Lynching of Horace Maples

Horace Maples was an African-American man who was lynched by a mob of approximately 2,000 people in Huntsville, Alabama, on September 7, 1904.[1] Maples had been accused of murder and was being held in the county jail when it was set on fire by the crowd. He jumped from a second story window in the jail, but was seized by the crowd and hanged on a tree on the courthouse lawn.[2][3] Maples' body was then shot full of bullets by people in the crowd.[4]

Lynching of Horace Maples
LocationHuntsville, Alabama
DateSeptember 7, 1904

Detailed news reports of the lynching spread quickly across the United States. This report appeared in the weekly The Ingham County News, published in Mason, Michigan, on September 15, 1904:

Huntsville, Ala., Sept. 8.—After setting fire to the jail and smoking out the prisoner while the fire department was held away with guns, and the sheriff, his deputies and the soldiers outwitted, a mob estimated at over 2.000 persons, Wednesday night lynched Horace Maples, a negro, accused of murdering Elias Waldrop. Maples was hanged on a tree on the court house lawn.

The crowd began to gather in the afternoon and as soon as details of the crime spread throughout the country in which Waldrop had a number of friends, and before the militia, which was ordered from Birmingham by Gov. Cunningham, had arrived, the mob had swelled to enormous proportions. The sheriff and his deputies pluckily stood their ground, but they were powerless before the mob and the fire. The local military company was called out, but they were outwitted by the men who conceived the idea of smoking out the prisoner.

At 10:25 o’clock, the jail was set a fire in the rear. A dense smoke spread through the upper stories and cells of the building. The fire department was not allowed to approach within a block of the scene and was driven away with bullets. The crowd on the outside would allow nobody to enter or come until the person of Horace Maples was surrendered. The sheriff and his guards would not give in, but in some manner the negro got through a window and jumped out of the building into the crowd. He was caught, a rope thrown around his neck and taken to the court house. There was an immense crowd on the lawn.

While Maples was confessing his crime and implicating a white man and two more negroes, John H. Wallace, Jr., and Solicitor Erle Pettus delivered impassioned addresses trying to dissuade the mob. They were hooted down in turn, but finally when Solicitor Pettus called on all who were in favor of the law talking its course to hold up their hands, about half in the big crowd of several thousand did so. There was cheering for a moment, but the men with the rope pulled the negro away, threw the end of the rope over a limb and drew him up. The negro was dead in a few minutes.

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A state court grand jury returned indictments against some of those who actively participated in the lynching, but these were overturned.[5] Later, however, federal judge Thomas Goode Jones, a former Confederate, ruled that the lynchers had violated federal laws.[6]



A memorial in Maples' memory and his death was established at the Madison County Courthouse on September 7, 2020.[7]


  1. ^ "ALABAMA MOB HANGS NEGRO.; Burns Jail to Get at Him -- Vote Taken Before Hanging". The New York Times. September 8, 1904. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  2. ^ "LYNCHED BY A MOB Alabama Negro Taken From Jail and Hanged to Tree". The Press Democrat. No. 213. September 8, 1904. Retrieved 1 May 2021.
  3. ^ Brent J. Aucoin, Thomas Goode Jones: Race, Politics, and Justice in the New South, University Alabama Press. 2016
  4. ^ Thirty years of lynching in the United States, 1889-1918. Compiled and published by the NAACP April 1919, p. 15
  5. ^ Record, James (1978). A Dream Come True: The Story of Madison County and Incidentally of Alabama and the United States, Volume II (PDF). Huntsville, Alabama: James Record. pp. 115–116.
  6. ^ Brent Aucoin, A Rift in the Clouds: Race and the Southern Federal Judiciary, 1900-1910, University of Arkansas Press. 2007
  7. ^ "Madison County memorial for 116th year Anniversary of Horace Maples lynching". WAFF 48. Retrieved 1 May 2021.