. “What made you make that confession if you didn’t?” persisted his inquisitor. “I said that to save the girl.” They asked him for any last words. Owens requested a message be sent to his mother in Knoxville, Tennessee. In the process, he revealed his true name was Roy Belton. “Tell her, I died to protect a girl, that’s enough.” One paper reported that he said to save “my girl.”
Cries of “rope, rope” rang out all around. But there was no rope. No one had brought one along. So the still unruffled prisoner, henceforth known as Roy Belton, was shoved back in the Hudson and the parade commenced anew, the foot-bound spectators jumping from running board to running board for advancement in the melee. Down a tree-hung road to the west, a vital rope was finally secured and a new staging area located near where the road was darkest and most dismal. A band of armed men - some masked and some not, some in civilian clothes and some in uniforms - held back the crowd of at least two thousand gathered in an open field a quarter-mile back. They were described as a melting pot of men, women, and children from all walks of life.
The masked men in charge of the captive chose a spot marked by a large advertising sign and the Federal Tire Company’s marketing effort was soon adorned with a noose. When preparations were complete, the order “let ‘em come” was yelled and the audience was given leave to move forward, tramping through mud and slush, shoulder to shoulder, until they reached a ditch beyond which they were again barred. On the rise of a hill beyond the ditch, Belton was seen chatting amiably with his soon-to-be killers. Hands freed, he was passed a paper, produced a tobacco bag from his own pocket and rolled his last smoke. His hands were steady. He puffed contentedly.
After the noose was affixed, six masked men put their weight to the rope. Roy Belton entered his final plea, “I’m innocent,” with the last syllable uttered while he was on tiptoes and drawled without the slightest terror. An eyewitness newspaperman wrote, “Either he was insane or he rode to death the gamest man that ever faced the gallows.” An uncanny stillness descended, broken by a distant hound’s long, moaning howls. Lightning still played. After five minutes, a convenient undertaker listened to his heart and recommended five more. A large, masked man, dominant among the group, yelled, “All you hijackers take a look at this.”[ii]
Pandemonium was loosed when the body finally dropped. The guards relaxed their grip and a mad dash ensued. Like locust, souvenir hunters stripped their dead target nearly nude. The recently found rope was itself cut into bits. A convenient ambulance arrived and a stretcher was loaded. As if on cue, the county sheriff, who had been brushed aside like chaff scarcely thirty minutes earlier, arrived to resume custody of his prisoner. The ambulance returned to its undertaking parlor, where Roy Belton was put on display for the eager and the curious who lined up to see his corpse deep into the next day.
Before the viewing was complete, Tulsa’s top law enforcement officers reassured the public with echoing statements. Tulsa Police Chief John A. Gustafson, who had been present at the killing along with most of the Tulsa Police Department, declared:
"I do not condone mob law, but Tulsa has a peculiar situation and the sentiment here is not so prejudiced against this kind of lynching as it might be in some other community….I believe this will be a good object lesson to that class of criminals and do more to stop hi-jacking than anything else that could have happened." [iii]
Tulsa County Sheriff James Woolley, who had delivered Belton to his killers, chimed in:
"I am unreservedly against mob law; the courts were made to convict and sentence the criminal, but I believe that Belton’s lynching will prove more beneficial than a death sentence pronounced by the courts. It shows to the criminal that Tulsa men mean business."[iv]
They would be proven wrong.
Tulsa County Sheriff James Woolley Courtesy of the Tulsa World
Almost exactly one week earlier to the hour, the Hudson lurched onto the road at a sharp curve just past Red Fork, nearly colliding with a vehicle driven by a local garage owner named Houser. While the Hudson gathered speed toward Sapulpa, Houser heard cries of anguish. Stopping to investigate, he came upon Tulsa taxi driver Homer Nida, age twenty-five, lying beside the road bleeding from a gaping stomach wound. The good Samaritan rushed the wounded man to the Tulsa Hospital. Before losing consciousness, Nida revealed that he had been transporting two men and a woman, when one of the men clubbed him with a pistol and shot him as he begged for mercy.[v]
The brutal crimes, soon to include murder, occurred at a dramatic moment for Tulsa law enforcement. Earlier that very day, Tulsa Police Commissioner James M. Adkison had declared an all-out war on crime and undesirable characters. Tulsa Police Chief John Gustafson, Adkison’s appointee, and close associate promised a clean-up so complete it will look like “a treatment from an electric vacuum cleaner when we get through.”[vi] Adkison and Gustafson were men who meant business.[vii] Nine months later they would bear a central responsibility for the disaster long called the Tulsa Race Riot and now the Race Massacre. On May 31, 1921, Adkison and Gustafson commissioned at least four hundred special police deputies and set them loose upon the city. Gustafson testified that the police “armed” 250 of them, confirming that the Tulsa police department sponsored the “looting” of the local hardware stores that evening.[viii] Adjutant General Charles Barrett, head of the Oklahoma National Guard, reported that the special deputies helped “inciting” the outbreak, did “most of the shooting” and formed “the most dangerous part of the mob.” He wrote that the state guard’s first task was to prevent them from interfering with fire department efforts to put out fires that “many of these officers were accused of setting.”[ix]
For now, Commissioner Adkison and his chief of police were faced with an immediate challenge to their first big anti-crime campaign. A dragnet was thrown and arrests were not long in coming, though the big break was fortuitous. A young man named Roy Belton, but who used the alias Tom Owens, talked to excess and attracted suspicion as he hitchhiked out of town.[x] Arrested on Sunday, August 22, he was taken to the hospital where Nida, amidst spasms of pain, declared him “the man.”[xi] Taken to the Tulsa County Attorney’s office, Belton chattered through various versions of events, with a flat denial giving way to the story that had gotten him arrested - that a girl attempted to inveigle him into stealing a cab but he resolutely refused to have anything to do with the plot. He followed this by identifying Marie Harmon as his date Saturday evening, during which date he heroically disarmed a gun and knife-wielding robber, perhaps to explain wounds on his face and hand. The papers quickly reported that he was the teller of weirdly contradictory and fantastic stories. He later claimed that he intended to marry Harmon.[xii]
Dubbed the “woman in the case,” the quickly scooped-up Harmon first claimed to know nothing. After grilling by the police and a spell in a cell adjoining Belton, she admitted her presence in the cab. On Tuesday, August 24, the woman described as twenty-seven years old by the Tulsa Tribune signed a statement explaining that she was married to an oil field worker and that she was introduced to Belton, then using his alias, a “few days” before by George Moore, who roomed at the apartments where she and her husband lived. On the fatal Saturday, Moore brought him back to the apartments where Belton proposed the three of them take a trip to Texas to which Harmon agreed. She thought they were picking up a car in Sapulpa for the sojourn and claimed to be shocked at the violent turn. She fingered Belton as the gunman who shot Nida after brutally manhandling him. She said he threatened to shoot her when she tried to run. She also told the police where to find the stolen Hudson, which led to its discovery.[xiii] Her husband, if there was one, never put in a public appearance.[xiv]
Marie Harmon courtesy of the Tulsa Tribune
Belton refused to be upstaged and provided his own oral confession later Tuesday, confirming Moore, age nineteen, was the other man in the cab and Raymond Sharp, Moore’s roommate, was in on the deal. Sharp, age seventeen, was arrested and also confessed.[xv] The papers reported that Gustafson was “bending every effort” to capture Moore. Gustafson reported “hot clews” and a well-laid plan to capture the man he said was a police character with a long record.[xvi]
The details of Belton’s and Sharp’s confessions vary with the published tellings. The thrust was that the conspiracy was birthed at the rooming house at 1111 East Admiral in Tulsa, where Harmon, Sharp, and Moore maintained rooms. Somehow Belton entered the picture - the three males were originally from Knoxville, Tennessee and the surrounding area - and the group dynamics produced a plan to steal a taxi and set off for California by way of Dallas. The three men stalked Tulsa taxi stands as well as locations to hide a body. The trio aimed big and finally targeted a Cadillac driven by William Cranfield that stood at the Hotel Tulsa. They had to fall back on Nida’s Hudson when Cranfield detoured to a barbershop for a close shave.[xvii] Sharp, a grocery clerk, provided the gun and money for buying bullets.[xviii] Instead of accompanying the gang, he was to pick up Harmon’s clothes and take them by train to Dallas, where the successful thieves were to unite. Belton said Moore was assigned the pistol, but suffered an “attack of yellowness.” Belton took over, hitting Nida with the weapon. Belton then claimed that the gun broke and accidentally fired while he was fixing it, though Nida and Harmon said it was intentional.[xix] Belton vouched for Harmon’s innocence.[xx] Sharp said she knew of the plot to steal, but not the planned shooting.[xxi] The newspapers differed on Nida’s rendition of Harmon’s role.[xxii]
The confessions were not without issues. Belton’s was impacted by fears of being lynched and his police interrogators were the fear mongers. According to Assistant County Attorney A.E. Montgomery, Belton, still harboring behind his alias, sent word for him Tuesday afternoon. Arriving at the city jail where he was then detained, Montgomery found him sitting in Gustafson’s office. Belton asked Montgomery for an “absolutely private” talk. Once they were alone, Belton asked if there was any chance of violence against him if he made a statement. Montgomery assured him he would be absolutely safe.[xxiii] This exchange was quickly reported in the Tulsa World and constitutes the first mention of possible mob violence against the prisoners by the mass media of the times, the daily newspapers.[xxiv]
Sharp, meanwhile, was stricken by acute appendicitis while in custody, but refused an operation until his father arrived from Tennessee. He signed his confession in front of Montgomery and Gustafson while “writhing in intense pain” and was in agony during his early morning arraignment on Saturday, August 28, when he and Belton were charged with capital murder. He had to be carried out on a stretcher when he and Harmon were removed from the county jail shortly after Belton was “delivered” - then slang for a jailbreak.[xxv] There is no sign that any of the defendants had legal counsel before the lynching.
Tulsa County Attorney Thomas Munroe brushed aside Belton’s protestations of Harmon’s innocence and charged her with robbery.[xxvi] There also were published suggestions that she was the “woman in the case” in a number of other county “escapades” and the authorities promised a rigid investigation.[xxvii] After the lynching, Tulsa County Deputy Sheriff Noah Langley reported that:
"[a] Mexican woman whose husband was killed at the Hickory mines several weeks ago by a joyriding party of two men and two women, said she recognized the picture of Marie Harmon, one of the murder quartet, printed in the Tribune, as being one of the women in the murder car that night.”[xxviii]
In the week that followed his shooting, Nida’s condition swung from grim to hopeful to bleak, while Myrtle, his wife of less than four months, maintained a bedside vigil. Public outrage at the cold-hearted crime grew, especially among other Tulsa taxi drivers with whom Nida was popular.[xxix] The taxi drivers had long had much to resent, caught between the police, who eyed them as tentacles of the liquor trade, and the highwaymen, who eyed them as easy pickings. The Tulsa Tribune detailed twenty instances in the past two years when cabbies had been robbed or assaulted, though the Tulsa newspapers had not seen fit to publicize most of the incidents when they occurred. The drivers claimed there were more attacks than those reflected in the police records.[xxx] They were later assumed to have formed the heart of the lynch mob that organized near Swan Lake.[xxxi]
The public was also greeted with suggestions that Belton might somehow get away with his crimes. A “wealthy sister” was said to be arriving from Missouri, though after the lynching it was reported that the whole family was in dire financial straits and the sister had suffered a nervous breakdown.[xxxii] Headlines also warned that Belton nee Owens was planning a plea of insanity. Belton contributed to the news cycle by sending a note to a former roommate asking him to testify regarding occasional “fits of insanity.[xxxiii] The odds of such an escape must have seemed great, since the newspapers painted an aura of eccentricity about Belton from the beginning. His photo, next to that of “Mrs. Marie Harmon,” greeted the public in Friday’s Tulsa Tribune, glaring out at them from hooded eyes.[xxxiv] In custody, his demeanor alternated between fear, defiance, collapse, and back to defiance. His placid reaction to approaching death - either he was insane or the gamest of men - impressed the press eyewitnesses.
The more likely contributor to his final mood swing was that he had been drugged at the Tulsa County Jail. The Tulsa Tribune, using his newly discovered name, reported as “established fact…that Belton was under the influence of a strong drug at the time he was taken from the county jail and lynched.” An unidentified physician was called when Belton “collapsed” after word reached him that a mob was forming. This alert reached him in advance of the mob’s arrival at the courthouse, since the caregiver gave him “a hypodermic dose of morphine early in the night.” By the time the mob arrived, “the dope had taken effect and Belton was defiant.”[xxxv] The drugging would explain what happened when one of his killers “struck him a fearful blow in the back of a head with the butt of a revolver” in payback for clubbing Nida. Yet, Belton “gave not the slightest evidence that he felt the blow [and] his countenance did not change.”[xxxvi] Information about the drugging was provided to the Tulsa Tribune by county jailer Robert Terrell, who gloated over his prisoner’s suffering and played a dubious role in his delivery.[xxxvii]
By Thursday, August 26, Nida’s death seemed imminent and rumors of lynching gathered steam. The Tulsa Tribune reported in bold type that Sheriff James Woolley knew about them and had posted two added armed guards at the county jail.[xxxviii] Several armed sheriff’s deputies stayed at the jail for two nights, though they were not there on the fateful Saturday.[xxxix] Nida’s death in the wee hours of Saturday, August 28, supercharged the speculation. Later that morning Belton and Sharp were arraigned for murder at a well-attended hearing. Harmon was reported as being too ill to attend. Belton put a further bulls’ eye on his back with his defiant attitude in court, or at least it was portrayed as such in the news.[xl] Woolley himself engaged in barbershop banter about a lynching that morning.[xli] The county jail reverberated with the rumors, reflected in Marie Harmon’s daylong hysterics - she was “fast losing her mind” - and Belton’s breakdown early that evening.[xlii]
Tulsa law enforcement officials were on notice and all the protections should have been in place. Police Chief Gustafson promised that his police force would be ready at the county’s call.[xliii] The testimony of Tulsa Tribune reporter William Randolph is the more chilling for these assurances. Having been assigned by managing editor Victor Barnett to check reports of a possible mobbing, Randolph left the Tribune building around 10 p.m., an hour before the delivery. After talking to a “nightstick swinging negro policeman” on Greenwood who had not heard any rumors and a downtown cabbie who had, Randolph walked by the police station on West Second Street between Main and Boulder Avenues. He found “everything was quiet, nothing going on, there was two or three men standing out front, there was no excitement.” Moving on to the nearby Tulsa County Courthouse, he found:
"It was dark down the stairs on the first floor. I walked through, walked into the entrance into the sheriff’s office there and that was dark and then I walked over to the County Attorney’s office and that was dark, but the boys sometimes stay in the back and I shook on the door. I didn’t rouse anyone."
Walking outside, Randolph talked with other newspaper reporters already there awaiting action. He saw two figures inside by the sheriff’s office who disappeared from view.[xliv] At the time, all known sheriff personnel were locked inside the fourth-floor jail.[xlv] The two figures may have been part of the mob that took control of the courthouse’s roof before the delivery, as Woolley later discovered.[xlvi] They were the only signs of life in the soon-to-be stormed building.
Nonetheless, the unguarded courthouse still left the inmates protected behind a barricade impregnable to a mob. Without use of the elevator, which had been taken to the fourth floor and disconnected, the only access was a dark, narrow stairway culminating at a locked barred door behind which stood a locked wooden door.[xlvii] Knowing witnesses colorfully described the ease of defending the jail. Jail trustee Harry Northrup testified, “We could have shot the legs off of forty men there and never batted an eye and never been in the least bit of danger.”[xlviii] The jailers also placed Belton in the jail’s “negro dungeon” in hopes that if invaders made it that far, they would overlook him in the darkness.[xlix] Without Sheriff Jim Woolley’s timely arrival after they assembled, the mob could never have achieved its goal. Rather than defending the inmate he was sworn to protect, Woolley permitted himself to be disarmed and marched up the stairs where he ordered his prisoner to be delivered to his killers.[l]
The ease with which Woolley succumbed stirred immediate suspicions that he connived with the mob. Tulsa County Attorney Munroe arrived ten minutes after the prisoner had been taken and declared that he failed to see any evidence of preparations to defend the jail or to receive any satisfactory explanation from Woolley.[li] In the state capitol, Governor J. B. A. Robertson raged at the news, his anger doubled by word of Oklahoma’s second lynching that same weekend - this one of an African-American teenager effortlessly removed from the Oklahoma County Jail.[lii] Robertson posted rewards, dispatched detectives, and ordered the Oklahoma attorney general to seek removal from office of the limber-tailed Tulsa and Oklahoma County sheriffs.[liii] Robertson’s outrage was matched by Tulsa District Judge Owen Owen, who immediately summoned a grand jury, and County Attorney Munroe, who charged Woolley with collusion and promised another rigid investigation, though conceding that it would be highly unpopular.[liv] Assistant Attorney General C. W. King was assigned to Tulsa and issued subpoenas for a pre-grand jury court of inquiry to begin in early September.[lv]
The Honorable Owen Owen courtesy of the Tulsa Tribune
Two adversaries quickly entered the field against Robertson, Munroe and the investigations. Two days before the lynching, Tulsa Daily World owner and publisher Eugene Lorton returned from summering in Arkansas.[lvi] The World’s editorial page returned to the bloodthirsty tone last seen in late 1917, when it howled for the murder of union organizers.[lvii] Now, Lorton’s paper wrapped a cloak of respectability and good citizenship around actual murder. The paper’s first editorial after the lynching defended it as a “righteous protest,” and dismissed “moralizing” critics as “unsophisticated” and “not familiar with Oklahoma affairs.” The editorialist bugled:
"There was not a vestige of the mob spirit in the act of Saturday night. It was citizenship, outraged by government inefficiency and a too tender regard for the professional criminal, registering an indignant protest." [lviii]
Eugene Lorton courtesy of the Tulsa World
With a critical election approaching, Lorton - then a Republican with political ambitions - turned the lynching into a political broadside against Robertson and the Democratic Party for leniency with the pardoning power. That was the “blackest” stain upon the state, not the occasional “summary punishment of [criminals]” or “citizens [taking] the law into their hands for the purpose of executing a just punishment.” The “hideous travesty!” was the Democratic Party-controlled state government, called the “bourbon machine,” not Oklahoma’s weekend of two lynchings.[lix] Lorton’s editorial page directed withering criticism to Sheriff Woolley, a Democrat, but offered not a word on the performance of the Republican-controlled city police.[lx]
The second adversary was an unfolding conspiracy of silence. What had been the “Talk of the City,” gave way to a “widespread disinclination to hark back to the happenings,” followed by “serious obstructions” to the investigation.[lxi] The impact was felt even before the grand jury assembled. The attorney general’s detectives produced a list of five men who “know and saw the different members of the Tulsa police force keeping [the] crowd back so that the mob could finish their work unhindered,” including Gustafson.[lxii] The men were said to know a great deal and would talk if asked. King subpoenaed them.[lxiii] All but one, Whitie Weissinger, simply ignored the summons and he claimed to know nothing.[lxiv] Another witness, a jail inmate and trustee named O. A. Sexton, pleaded not to be questioned and warned, “If I go down here telling everything I know, they will lock me up, they will give me hell.”[lxv]
Nonetheless, King was able to secure nineteen depositions, including Woolley’s, and they provide critical evidence of how the Belton lynching actually unfolded. This includes the pre-lynching contacts between city and county officials and the likely ringleader of the mob - William Cranfield, the Cadillac-driving original target of the hijackers; the incriminating behavior of Chief John Gustafson and the Tulsa police officers; and the equally incriminating behavior of County Sheriff James Woolley.
Tulsa County Deputy Sheriff Noah Langley testified that two days before the lynching two taxi drivers visited the county jail in search of Woolley, who was absent. Langley knew one of the men by the name of Cranfield, and stated that he “talked like they was going to do it.” After Nida died, Langley was approached by Cranfield’s younger brother who he knew by the nickname “Yellow Hammer,” who also boasted of lynching plans. William and Yellow Hammer Cranfield make several appearances in the attorney general’s file, including being listed along with three others as “ring leaders of this mob.”[lxvi] Langley dismissed their threats because the jail was impregnable. He told King, “There ain’t a chance to get a man out of that jail if you wanted to prevent it” and “it couldn’t have happened if they had taken the right precautions.”[lxvii] Woolley fired Langley the day after he testified.[lxviii]
William Cranfield and his companion, identified only as a taxi driver, then pursued a private meeting with Assistant County Attorney Montgomery, who had been publicly identified with the investigation and the cracking of the case. The two said that they “wanted to lynch Tom Owen [sic] alias Belton.” They reported that they had policemen in their group and “that the police had agreed them to help them lynch this boy and that they had some good citizens in addition to that.” The identities of the police and good citizens, if any, were unrevealed, but their existence would help explain the boldness of the two taxi men in approaching county officials. The conspirators also explained that “they had been up to Mr. Woolley’s office but couldn’t find him in but that they were going back and see Mr. Woolley.” (emphasis added). Refusing to countenance the scheme, Montgomery tried to call Woolley, but he was not there, so he reported the incident to the day jailer Robert Terrell and told him to tell Woolley, which Terrell promised to do.[lxix]
Terrell appears to have functioned as a “cut-out man” for communications related to the lynching. Woolley testified that Terrell never mentioned Montgomery’s warning to him and Terrell failed to disclose it when fairly asked during his examination by King.[lxx] Montgomery’s was not the only phone call that Terrell neglected to mention. According to jail trustee Harry Northrup, Terrell took several calls at the jail on the fateful Saturday night, as many as four, that Terrell said were from Gustafson. The first was around 8 p.m., reporting that a mob was coming. A similar call was made “just before it happened.”[lxxi] It is not surprising that Gustafson would be closely monitoring the situation. Before and after becoming chief, he headed a detective agency - most of his professional career involved private detecting - with a self-publicized specialty of infiltration and intelligence.[lxxii] He was also skilled in the art of ambush, having masterminded the bloody Deep Fork Valley ambush in 1917.[lxxiii] He had been closely involved in the Nida investigation, including Belton’s confession that was intimidated by threats of violence. He said he told the jail to call the police if there was trouble and he was at the police station that night giving orders, both signs he knew something might be up.[lxxiv]
Given that Gustafson appears to have been on top of the situation, where were the Tulsa police? Gustafson promised that his force would be ready at the call. The looming assault was so well publicized that a thousand spectators had time to get there before the delivery.[lxxv] Yet, Tulsa Tribune reporter Randolph found the police station sleepy quiet just minutes before. Gustafson himself told the World that the call for help from “the jailer” came in at 10:30 p.m., one half-hour before Belton’s seizure by the mob.[lxxvi] The courthouse was only four blocks from the police station. Yet, in spite of the red flags and Gustafson’s promise of readiness, the police only arrived after the Hudson had rumbled away.[lxxvii] Woolley claimed that the first police arrived after County Attorney Munroe, who appeared at least ten minutes after the fact.[lxxviii] Somehow, when the police did begin showing up to confront the armed mob, the first responders were two Black officers normally assigned to Greenwood, possibly the only two then on the force.[lxxix]
After it was too late, the police force suddenly exploded into action. Gustafson was on hand to commandeer at least one private auto, demanding the driver transport officers to the lynching. By the time the captive was on tiptoes, most of the Tulsa police force had made its way to the site according to Gustafson himself. Gustafson was seen standing “within a few feet” of one of the masked men.[lxxx] Having been ordered by Gustafson not to interfere so as to avoid bloodshed, Tulsa’s police spent the evening “doing all they could to prevent disorder that might lead to gunplay.”[lxxxi] Tulsa Tribune reporter Randolph said that:
"a bunch of police held us back with guns and while we were standing there there was a big crowd that gathered that filled that whole street, there must have been over a thousand people, and they were just pushing and surging back and forth."[lxxxii]
The crowd managers must have been very effective. Not even the potentially chaotic move of the operation in search of the forgotten rope disrupted the proceedings for long. To the extent the police provided administrative services for the lynching, their efficiency stands out starkly beside their earlier slothful performance. Their ineffectiveness quickly returned. Not a single arrest was made for the murder most of the Tulsa police had watched happen.
A few hours later, Gustafson explained the county officers waited too long to call and “we got there just a little late.” He declared it a “work of fate” and blessed the whole affair. He proclaimed, “It is my honest opinion that the lynching of Belton will prove of real benefit to Tulsa and vicinity.”[lxxxiii]
King’s investigation also placed Woolley in a bad light, with the grossest of negligence as his best defense. Born and raised in Texas, Woolley arrived in Oklahoma around 1889. A Democrat, he served two terms of as Tulsa county commissioner (1910-14) and two terms as county sheriff (1915-16, 1919-1920). Immediately after the lynching, he explained that he would consider resigning if his friends recommended it.[lxxxiv] These friends likely included influential Tulsans and longtime Democratic party stalwarts W. Tate Brady and S. R. “Buck” Lewis. Woolley’s wife, Texana Dawson Woolley, was co-chair of the Tulsa County Democratic Party Women’s Club along with Rachel Brady, Tate’s wife. Lewis’ mother was also a member of the extended Dawson clan that settled around Dawson, Oklahoma, and during his first term in office Woolley hired Buck’s younger brother Carl as his undersheriff.[lxxxv]
S.R "Buck" Lewis courtesy of the author
Woolley appears to have been the teller of tall tales, a trait that might have served him well on the campaign circuit. He repeatedly marketed the tale that Marie Harmon’s terror of being lynched was so great that her hair turned white. This turned out to be false.[lxxxviii] He testified that County Attorney Munroe had applauded the lynching, a doubtful claim given Munroe’s immediate and relentless attempt to remove him, a fellow Democrat, from office.[lxxxix] His description of the flaccid city police responses to his call, however, is consistent with the way matters unfolded. Woolley testified:
"So I went up to the office and I called the police station. I says "There is a mob here" I says “Have you got any men down there?” And they says “I will see.” So they fooled around there a while. Pretty soon he called up and answered and said “They are all out.” I says “Where are they?” And he says “I don’t know.” I says “You have them to call me just as quick as they get in because this mob is here.”"[xc]
Woolley’s original published version of events was that he was not expecting the delivery, that he was absolutely unprepared and that “the men who entered the courthouse were in my office and had me covered before I knew what was up.”[xci] He also admitted that he viewed his prisoner’s guilt as certain and for that reason was unwilling to risk his own life.[xcii] Woolley’s “sudden surprise” tale was revised under oath. In the version he told King, Woolley left town earlier Saturday evening to monitor an American Indian stomp dance in Sperry.[xciii] Returning home about 10 p.m., his wife reported an unknown woman’s call warning that “they was gonna mob that fellow tonight.”[xciv] Rushing to the courthouse with his son-in-law, Woolley found the mob already gathered, which he had earlier described as consisting of two to three hundred men, many armed with shotguns and pistols.[xcv] Attempting only to jawbone them into leaving, Woolley retreated to his office where he made no effort to call his other deputies to defend the courthouse.[xcvi] Instead, he called the jail and cautioned the staff to try not to kill anyone.[xcvii] According to night jailer A.E. Basham, who soon became a former jailer, that was about fifteen to twenty minutes before the mob showed up outside the fourth-floor jail, suggesting that the instructions were not issued at gunpoint or under immediate duress.[xcviii] Robert Terrell said Woolley’s instructions included “you boys be careful and not get excited” and “be sure and don’t get excited now.”[xcix]
Woolley testified that while sitting inside his office, he heard the men trying to pry open the elevator gate. The mob was still insufficiently emboldened and required exhortations from their leaders. Woolley said the ringleaders yelled, “Come on, you are yellow back sons of bitches” and, “You have got a yellow streak up your back,” which undermined Gustafson’s and Woolley’s claims that the public was so incensed that there was simply no stopping them.[c] Still showing no instinct for self-preservation, Woolley left his office, weapon holstered, and was immediately disarmed at the point of three weapons, two .45-caliber pistols and a shotgun.[ci] The leveling of three weapons was significant for that triggered the state’s “riot” law, under which all participants in the riot, including any police or “good citizens,” were as guilty of murder as if they had put their own weight to Belton’s rope.[cii] Back in the sheriff’s office, Woolley’s son-in-law called the jail to report that the mob had Woolley and “to look out.” Woolley led the gang upstairs, ordered his armed men inside to open up and hand over the mob’s target.[ciii] When he testified about this, Woolley could not remember either of his lynched prisoner’s names.[civ]
The mob accompanying Woolley to the fourth floor were masked save one - its leader.[cv] Basham described him as a large man of authority; Slick Woolley commented on his commanding voice.[cvi] When other members of his band were shouting and waving weapons, he backed them up along the wall and ordered them to wait. He followed with calm assurances that if the jailers turned over Belton nee Owens, no harm would befall them.[cvii] Trustee Northrup testified that he was the one holding the gun on Woolley, yet he showed not the slightest concern that he might be identified. His confidence was not punished. Despite his long years of residence and service in Tulsa County, Woolley was unable to identify a single person associated with the lynching, either at the jail or around the noose.[cviii] If William Cranfield was the unmasked leader, perhaps Woolley rationalized it as fair justice for Roy Belton to fall into his hands.
In spite of having a gun pressed against his belly, the death threats, and the damage to his reputation, Woolley’s subsequent investigation could not have been more passive. He told King, “Well, I have inquired around but nobody never will talk to you none, they kind of catch on what I was after and shut right up.”[cix] Like the police, the sheriff’s department never made a single arrest.
King’s depositions were the high point of the investigation. Armed with them, King filed a petition to remove Woolley from office with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This halted his court of inquiry just before reaching his planned grilling of the police.[cx] The supreme court wanted proof that it was not possible to get a fair trial in Tulsa and a hearing was scheduled. The depositions did not address that issue and King dismissed his petition before the hearing in order to pursue Woolley’s removal via the Tulsa grand jury.[cxi] Unintended consequences of the supreme court detour arrived when the Tulsa papers broadcast that the attorney general had “quit” the suit and that the supreme court had ruled that Tulsa would provide a fair trial.[cxii]
The headline of the Tulsa Tribune for September 10, 1920
To notions of quitting and defeat were added “absolutely, idiotic incompetency,” which was Tulsa Judge Owen Owen’s livid response to the discovery on the grand jury’s opening day that a lowly (and apparently unsupervised) clerk had used the wrong subpoena forms in summoning grand jurors. This necessitated a ten-day delay until September 23 that killed both momentum and public trust. More than one hundred witnesses had shown up to testify and most would not be back. [cxiii] Meanwhile, news of the whole affair migrated to the newspapers’ back pages.
When the grand jury finally got underway, most of the witnesses summoned to testify stayed away. Those who did appear could not definitely identify a single member of the mob. Prosecutor King promised contempt citations for the “no shows,” but by Tuesday, September 28, the game was given up.[cxiv] Apparently realizing that they could not force admissions even if they hauled witnesses to court, assuming the police would do any hauling, and that their case against Woolley was as strong as it was going to be, Munroe and King threw in their hand. Once again, the investigation ended before reaching the role of the Tulsa police.[cxv]
On Wednesday, September 29, the grand jury revealed that it had turned up empty-handed in its search for the mob. The police were cleared of any wrongdoing. The jury voted 8 to 4 to return an accusation against Woolley, one vote short vote of the required nine to force a full removal trial. The newspaper promptly labeled Woolley’s close shave an exoneration and clearance. Judge Owen Owen seemed crushed by the result.[cxvi]
The headline of the Tulsa Tribune for September 20, 1920
Tulsa voters got their chance to speak on November 2, 1920, and it was a Republican tide.[cxvii] The election removed County Attorney Munroe by sixty-seven votes and, with that, the end of the Nida case loomed. On November 17, an “old friend of the Sharp family,” sitting US Congressman and lawyer Representative J. Will Taylor arrived from eastern Tennessee to “assist in handling the case.”[cxviii] Popularly called “Hillbilly Bill,” the first- term Congressman would earn a reputation as an influential wheeler and dealer within the national Republican party.[cxix] At the beginning of January 1921, Munroe’s Republican successor, Thomas Seaver, took office. In mid-January, Tulsa County Commissioner-elect Ira Short was approached about facilitating a bribe of Seaver to secure Marie Harmon’s freedom. Short reported that the sum of “between $5,000 and $10,000” was mentioned, with the money to be provided by “an Indian.” Short, who would bear a shotgun while standing beside Tulsa Sheriff Willard McCullough in defense of the Tulsa County Courthouse and Dick Rowland on May 31, 1921, refused to participate and later reported the effort to the attorney general’s investigators.[cxx]
On January 18, 1921, it was announced that Seaver intended to dismiss charges against both Harmon and Sharp. Harmon’s dismissal came first, with Seaver arguing that Munroe had promised her immunity for her admission that she was aware of the planned car theft.[cxxi] That deal, however, was conditioned on Harmon testifying against her codefendants.[cxxii] When he dismissed her, Seaver told Harmon to “leave Oklahoma and remain away,” though he wanted her back if Moore was ever caught and tried. There was no similar condition imposed regarding Sharp. Eight days later, Seaver freed Sharp, who was presumably long since treated for appendicitis, on the ground that Sharp’s confession could not be used and there was no one to testify against him. Seaver explained the delay between the two dismissals as due to waiting for Sharp to raise “sufficient money to take him back to his home in Tennessee.”[cxxiii]
No one was ever tried for the murders of either Homer Nida or Roy Belton. The sputtering legal system, the Tulsa Daily World’s editorial justification for lynching, seemed again on display. Ironically, Roy Belton’s claim to have saved “the girl” turned out to be accurate - his life had distracted the mob from Harmon and his death had drained prosecutorial ardor.
The voters cast their highest vote totals in the sheriff’s race. Woolley lost the last of his four election tilts with Republican Willard McCullough by a 1,305 vote margin, far and away the largest of their contests.[cxxiv] Woolley had expressed reliance on the advice of friends. If his friends such as Tate Brady and Buck Lewis played a role in persuading him to ignore his legal duties, their advice cost Woolley his political career.[cxxv] Meanwhile, McCullough came out of the election with a firm desire never to repeat Woolley’s surrender of a prisoner, but the actions of Tulsa law enforcement in the Belton lynching meant that many would not trust him to prevent it. Other people, inclined to similar violence, found comfort in the official sanction and the entertainment seekers knew where to assemble when the next rumors blossomed.
The Belton lynching may, however, have done more than simply set the stage nine months later when an even more vivid target appeared. The attempted lynching of Dick Rowland may, in modern parlance, have been a case of “getting the band back together.” State District Judge Redmond S. Cole advised the US Justice Department one week after the Tulsa Race Massacre that:
"Beyond peradventure of a doubt the same group of roughnecks and hoodlums who mobbed Belton last September planned this outrage. As near as I get it some 15 or 20 of them went to the Courthouse; it was known throughout town what they expected to do."
Further, Cole recommended where to start the investigation that he assumed would ensue:
"There is a party in Tulsa known among the underworld as Yellow Hammer who is supposed to have been the leader in the Belton mob and who was whitewashed by the Belton grand jury. It is common talk around Tulsa that he was one of the ring leaders in this bunch; his correct name is Cranfield.”[cxxvi]
If Yellow Hammer Cranfield and associates were involved, what of the police and “good citizens” whom his brother William Cranfield had reported were in on the plot to lynch Roy Belton? Were they also in on the plot to kill Diamond Dick Rowland?
Endnotes: [i] This synthesis of the lynching is based on (a) the work product and investigative documents preserved in State of Oklahoma v. James Woolley in the District Court of Tulsa County, Attorney General Civil Case No. 1017, box 23, record group 1-2, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK (hereafter cited as AG Civil Case 1017-page no.); (b) the transcript of a court of inquiry conducted by Assistant Attorney General C. W. King, “In the Matter of the Investigation of the Conduct of the County Officials of Tulsa County, Okla,” September 1920, transcript, State of Oklahoma vs. James Woolley in the District Court of Tulsa County, Attorney General Civil Case No. 1017, transcript: box 23, record group 1-2, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK (hereafter cited as “Court of Inquiry, witness name, page no.”); and (c) articles published on August 29 and 30, 1920 by the two principal Tulsa newspapers, the morning Tulsa Daily World and the afternoon Tulsa Tribune. At least two Tribune reporters and likely one from the World were eyewitnesses to the lynching. The melodramatic flourishes are largely theirs. “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1-3; “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1-3; “Mob Lynches Tom Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 1, 9. “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1, 3. [ii] Ibid. [iii] “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 3. [iv] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3. [v] “Bandits Club and Shoot Taxi Driver,” Tulsa Daily World, August 22, 1920, 1. [vi] “Drive Crime From City, Orders Chief,” Tulsa Tribune, August 22, 1920, 8. “Undesirables” expressly included any man or woman who could not prove a legitimate means of livelihood, a testy standard given that the flames of a post-World War I depression were starting to lick around the country. [vii] Adkison was senior to Mayor Thaddeus Evans in the Republican Party hierarchy, having served as city treasurer under the Simmons administration (1916-18). Adkison polled over eight hundred more votes than Evans in 1920 and was acting mayor during Evans’ frequent absences, which included a vacation undertaken before the Belton lynching. Evans did not interrupt his vacation, leaving Adkison in charge. “Mayor Will Return Soon,” Tulsa Daily World, September 3, 1920, 18. For Adkison’s biography, see Clarence B. Douglas, The History of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Volume II (Tulsa, OK: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921), 52-3; Joseph B. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1929), 122-23. For Gustafson’s biography, see “Local Findings on John A. Gustafson,” Attorney General Civil Case no. 1062, box 25, record group 1-2, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK. [viii] For Adkison’s admission re: 400 special commissions, “Inefficiency of Police is Denied, Tulsa Daily World, July 19, 1921, 7; “Chief and Officers Take Witness Stand,” Tulsa Daily World, July 20, 1921, 8. Also see, The Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, (Oklahoma City, OK: Tulsa Race Riot Commission, 2001), 64 (claims there were 500 special commissions). For arming 250 men, see deposition of J. A. Gustafson in Stradford v. American Central Ins. Co.; Superior Court of Cook County, No. 370,274 (1921), 29-30 (“We armed during the night probably two hundred fifty citizens who assisted the Police Department in trying to quell the mob” and “I think we armed about two hundred fifty.”) (hereafter cited as Gustafson deposition). [ix] For inciting and most of the shooting, see “Neglect by Peace Force Blamed for Tulsa Riot,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 2, 1921, 1. For most dangerous part of mob, see Major General Charles F. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years: A History of The Sooner State and its People, (Oklahoma City, OK: Historical Record Association, 1941), 209 (“…in a race war a large part, if not a majority, of these special deputies were imbued with the same spirit of destruction that animated the mob. They became as deputies the most dangerous part of the mob and after the arrival of the Adjutant General and the declaration or martial law the first arrests ordered were those of special officers who had hindered the firemen in their abortive efforts to put out the incendiary fires that many of these special officers were accused of setting.”). [x] Besides being seen with a pistol in his pocket, “Owens” told a fellow passenger who mentioned the shooting, “Why, I know that girl, she told all her plans to me Saturday and tried to get me to go in on that, and I turned her down.” The man notified the Nowata, Oklahoma police, who placed the talkative passenger under arrest. “Hunt Second Bandit After Girl Talks,” Tulsa Tribune, August 24, 1920, 1. As noted, Owens turned out to be an alias for his real name Belton. After the lynching, he was referred to as Roy Belton, though his legal name was Russell Summers Belton. Born on July 12, 1900, near Knoxville, Tennessee, he was twenty years old, not nineteen as reported. According to his brother-in-law, he was a little “wild” as a boy and left home at an early age. “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 12. He appears to have been trained in carpentry but was working as a telephone line splitter in Tulsa. For carpentry, see Knoxville City Directory, 1917, 82 (Summers Belton a cabinet maker). For telephone work, see “Dry Battery Halts Escape, Following Shooting of Nida,” Tulsa Tribune, August 26, 1920, 1 (also disclosing that they worked in Tulsa under the name Roy Belton). [xi] “‘That’s Him, He Shot Me,’ Driver Says,” Tulsa Tribune, August 23, 1920, 1; “Hunt Second Bandit After Girl Talks,” Tulsa Tribune, August 24, 1920, 1; “Girl Confesses Plot in Tragedy,” Tulsa Daily World, August 24, 1920, 1. [xii] For Belton’s various versions, see Court of Inquiry, Montgomery, 163-164; “‘That’s Him, He Shot Me,’ Driver Says,” Tulsa Tribune, August 23, 1920, 1; “Girl Confesses Plot in Tragedy,” Tulsa Daily World, August 24, 1920, 1; “Mob Lynches Tom Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 9. One of his wild claims was that he had deserted the US Army. After the lynching, County officials learned it was true. “Hush Falls Over City on Belton Mob,” Tulsa Tribune, September 4, 1920, 1. For intent to marry, see “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 12. [xiii] “Hunt Second Bandit After Girl Talks,” Tulsa Tribune, August 24, 1920, 1, 4 (quoting Harmon’s written confession verbatim); “Girl Confesses Plot in Tragedy,” Tulsa Daily World, August 24, 1. Belton was alleged to have told her through the bars that he “was in a tight fix, and that she was responsible for his plight.” “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 1. [xiv] The World primly concluded that Harmon was not married because Belton, alias Owens, said he planned to marry her. “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 12. There is a 1930 US Census record listing a Marie W. Harmon of the correct age living in Ponca City with her husband, described as a petroleum producer. [xv] “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 1; “Death Plot Revealed in Confessions,” Tulsa Tribune, August 25, 1920, 1. Sharp’s Tuesday confession was oral; it was reduced to writing and signed on Friday. “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1. Sharp’s brother arrived after the lynching and described him as not quite eighteen and “never in trouble while at home,” which he had left only a few months before. The brother took a look at the confession, declared his brother innocent, and hired a lawyer. “Round Up Lynching Witnesses,” Tulsa Tribune, September 1, 1920, 1 (Sharp’s age); “Inquiry Starts Upon Tulsa Mob,” Tulsa Daily World, September 2, 1920, 1. [xvi] “Dry Battery Halts Escape, Following Shooting of Nida,” Tulsa Tribune, August 26, 1920, 1; “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1; “To Quiz Hundreds on Lynching,” Tulsa Tribune, August 31, 1920, 1; “Sheriff May Be Removed,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1921, 1; “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 12. It is possible the police got sidetracked with the wrong George Moore. According to a YMCA employment application filled out two days before the shooting, Moore’s full name was “George Perryman Moore.” However, George Perryman Moore from Knoxville was only fifteen in 1920 according to his birth certificate and US Census records. Another candidate is George Senter Moore, age eighteen and from Jefferson County, Tennessee, near Knoxville. If “Senter” was aware of the other Moore, perhaps he used “Perryman” as an alias, as might be done by someone needing to deflect attention from his own record. Whatever the case, on September 2 Gustafson reported that he now believed Moore would be hard to find. He also opined that Moore had headed to Springfield, Missouri, in order the meet up with Belton, suggesting that their relationship had survived Nida’s shooting. “Law to Seek Only Those Responsible for Inciting Mob,” Tulsa Tribune, September 2, 1920, 12. [xvii] “Cranfield Has Lucky Streak,” Tulsa Daily World, August 26, 1920, 16; “Death Plot Revealed in Confessions,” Tulsa Tribune, August 25, 1920, 1. [xviii] Moore was unemployed at the time, having previously worked as a grocery clerk. “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today, Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 12. [xix] Precise details of the shooting differ, including whether Nida was in the taxi when shot or already in the road and whether he jumped out or was thrown. In Harmon’s version, Nida was forced to show Moore how to drive the taxi, the entire group then drove through Red Fork, then Belton shot Nida for no reason and the wounded man leaped out of the car. All versions merge with the threesome speeding away from the abandoned Nida. Determined to avoid the bright lights of Sapulpa, Belton ordered Moore to take the Turkey Mountain road. The car ran into a barbed-wire fence and became stranded. Moore and Belton fell into fisticuffs after which Belton ripped off his shirt, threw it away and ran off, per Harmon. She and Moore made their way back to Tulsa. Belton said he returned to the East Admiral apartment on Sunday, found Sharp and Moore in bed together, read them the Tulsa World’s coverage of the shooting and suggested they scatter. Moore did, Belton tried and Sharp stayed put. The varying press accounts of the confessions are contained in “Girl Confesses Plot in Tragedy,” Tulsa Daily World, August 24, 1920, 1; “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 1, 12; “Want Third Man in Taxi Mystery,” Tulsa Daily World, August 26, 1920, 10; “Verifies Story Told by Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 28, 1920, 9; “Mob Lynches Tom Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 1, 9. Also, “‘That’s Him, He Shot Me,’ Driver Says,” Tulsa Tribune, August 23, 1920; 1; “Hunt Second Bandit After Girl Talks,” Tulsa Tribune, August 24, 1920, 1, 4; “Death Plot Revealed in Confessions,” Tulsa Tribune, August 25, 1920, 1; “Dry Battery Halts Escape, Following Shooting of Nida,” Tulsa Tribune, August 26, 1920, 1; “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1; “To Ask Death for Slayers of Chauffeur,” Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, 1; “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1-3. [xx] For Belton’s exonerating Harmon, see “‘That’s Him, He Shot Me,’ Driver Says,” Tulsa Tribune, August 23, 1920, 1; “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1. He was less a white knight when questioned by his executioners. Then, he said, “The girl started the thing. She hurried up the shooting.” “Mob Lynches Tom Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 1. He added that Moore, the real shooter, was working as a table waiter in El Paso, Texas, or maybe Juarez, Mexico under the alias Charlie (Charley) Ware. “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2. Belton had been stationed at Fort Bliss and presumably came across the real Charlie Ware there. It turned out to be a false lead. “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1. [xxi] Both newspapers reported Sharp as claiming Harmon was in on the plot to steal the taxi, but not to kill the driver. “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1; “Verifies Story Told by Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 28, 1920, 9. Assistant County Attorney Montgomery later described Sharp’s statement as admitting knowledge that Moore, Belton nee Owens and Harmon “had planned to at least rob Nida of the car if not to kill ]him).” “Habeas Corpus Writ is Denied,” Tulsa Daily World, December 3, 1920, 20. Sharp’s written confession is unavailable. [xxii] The World quoted Nida as saying that the woman did not participate in the crime. “Bandits Club and Shoot Taxi Driver,” Tulsa Daily World, August 22, 1920, 1; “Holdup Victim Clings to Life,” Tulsa Daily World, August 23, 1920, 10. The Tribune only quoted Nida saying that the woman showed no resistance at traveling with the two men. “Taxi Driver Shot by Hi-Jackers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 22, 1920, 1. Nida’s alleged clearance of Harmon was not further mentioned in the press or at all by the authorities. [xxiii] Court of Inquiry, Montgomery, 165. Montgomery states that Belton’s confession occurred on Friday, August 27, but likely confused that with the date of Sharp’s written confession. He stated that the press reported Belton’s confession either the day he gave it or the next, which is consistent with Tuesday, August 24, as Belton’s confession date. “Death Plot Revealed in Confessions,” Tulsa Tribune, August 25, 1920, 1; “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 1. There is no evidence that Belton’s confession was ever reduced to writing and signed. [xxiv] “Another Jailed in Holdup Case,” Tulsa Daily World, August 25, 1920, 12. While in police custody Belton learned how “bitterly resentful” the public had taken the crime and “asked for assurance that violence would not follow his statement.” [xxv] “Verifies Story Told by Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 28, 1920, 9 (“Writhing in intense pain,” Raymond Sharp signed a confession); “Sapulpa Officers Thwart Mob Action,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 1 (“Sharpe [sic], who has been suffering from appendicitis for the past week, was seriously ill. When he was removed from the jail, he was so ill that he had to be carried.”); “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1 (“writhing in pain” when signed confession); “To Ask Death for Slayers of Chauffeur,” Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, 1 (Sharp’s suffering during his arraignment on Saturday, August 28). [xxvi] “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 1 (“I feel confident we can convict her of murder.”); “Court Holds Two for Nida Murder,” Tulsa Daily World, September 9, 1920, 1. [xxvii] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 2. [xxviii] “Women May Testify in Lynch Quiz,” Tulsa Tribune, September 5, 1920, 1. [xxix] “Nida Funeral Held Tuesday,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 8; Court of Inquiry, Montgomery, 168 (very strong and intense feeling against Belton sufficient to put Sheriff’s Office on notice of lynching risk). [xxx] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1921, 2. [xxxi] “Round Up Lynching Witnesses,” Tulsa Tribune, September 1, 1920, 1. It was called Orcutt Lake in the papers. The lake was renamed Swan Lake in 1917, but the original name lingered. [xxxii] For wealthy sister arriving, see “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1. For family finances, see “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 12. For sister’s breakdown, see “Sheriff May Be Removed,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 1. [xxxiii] “Dry Battery Halts Escape, Following Shooting of Nida,” Tulsa Tribune, August 26, 1920, 1; “Hi-Jacking Chief Plans Escape on Plea of Insanity,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1; “Tom Owen’s [sic] Victim Dies,” Tulsa Daily World, August 28, 1920, 1. The ex-roommate was promptly arrested, but released after being viewed by Nida. What he had to say about “fits of insanity” was not mentioned. [xxxiv] “Confesses Plot to Slay Driver,” Tulsa Tribune, August 27, 1920, 1 (photos). [xxxv] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1921, 2. The county physician J.E. Capps denied giving Belton a shot or even an examination after Monday, August 23. Capps said he showed no sign of being a drug addict at the time. The assistant county physician R. T. Bridgewater denied giving a shot or treating him. Court of Inquiry, J.E. Capps, 2-3, 7-8; Court of Inquiry, Bridgewater, 49-51. Night jailer Basham testified that he was unaware of any drugging after his arrival at 6 p.m. Court of Inquiry, Basham, 22, 39-40. Marie Harmon also was visited several times during the day by an unknown physician as she was having her own panicky “collapses.” “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2. The report of a Saturday drugging casts a slightly different light on Belton’s noose side claim:
"I never confessed that I did the shooting. I was under the influence of dope when I remember talking to some men who came to the cell, but I never made any confession." “Tom Owen’s [sic] Victim Dies,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 1. In the shadow of the Federal Tire sign, Belton also claimed that Harmon had “doped” him. “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2 (“‘I didn’t know a thing about what was going on. She doped me. I swear she doped me,’ he added, in what was described as in his quiet, uninterested way.’”). [xxxvi] “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2. [xxxvii] “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2. Terrell told the paper: "Belton turned white as a ghost when the rumor first got to him… He was a changed man. No longer did he strut around like he was proud of the murder of Nida. His face bore an anxious and haunted look. In courage, he was the antithesis of Nida who fought bravely against death." [xxxviii] “To Ask Death for Slayers of Chauffeur,” Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, 1. The extra guards appear to have been placed inside the fourth-floor jail itself, where they could only react in case of an actual jail invasion. There is no evidence that anyone ever was stationed to prevent access to the courthouse itself. During the delivery, the armed gang-controlled who entered the building. Court of Inquiry, Bowman, 90-91. [xxxix] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 23. [xl] “To Ask Death for Slayers of Chauffeur,” Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, 1 (“‘Not guilty,” Owens snapped in a most defiant manner”). [xli] AG Civil Case 1017-033; Court of Inquiry, Glenn, 10-12. [xlii] “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 2. [xliii] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 2 (per Gustafson: “The city police force did all in their power to prevent it. We notified the county officers that in case of a disturbance we would be ready at their call.”). [xliv] Court of Inquiry, Randolph, 109-10, 112-13. [xlv] The armed men inside the jail were A. F. Basham, night jailer; Robert Terrell, day jailer who Woolley says he told to stay over; and Wilburn “Slick” Woolley, the sheriff’s son. Slick, eighteen, was an unofficial deputy, armed when accompanying his father on raids and taking his meals at the jail. Slick testified that he went to the jail around 10 p.m. after his mother reported a call from “some woman” about a mob. Court of Inquiry, Slick, 52-53, 55-56, 59-60, 66. Sheriff Woolley claimed that he did not know his son was in jail until he ordered the barred doors opened. Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 135, 142. This assumes Texana Woolley did not tell her husband that their son Slick had gone off to deal with an armed mob. Basham testified that Slick took a call from his father urging the jailers not to kill anyone. Court of Inquiry, Basham, 25-26. Slick, his father, and Terrell said the call was taken by Terrell. Court of Inquiry, Slick, 52-3, 60; Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 70; Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 137. [xlvi] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1-2. At some point on Saturday, a deputy state game warden armed with a .38 revolver sat on the third floor of the Courthouse. If he was part still there at 11:00 p.m., he made no appearance during the events. “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 2. [xlvii] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 17-20; Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 146-147 (“the lights are all tore down” and men coming up the stairway would be “in the dark all the time…all the way up.”). [xlviii] Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 159; Court of Inquiry, Basham,, 20-21, 26-28; Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 150 (“[G]uarding of the stairway would be perfectly easy if you wanted to kill somebody…it would be a dead easy thing.”); Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 162 (“With ammunition enough to last [two men] could kill a thousand men and not get seen.”). Woolley’s successor as sheriff, Willard McCullough, would later explain that a mob “could not force entrance to the jail in the face of a deadly volley of steel which he said would greet any mob.”) “Sheriff Tells of Plans to Guard Negro,” Tulsa Tribune, July 14, 1921, 1. [xlix] Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 157; Court of Inquiry, Basham, 28, 31. The revived Belton asked to be shackled and given a six-shooter to shoot it out with the mob. Basham said, “he rather gloried in saying it.” [l] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 28-32 (would have never opened the doors); Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 159 (“If he hadn’t been there they wouldn’t have got the prisoner.”). [li] “Sheriff May Be Removed,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 1. [lii] “Alleged Murderer of Officers Taken From Jail by Mob,” Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), August 30, 1920, 1-2. [liii] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1; “Sheriff May Be Removed,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 1; “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 1; “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1921, 1; “To Quiz Hundreds on Lynching,” Tulsa Tribune, August 31, 1921, 1. [liv] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1; “Sheriff May Be Removed,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 1; “Inquiry Starts Upon Tulsa Mob,” Tulsa Daily World, September 2, 1920, 1; “Hanging No Act of Citizenship,” Tulsa Daily World, September 3, 1920, 1 (Munroe acknowledges unpopularity of investigation, but says the “‘true interests of the community’” demand it.); “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1. [lv] “Belton Lynching Probe Starts Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 1, 1920, 1. King’s Court of Inquiry commenced on Tuesday, September 7 and was intended to deal with the roles of Woolley and the Tulsa police. Judge Owen’s grand jury encompassed the identity of mob leaders and participants, as well as the roles of Woolley and the police. “Sheriff Target for Prosecution,” Tulsa Daily World, September 7, 1920, 12. [lvi] Lilian Crawford Perkins, “Society Woman’s World and Work,” Tulsa Daily World, August 27, 1920, 6. [lvii] For example, the World’s now infamous 1917 “Get Out the Hemp” editorial, appearing inches from Lorton’s name in the masthead, begged for killings thusly: "Any man who attempts to stop the [oil] supply for one-hundredth part of a second is a traitor and ought to be shot!…if the I. W. W. or its twin brother, the Oil Workers Union, gets busy in your neighborhood, kindly take occasion to decrease the supply of hemp. Knowledge of how to tie a knot that will stick might come in handy in a few days.…Kill’em just as you would kill any other kind of snake. Don’t scotch’em; kill’em. And kill’em dead. It is no time to waste money on trials and continuances and things like that." “Get Out the Hemp,” Tulsa Daily World, November 9, 1917, 4. For more advocacy of murder by the World’s editorialist writers see Randy Hopkins, “Birthday of the Klan: The Tulsa Outrage of 1917,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma, 97, no. 4 (Winter 2019-20), 417, 422, 424-25. [lviii] “An Indignant Protest,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 4. [lix] “Our Indignant Governor,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 4. County Attorney Munroe had to fight this view of murder as good citizenship, arguing that it was simply an act of vengeance that threatened a descent to the law of the jungle. “Hanging No Act of Citizenship,” Tulsa Daily World, September 3, 1920, 1. On September 19, Lorton left town on a driving trip to Portland, Oregon and the Nida and Belton affairs were not again addressed on the World’s editorial page. “Eugene Lorton Says Brown, Tulsa Banker, Missed His Calling,” Tulsa Daily World, September 29, 1920, 18. [lx] “An Indignant Protest,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 4 (“[T]he whole proceedings was [sic] planned many hours in advance of the event; that the county authorities had warning of what was coming and ample time to prevent what did take place.Yet when the crowd moved to its purpose, the sheriff was swept aside like chaff without protest or even a gesture toward protecting the man in his charge.”). [lxi] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1 (headline lynching the “Talk of the City”); “Special Court Starts Monday,” Tulsa Daily World, September 5, 1920, 1 (widespread disinclination and “serious obstructions”); “Court Will Call Witnesses Today,” Tulsa Daily World, September 6, 1920, 1 (“County officers admit the many obstructions which will be placed in their way by friends of the men who composed the mob.”); “Hush Falls over City on Belton Mob,” Tulsa Tribune, September 4, 1920, 1 (“Witnesses who talked freely of the affair for a day or two following, are silent as a tomb today”); “Women May Testify in Lynch Quiz,” Tulsa Tribune, September 5, 1920, 1 (“[I]f the tragedy was discussed at all. It was discussed in whispers.”). [lxii] AG Civil Case 1017- 003. The named police officers were “Doc. Bassett, Mondier, known as “Popcorn Shorty,” Chief Gustafson, Nick Remacher, and some other officers.” For other file notes concerning the five witnesses and the police participation: AG Civil Case, 1017-001; 1017-037. [lxiii] AG Civil Case 1017-025. [lxiv] Court of Inquiry, Weissinger, 169-170. He was at the downtown Stag Pool Hall when he heard a crowd was gathering and made his way to the lynching. The other four may have also been aficionados of the Stag which, as Weissinger described it, was an almost gossip-free pool hall. [lxv] Court of Inquiry, Sexton, 85-88. [lxvi] Court of Inquiry, Langley, 171-174; AG Civil Case 1017-036. After the lynching, Yellow Hammer and others went to Ed Welsh’s garage and talked considerably about the event. AG Civil Case 1017-037. King also attempted to identify the long gun-carrying mob member whose nickname had been called out while Belton was being prepared for hanging. One witness testified it “sounded like Yellow Jacket, or something like that to me.” Court of Inquiry, Owen, 45. There were other candidates for the nicknamed mobster, but oddly they all turned out to be associated with Yellow Hammer Cranfield. AG Civil Case 1017-037 (“Slim” Wade and “Little Buck” Bucan). [lxvii] Court of Inquiry, Langley, 175, 177. Langley had been a prison guard and had worked with the “custody and handling of prisoners” since statehood. Court of Inquiry, Langley, 178. He had been at a Sperry stomp dance with Woolley earlier Saturday night and drove by the courthouse after the mob assembled. He took off his hat, hunkered down, and drove away so as not to be seized and forced to open the jail. He went home. Woolley never called him or any other deputy for help. [lxviii] “File Suit to Oust Woolley,” Tulsa Tribune, September 9, 1920, 2. Langley’s partner, deputy John F. Burnett, also was removed. All sides claimed that it had nothing to do with the Belton lynching. Langley had been investigating the claim of the Mexican woman whose coal-mining husband had been killed by a joy-riding party she alleged involved Marie Harmon, of which nothing further was heard. [lxix] Court of Inquiry, Montgomery, 166-168. [lxx] For no notice of Montgomery warning, see Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 141. For fairly asked, see Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 82-83. For Terrell’s background in law enforcement, see Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 68, 76. [lxxi] Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 150-53. Terrell testified only that someone from the police - he did not know who and did not recognize the voice - called to say there was talk of a mob and to “let me know” if you need help. Terrell said he then called Woolley’s residence and asked Mrs. Woolley to pass a message onto the sheriff. Both the Woolleys said it was a woman who called the house. Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 68-69, 84; Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 137; Court of Inquiry, Slick 65-66. [lxxii] For self-promotion, see August 10, 1917 letter from Gustafson to Oklahoma Governor R. L. Williams marked document 82169, folder 1, box 36, R. L. Williams Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Center, Oklahoma City, OK. For Gustafson’s history in private detection, see Local Findings on John A. Gustafson, Attorney General Civil Case No 1062, box 25, record group 1-2, State of Oklahoma vs. John A. Gustafson Chief of Police, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK (hereafter cites as State of Oklahoma v. Gustafson). [lxxiii] “Tulsa Detective Tells of Fight,” Tulsa Daily World, January 20, 1917, 1, 3. Working for the Oklahoma Bankers Association, Gustafson assembled a team to ambush members of the so-called Poe-Hart “gang" of alleged bank robbers. Gustafson claimed that at least seventy-five shots were fired in the resulting shoot-out, but nary a scratch was received by his men. Oscar Poe and the Hart twins, Harry and Billie, were slain. [lxxiv] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3 (Gustafson: “‘Immediately I instructed the desk sergeant to issue a general call for all patrolmen to rush to the courthouse.’”). This is less expansive than it might appear. The patrolmen wore uniforms and were stationed on beats all over town. But the elite of the force were the detectives, who were plainclothesmen. [lxxv] “Mob Lynches Tom Owens,” Tulsa Daily World, August 29, 1920, 1 (“In a few minutes the handful of men outside the building had increased to hundreds and shortly a thousand people blocked the streets in curiosity and anticipation.”). Also, Otis Lorton, “Oklahoma Outbursts,” Tulsa Daily World, August 31, 1920, 4 (“The hanging bee pulled off the other night appears to have been a pretty well advertised event, judging from the number of non-participating spectators who suddenly appeared on the scene.”). [lxxvi] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3. The jailer referred to by Gustafson was apparently Terrell, who admitted making a call to the police after Woolley called him. Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 70-71. Gustafson never mentioned Woolley’s call to the police. [lxxvii] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3 (Gustafson: “‘But by the time even those at the staion [sic] arrived there members of the mob had gained entrance to the jail and secured Belton.’”). [lxxviii] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 145 (after the delivery, Woolley went to his office where he met Munroe and “‘about that time, there is two or three of these city boys, Barney Cleaver and another colored fellow and some more came.’”). [lxxix] For two Black officers on force, see Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Press, 1982), 36-37. Other policemen, however, may have arrived first. According to the investigation file, policeman Doc Bassett bragged to Curley Lemon that “they had received telephone message fifteen minutes before mob taken prisoner from sheriff, and that they went to cornor [sic] of court house and waited until mob got prisoner, and then got car and went to scene of tradedgy [sic].” AG Civil Case 1017-003. Bassett, whose correct name may have been Bissett, was a detective and the “they” referred may have included more of the police department’s plainclothesmen. [lxxx] AG Civil Case 1017-001; AG Civil Case 1017-037. [lxxxi] For Gustafson commandeering auto, see AG Civil Case 1017-001. For most of the force present at lynching and Gustafson’s stand-down order, see “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3. For police doing all they could to prevent disorder, see “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer,” Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 1. [lxxxii] Court of Inquiry, Randolph, 117. [lxxxiii] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3. Gustafson’s similar statement to the Tulsa Tribune was in “Mob Lynches Taxicab Slayer," Tulsa Tribune, August 29, 1920, 3. [lxxxiv] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1. [lxxxv] “Jim Woolley Dead is Latest Rumor,” Tulsa Tribune, October 6, 1916, 1; “Committee Named to Entertain Cox,” Tulsa Tribune, August 31, 1920, 2. [lxxxvi] While Brady and Lewis were rock-ribbed Democrats, they abandoned the party in the April 1920 city elections and endorsed Republican candidate T. D. Evans over incumbent Democratic Mayor Charles H. Hubbard. Having previously fallen out with Hubbard, Brady and Lewis supported Charles F. Hopkins for mayor in the Democratic primary. After Hubbard won, Hopkins and his two ardent supporters threw in with the Republicans, with Brady promising to deliver 1,500 votes. “Hubbard and Evans Win for Mayor,” Tulsa Daily World, March 17, 1920, 1, 13; “Evans and Bigger Tulsa Ticket Win,” Tulsa Daily World, April 7, 1920, 5. In the primary, the total Democratic vote for mayor exceeded the Republican vote 5,905 to 2,160. With the support of the Hopkins-Brady-Lewis faction, Evans won a narrow 4,891 to 4,684 victory. “Evans and Bigger Tulsa Ticket Win, Tulsa Daily World, April 7, 1920, 1, 5. Republican commission candidate O. A. Steiner won an even narrower victory, suggesting that without the factional split the Democrats would have retained a majority of the city commission and would have selected the next police commissioner. The election drastically changed Tulsa’s history. Hubbard had good relations with Greenwood as shown by the ardent support of newspaperman A. J. Smitherman. Tulsa (OK) Star, April 3, 1920, 1. He was unlikely to have countenanced the gruesome events of 1921. Evans and Adkison did. For their part, the Republicans credited and the Democrats blamed the newly enfranchised women’s vote for the outcome. “Evans and Bigger Tulsa Ticket Win,” Tulsa Daily World, April 7, 1920, 1. [lxxxvii] Woolley had beaten McCullough by 314 votes in 1914, lost by 148 in 1916, and won by 82 in 1918. “Fields Carried the County by 781 Votes,” Tulsa Daily World, November 5, 1914, 2; “Republicans Given Six County Places,” Tulsa Daily World, November 9, 1916, 6; “Complete Tulsa County Vote by Precincts,” Tulsa Democrat, November 7, 1918, 6. [lxxxviii] For Woolley and Harmon’s white hair, see “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 2 (hair as white as cotton); “To Quiz Hundreds on Lynching,” Tulsa Tribune, August 31, 1920, 1; “Call Guards at Trial of Nida Slayers,” Tulsa Tribune, September 8, 1920, 1. [lxxxix] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 145. [xc] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 132. [xci] “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 3. [xcii] “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1. [xciii] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 131, 137. [xciv] Mrs. Woolley did not testify. For the description of the message delivered by an unidentified female, see Court of Inquiry, Slick, 52-53, 60; Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 131, 134, 137. Again, there was no mention of the call Terrell claimed that he made to Mrs. Woolley. [xcv] For two hundred to three hundred armed men, see “Call Jury to Find Lynchers,” Tulsa Tribune, August 30, 1920, 1. [xcvi] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 132, 142-43. As sheriff, Woolley’s legal duty was to use a “high degree of care” in protecting his prisoners from mob violence and an “imperative duty” to use all means within his power to guard his prisoners when he had notice of or reason to believe violence may be attempted. AG Civil Case 1017-038. [xcvii] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 24-5 (night jailer was told that Woolley said to be careful not to hurt anybody if we could help it); Court of Inquiry, Slick 54-55, 60-61; Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 134. [xcviii] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 24-26, 38. Slick said it was five or ten minutes or something like that. Court of Inquiry, Slick, 54. For Basham as a former jailer, see “Hear Three ‘Lynch’ Witnesses,” Tulsa Tribune, September 24, 1920, 1. [xcix] Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 70-71. [c] For exhortations, see Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 132, 143. For inevitability, see “Probe Belton Lynching,” Tulsa Daily World, August 30, 1920, 1, 3 (quoting Gustafson “‘[A] regrettable occurrence…But it was also probably inevitable because of the great feeling which had been aroused.’” Also quoting Woolley “‘[U]nder the circumstances I do not believe it could have been prevented. The men wanted Belton and would have gone to any ends to get him.’”). During his walk through downtown, Tribune reporter Randolph also learned from a cab driver that earlier attempts to rally a mob had failed. Court of Inquiry, Randolph, 109-110. [ci] The attorney general’s file contains a note that: "The following is another bunch of witness who are young men of good famileys [sic] living in Tulsa, who were driving around that evening and saw the show….One of these boys heard Sherrif Wolley [sic] tell a member of the mob to put gun in his back and make him go get the prisoner." AG Civil Case 1017-003. The record contains no further mention of these witnesses, though County Attorney Munroe would later complain about the “lack of support received from the better class of citizens who do not want to testify because it will embarrass them.” “Hush Falls over City on Belton Mob,” Tulsa Tribune, September 4, 1920, 1. [cii] AG Civil Case 1017-039 (use or threats of violence by three or more persons acting together constitutes a “riot" and if crimes such as murder are committed “any person participating in said riot is guilty in the same manner as a principal in such crime.”). [ciii] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 28-30, 33; Court of Inquiry, Slick, 63; Court of Inquiry, Terrell, 71-75 (Woolley hollered “Don’t you boys shoot now.”); Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 132-135. [civ] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 132 (“Whatever his name was.”). [cv] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 32, 36; Court of Inquiry, Slick, 65; Court of Inquiry, Northrup, 160. [cvi] Court of Inquiry, Basham, 35-37; Court of Inquiry, Slick, 63-4. [cvii] Court of Inquiry, Slick, 62-4; Court of Inquiry, Basham, 35-37. [cviii] Court of Inquiry, Woolley, 144. The only person Woolley recognized was the red-headed Tribune reporter Max Coulter in the company of the invaders. He appeared to concede that not all of the invaders were masked. [cix] Court of Inquiry, Woolley 148. [cx] For original plans to interrogate Tulsa police next, see “Six Testify to Fix Blame for Lynching,” Tulsa Tribune, September 7, 1920, 1; “Call Guards at Trial of Nida Slayers,” Tulsa Tribune, September 8, 1920, 1 (police officers to be center stage). [cxi] For coverage of the supreme court detour, see “High Court Refuses to Oust Woolley,” Tulsa Daily World, September 10, 1920, 1, 13; “Ouster Suit is Dropped by King,” Tulsa Daily World, September 11, 1920, 18 (King says no more testimony available for his Court of Inquiry); “File Suit to Oust Woolley,” Tulsa Tribune, September 9, 1920, 1; “State Quits in Woolley Suit,” Tulsa Tribune, September 10, 1920, 1; “Suit to Oust Woolley is Withdrawn,” Tulsa Tribune, September 11, 1920, 1. The supreme court records contain no indication that an actual ruling was made. The attorney general’s office also filed and then dismissed a companion removal petition in its Oklahoma City lynching case. [cxii] “State Quits in Woolley Suit,” Tulsa Tribune, September 10, 1920, 1. [cxiii] “Faulty Summons Halts Grand Jury,” Tulsa Daily World, September 14, 1920, 16; “Error Halts Lynch Quiz for 10 Days,” Tulsa Tribune, September 13, 1920, 1. [cxiv] “Many Witnesses in Lynch Quiz Monday,” Tulsa Tribune, September 26, 1920, 2; “Grand Jury Adjourns,” Tulsa Daily World, September 26, 1920, 4; “Letter Given Jury May Refer to Cline,” Tulsa Tribune, September 27, 1920, 1 (contempt threatened); “Grand Jury Takes Up New Matters,” Tulsa Daily World, September 28, 1920, 7. [cxv] “Draw Panel for Jury in Lunch Quiz,” Tulsa Tribune, September 12, 1920, 1 (grand jury to identify mob leaders, then move onto Woolley and then police); “Letter Given Jury May Refer to Cline,” Tulsa Tribune, September 27, 1920, 1 (Doc Bissett only police officer questioned). [cxvi] “Sheriff Cleared in Grand Jury Report,” Tulsa Daily World, September 30, 1920, 1-2; “Jury Clears Sheriff Woolley,” Tulsa Tribune, September 29, 1920, 1-2. Judge Owen had vigorously pursued the case, grilling prospective jurors hard for signs of bias. “Accept Ten Men for Grand Jury,” Tulsa Daily World, September 24, 1920, 18. Nonetheless, one of the selected jurors was subsequently dismissed when it was discovered he was a friend of Gustafson. “Seek Evidence Against Officer,” Tulsa Daily World, September 25, 1920, 5. [cxvii] “Full Tally Hikes G.O.P. Lead,” Tulsa Daily World, November 4, 1920, 1, 8. [cxviii] “Raymond Sharp to Seek His Freedom,” Tulsa Tribune, November 17, 1920, 9. [cxix] Ray Hill, “‘Hillbilly Bill:’ Congressman J. Will Taylor,” The Knoxville Focus, July 15, 2015, at knoxfocus.com/archives/hillbilly-bill-congressman-j-will-taylor. In late November 1920, after Taylor’s arrival, habeas corpus motions were filed on behalf of Harmon and Sharp seeking their release. These failed in the face of opposition from the lame-duck County Attorney Munroe’s office. “Harmon Motion Heard by Cole,” Tulsa Daily World, November 23, 1920, 18; “Freedom is Denied to Marie Harmon,” Tulsa Tribune, November 24, 1920, 4; “Harmon Woman Is Back in Jail,” Tulsa Daily World, November 25, 1920, 5; “Habeas Corpus Writ is Denied,” Tulsa Daily World, December 3, 1920, 20; “Marie Harmon Banished over Chief’s Kick,’” Tulsa Tribune, January 18, 1921, 1. [cxx] Statement of Ira Short, 420-21, State of Oklahoma v. Gustafson. [cxxi] “Woman Is Freed in Nida’s Case,” Tulsa Daily World, January 19, 1921, 16 (describes Harmon as having finally “admitted a plot to steal the car from Nida, but denied there was any intention of killing the driver to obtain possession of the car.”); “Marie Harmon Banished over Chief’s 'Kick,’” Tulsa Tribune, January 18, 1921, 1. The “Kick” referred to Police Chief Gustafson’s expressed anger at Harmon’s dismissal. It was the first wedge between the police and Seaver that would evolve into an attorney general investigation that deeply entangled the Evans Administration days before the Tulsa Race Massacre. [cxxii] “To Ask for Death for Slayers of Chauffeur,” Tulsa Tribune, August 28, 1920, 1 (“Harmon’s testimony will be used to make certain the conviction of the others that she may go free.”). Former Assistant County Attorney Homer Montgomery told the Tulsa Tribune he was surprised by Harmon’s dismissal as “the woman could have been used at Sharp’s trial” and that “she could not be prosecuted for murder because we promised her immunity, but we could hold the murder charge against her until she took the stand”; “Marie Harmon Banished over Chief’s ‘Kick,’” Tulsa Tribune, January 18, 1921, 1. [cxxiii] “Woman Is Freed in Nida’s Case,” Tulsa Daily World, January 19, 1921, 16; “Dismiss Second in Nida Murder,” Tulsa Daily World, January 26, 1921, 6. While no one imposed a condition that she return for Sharp’s trial, Harmon is quoted as replying, “Don’t worry judge, I will leave the state just as quick as I can and never return unless you want me.” “Marie Harmon Banished over Chief’s ‘Kick,’” Tulsa Tribune, January 18, 1921, 1. [cxxiv] “Full Tally Hikes G.O.P. Lead,” Tulsa Daily World, November 4, 1920, 1, 8; “General Mix-Up After Elections,” Tulsa Daily World, November 6, 1920, 7 (final count of 12,797 for McCullough versus 11492 for Woolley). Woolley had beaten McCullough by 314 votes in 1914, lost by 148 in 1916, and won by 82 in 1918. The result also likely reflected Democratic factional revenge for Brady’s and Lewis’s support of Evans. This was Woolley’s last run for office. He joined the Tulsa Police Department in 1926 at the age of 58. Ronald L. Trekell, History of the Tulsa Police Department (Tulsa: Tulsa Police Department, 1989), 390. On January 21, 1931, Woolley was called to investigate three heavily armed men sitting in a car. As Woolley approached, one of the men opened fire, striking Woolley in the chest. He returned fire and collapsed. “Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial,” accessed November 15, 2019, www.oklemem.com/w.html#James-Wooley. His funeral was attended by three thousand people. “3,000 Attend Rites for Slain Officer,” Daily Oklahoman, January 27, 1931, 1. [cxxv] Both Brady and Lewis qualified as “good citizens” of the day. Both were also implicated in the first of Tulsa’s escalating trilogy of atrocities, the Tulsa Outrage of 1917. Witnesses identified Brady as the master of ceremonies and ringleader of the torture session that followed the kidnapping from police custody of seventeen members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Randy Hopkins, “Birthday of the Klan: The Tulsa Outrage of 1917,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 97, no. 4 (Winter 2019–20), 429–30, 446. [cxxvi] Redmond S. Cole to Jas. G. Findlay, June 6, 1921, folder 1, box 12, M290, Redmond S. Cole Collection, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. Judge Cole also named E. S. Macqueen as “the man that fired the first shot” on May 31, 1921. Macqueen’s name also appears on the list of knowledgeable individuals regarding the lynching of Roy Belton. AG Civil Case 0017-004.