1943: Sue Logue, George Logue and Clarence Bagwell

On this date in 1943, as the New York Times laconically led the story, “[t]wo men and a woman died in the electric chair … bringing to eight the number of deaths in ‘The Logue Case,’ which started over a dead calf.”

This culmination to an operatic South Carolina feud has a book all its own, and that scarcely seems equal to the events.

The dead calf in question* belonged to the Logue family, and (your headsman wouldn’t make this up) had been kicked to death by a mule of the neighboring Timmermans. Perhaps mistaking themselves for a cartoon parody, the two leading families of rural Edgefield County, S.C., used the incident to escalate a long-simmering feud.

Killing higher up the food chain soon followed.

The Timmerman patriarch wasted the Logue patriarch — Sue Logue’s husband and George Logue’s brother — but claimed self-defense and was acquitted. (Body Count: 1)

So Sue and George hired (via nephew Joe Frank Logue) a down-on-his-luck plasterer to even the score. Clarence Bagwell said he’d kill everyone in the county for $500, but he earned his fee just by gunning down old man Timmerman. (Body Count: 2)

The investigation brought the law to the Logue doorstep, and the requisite gun battle ensued. A sharecropper on the farm was killed. So was the sheriff — he was Sue Logue’s cousin — and the sheriff’s deputy. (Body Count: 5)

“[T]he only circuit court judge in South Carolina history to have made love to a condemned murderess as she was being transferred … to Death Row.” (Source)

The officers’ death necessitated the appearance of the man who now became the senior law enforcement official in the county: Strom Thurmond, still a local judge and a few years away from his vault into national prominence as a segregationist presidential candidate and 46-year South Carolina Senator.

Thurmond waded through the posse and talked the trio into surrendering. His warning that they were liable to be lynched must have been compelling in any circumstance, but the old goat was a uniquely qualified ambassador: he’d been having an affair with Sue Logue.

Small wonder the trial venue was moved. “[N]o section of the county could be found that did not include a relative of theirs.” (Source)

And small good it did the Logues, who died with their hireling in the early morning hours this day. (Body Count: 8)

For such an outlandish case, it earned only muted national coverage — a pittance reckoned against the feeding frenzy latterly occasioned by such relatively meager gruel as Scott Peterson. World War II stole its thunder, although local interest was intense.

Yet it lives on for the involvement of Thurmond in a second guise that rates as quite possibly the juiciest slice of death row gossip in American history. According to Ol’ Strom: An Unauthorized Biography of Strom Thurmond:

Randall Johnson, a black man who supervised “colored help” at the State House and often served as driver and messenger, drove Sue from the women’s penitentiary to the death house at the main penitentiary in Columbia.** In the back seat with her, he said many years later, was Thurmond, then an Army officer on active duty. They were “a-huggin’ and a-kissin’ the whole day,” said Johnson, whom Thurmond later as governor considered a trusted driver… In whispered “graveyard talk” — the kind of stories not to be told outsiders — the word around SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) was that Joe Frank said his aunt Sue was the only person seduced on the way to the electric chair.

* A “prize calf,” to be fair.

** On Christmas Day, according to Dorn.

Part of the Themed Set: The Spectacle of Private Execution in America.

On this day..

Themed Set: The Spectacle of Private Execution in America

The elimination of public executions in America might have aimed at public decorum, but it certainly did not remove executions from the domain of spectacle.

Inevitably, death attracts attention.

Over hedge rows — outside prison walls — in pulpits, legislatures, and the rising din of the mass media — the spectacle took new forms.

The next three dates all capture American executions after the end of public hangings … and the new ways this now-secret punishment announced itself in the communities carrying it out.

On this day..