Negro Murderer Taken and Burned

The above newspaper caption appeared on a Gallatin newspaper on Jan. 15, 1931.

The above newspaper caption appeared on a Gallatin newspaper on Jan. 15, 1931.

At that time, a mob of nearly 4,000 people, both of spectators and of participants, had either watched or helped in the dragging of a negro man, Raymond Gunn, down the streets of Maryville, and towards a small country school house four miles away where he had assaulted and killed a white school teacher Miss Velma Colter. He’d hid in a ditch waiting for her to dismiss her class for the day. When the children had left the school grounds, he entered the school house where he did his harmful act.

Now, the mob was ready to do their “justice.” Gunn was seized as he walked along with the sheriff and three of his deputies on the way to the courthouse for him to plead guilty to the charge. The sheriff also suffered lacerations and bruises.

A few members of the crowd grabbed Gunn and clipped his ears with snippers. Gunn then confessed to the killing, but indicated another negro known as “Shike” Smith also had a hand in it. Upon reaching the schoolhouse, shingles were torn from the roof leaving the rafters to serve as a ladder. He was chained to the roof with heavy chains, gasoline from one of the cars was used to saturate the rafters, and a match lit. As the flames quickly spread, the schoolhouse roof fell into the fire carrying Gunn’s body with it. Gunn let out a loud screech and then silence occurred.

A group of 50 national guardsmen had mobilized in the armory in case efforts were made to snatch the prisoner from the officers. They didn’t leave the building because there hadn’t been any request for them made by the sheriff which left them powerless to act.

— researched by Wilbur Bush