The Last Public Execution In The United States

last public execution
photo credit:

The story was written in the publication Mother Jones on August 14, 2014

In this Friday, Aug. 14, 1936 file picture, a large crowd watches as attendants adjust a black hood over Rainey Bethea’s head just before his public hanging in Owensboro, Ky. Bethea, a 22-year-old black man convicted of raping a 70-year-old white woman, was the last person killed in a public execution in the United States.  AP

An estimated 15,000–20,000 people showed up for what would be the last public execution in the United States.

Around 5:20 a.m., August 14, 1936, Rainey Bethea was led to the gallows in Owensboro, Kentucky for robbing, raping and murdering Lischia Edwards, a 70 year old woman. Bethea was black, Edwards was white. He confessed to committing the crimes, but was only charged with the rape. Unlike a murder conviction, which would have carried a maximum sentence of death by electrocution at the state penitentiary, a rape conviction allowed for the convicted to be publicly hanged in the county where the crime occurred.

The hanging drew national media attention–largely because the Sheriff of Daviess county was a woman. As Sheriff, Florence Shoemaker Thompson would be responsible for actually hanging Bethea (though she wound up not pushing the lever to the gallows’ trapdoor). The media circus surrounding the hanging prompted the Kentucky General Assembly to amend the law in 1938, no longer required convicted rapists to be hanged in the county seat where the crime occurred.


Let me ask you . . .Doesn’t it say something about us as the human race that 20,000 people would turn out to morbidly watch a man being hung?

Posted In


  1. Humans from the very beginning with Adam and Eve and their two sons Cain and Abel loved killing particularly when Cain killed Abel, thus eliminating 25% of the Worlds population. From the very beginning of human life on Earth, it involved war, slavery, bullying and just outright killing because ‘I don’t like you’. It won’t end until the human nature of killing or needing to be a dominant participant ends.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t know if I would want to watch. I probably wouldn’t be able to forget it and get it off my mind. Reading about it would be enough for me.


        2. Hi,
          To me it involves the personal point of view.
          Please explain to me the difference of reading about it to viewing it. Emotion is involved where viewing is actual. People do view events around or near them as personal.
          Authors may recreate an event as they thought it should be seen while other will recreate the eventn to their story.
          To me reading is meant to give the literal view of what the actual view is showing.
          Many authors are able to describe the event in words what actual events happened.
          That is a value I am learning.

          Lets keep parsing in writing. I like your style and hope in less than one week or more than 100 years the New York Times reports the best sellers!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. In a way I guess you’re right because we watch things like executions in movies and TV shows, and yes, read it as well. It just seems morbid to actually. watch someone be put to death especially knowing how often they get it wrong

          I do love to write. You can’t get good unless you write every day.


        4. And right you are. Watching an event is much different from being in the event, I distentionly remember visiting my oldest daughter in Minnesota in 1993 where when I lived/ She was in 1*99
          What Pisses Me Off: Flowers, bad news, birds and food nazis!
          Christine Massey
          July 05, 2015 Written By Christine Massey in Living What pisses me off
          24 Replies Comment on it

          Years ago, while walking around the bay taking photos of flowers and shrubs, a very dead looking leaf appeared at my feet. It was a succulent, grey in colour and very withered but strangely it had all new growth around the edges. The new growth was in the form of tiny pink very healthy looking flowers. In that tiny old leaf I could see the Circle of Life, it was telling me a big story the old dying while the new flourished. It fascinated me to the point of me bringing it home, planting it then unfortunately forgetting about it. It grew and initially it looked pretty but it kept growing and it wouldn’t stop and now that feral pain in the butt is everywhere. I have been pulling it out for years. I get it out of one section it then appears in another. I couldn’t kill it with a brick and it really pisses me off!

          I hate it when people decide to hit me with bad news late at night, I get very wound up about whatever has been said. Once tiredness is setting in, I begin to overanalyse the most trivial of things. I am talking about things that I normally would not give a toss about; they can become a major issue once the sun goes down. I always try to process whatever has upset my delicate applecart before going to bed, but it never works, and once my head hits the pillow it’s like my brain says, “Game On”. I am suddenly wide awake and then every bit of drama that I have ever dealt with during my adult life comes to the forefront of my brain. I get desperate trying to switch off my thoughts. I try to meditate with no luck, I drop enough lavender oil on my pillow to knock out an elephant, still my brain will not stop instead it laughs at me. And as the morning light comes through my bedroom window, and I can hear the birds start singing and every muscle is aching and I suddenly feel like I could sleep for a week, but I have to get up and function. I quickly realise it’s not going to be a great day when my first thought is, “Shut up birds, you piss me off!”

          I am not at all fond of food nazis – the ones that say I shouldn’t be eating sugar, I shouldn’t be eating salt, I have too much caffeine, I have too many carbs. Who the hell made them the food police to decide what I should and shouldn’t eat? Those people really piss me off!

          If I am having a bad morning nothing beats hot chips with chicken gravy for lunch. I go from feeling like I am being dragged behind a rusty truck face down through the bush to waving a magic wand while sitting on the back of a rainbow farting unicorn. I do not see how food with such magical powers could possibly be bad for me! Carbs can also be beneficial while watching the very riveting show that is Home and Away, the tension will be building not knowing if Alf Stewart is going to make it to the next episode. I reach for a bag of chips to help keep my mind off the trauma of Alf’s dilemma, I would never count a food nazi as a friend. Especially if they are going to go on and on about how I should be eating mung beans, quinoa and chick peas. I do not need that degree of negativity in my life!

          Tell us, do these things piss you off t

          Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s