yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

I REMEMBER (Killing of Sheriff McBride and Lynching Which Followed)

H. J. Bolen


Henderson County Times
April 30, 1980

Sheriff W.H McBride, who hailed from Sardis, was the 29th sheriff of Henderson County, Tennessee, and the only one killed while in office. He was shot while escorting a prisoner to the jail. The incident comes most vividly to my mind because of the fact that I became one of a posse that was organized at Wildersville by ex-Sheriff John Franklin. The first evidence that the killer was in the community came about when my father's saddle horse was missing and could not be found anywhere around. Then a call came from Winfield Cozart and reported that the horse was tied up out at his home six miles east of Wildersville. Then a little later a wagon with two men in it was headed into town from the east and added a strange passenger who wanted to ride with them. The conversation turned to the murder of the sheriff, and it was then that the passenger jumped off the wagon and ran into the woods. When the two men arrived in town, they reported what had happened and it was not long before the posse was in hot pursuit of the suspect they believed had killed Sheriff McBride. The suspect headed down Big Sandy River bottom, coming out of the swamps into the clearings now and then: The suspect was sighted several times, and was seen running near Joe Todd's house and back into the Big Sandy River swamps. It was then he eluded the posse, left the Big Sandy River area and got in to the thick underbrush and swamps that encircle the New Hope Baptist Church. The suspect was discovered half buried in the creek bed, with his gun pointed toward one member of the posse's force who was nearby. It was then that another member of the posse fired at the suspect before he could pull the trigger of his gun. I recall the suspect was then brought out to high ground and laid at the roots of a large tree. I remember Hubert Webb pulled his nose and ask him why he killed Sheriff McBride, but no answer ever came from his lips. He had the appearance of being a dead man, but other more knowledgeable about such matters said, he was still alive.

At this time, ex-Sheriff John Franklin, head of the posse ordered that the suspected killer of Sheriff McBride be placed in a truck and carried to Lexington and turned over to authorities.

The next time I saw the body was a group held him up for the train passengers to see when the afternoon train passed through Wildersville. The next time I saw him was when he, the body, was tied to the back of a truck and dragged, repeatedly around the court-house square.. By this time a fire had been started, and the suspect's body was thrown upon it and burned into ashes.

This might have been the only lynching ever to occur in Henderson County, and it was the first and only one I ever witnessed. I saw how good men can do despicable deeds when the mob minds prevail and reason has taken its flight.

My father, W. R. Bolen, was on the county court, and nominated W. R. Wright, for an interim appointment, and it was a unanimous choice. It was also a beginning of a long career in law enforcement, for Mr. Wright. Sheriff Wright was the father of Attorney Terry Wright. who still practices law there.

Click here to read about the lynching as reported by the Lexington Progress

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