1951: Eliseo Mares, “silently and horribly” 1823: Abram Antoine, revenger

1941: Eugene Johnson, the first electrocuted in Louisiana

September 11th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1941, the U.S. state of Louisiana joined the 20th century (or at least the late 19th) with its first electrocution.

Louisiana’s electric chair did debut very late in the game. The great surge of adoption for this uniquely American way of death was the 1910s and 1920s. Louisiana was the last state to begin electrocuting prisoners save one — West Virginia.

But in 1940, the state legislature had finally joined the trend sweeping the South and voted for voltage.

So on March 7, 1941, Louisiana hanged its last hangings.

Eugene Johnson, the next to die, has no purchase on death penalty annals but his accidental milestone as the first to die seated: a black man condemned for killing a white farmer is just about your standard-issue condemned man in the interwar South. (The more things change …)

Johnson’s death this date would inaugurate the nickel-and-dime execution solution that Baton Rouge came up with to keep its various parishes right in the thick of the retribution business: the portable electric chair soon christened Gruesome Gertie, which trucked around to the local jails and courthouses meting out motorized justice.

This particular chair, though a latecomer and a modest overall contributor by the standards of Louisiana’s neighbors, would make itself the subject of highest jurisprudence a few years later by not merely botching but failing the execution of one Willie Francis — and then again in the 1980s as the subject of another man’s near-miss legal challenge to the constitutionality of electrocution.

Having always found five friends on the high court, the illustrious furniture retired in 1991 with 87 souls to its electrodes (including that of Willie Francis the second time around: he lost his appeal). Gertie lives on adorning the set of the Angola Prison Museum — and the Academy Award-winning film Monster’s Ball.

Part of the Themed Set: Americana.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Electrocuted,Execution,History,Louisiana,Milestones,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Theft,USA

Tags: , , , , , ,

5 thoughts on “1941: Eugene Johnson, the first electrocuted in Louisiana”

  1. dirk feldspar says:

    NO Man has the RIGHT to KILL another MAN..
    Vietnam Vet
    saw wholesale murder firsthand

  2. Lisa says:

    I am pretty sure that “Lesson Before Dying” was based, loosely, on Willie Francis’ case (though it didn’t include the botched execution).

    Ernest Gaines has mentioned that in interviews.

  3. alyssa says:

    This reminds me of Jefferson from A Lesson BEfore Dying. I wonder if this is the guy that Jefferson was created from

  4. ROTA says:

    Congratulations and thanks for the memory and quotation about my father LGV ROTA’s about executions by electrocution.

    Daniel Rota
    Paris – France

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


September 2011
« Aug   Oct »



Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!