1460: Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury 1477: Gerolamo Olgiati, ducal assassin

1926: Melton Carr

January 1st, 2015 Headsman

In contemporary America, it would be next to unthinkable to schedule an execution for New Year’s Day — and asking the associated team of wardens, guards, executioners, witnesses, lawyers, and journalists to ditch New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and do a ball drop to a lethal chemical injection would be a complete nonstarter.

But the First of January, especially prior to the age of widespread telecommunication, was not always so sentimentally held. The Espy File of historical American executions records none whatsoever for Christmas Day, but several have occurred on New Year’s. We’ve previously profiled some of them in these grim annals, like Sylvester Henry Bell and Archilla Smith.

January 1 of 1926, “just 15 minutes after the arrival of the New Year” in the words of the Associated Press report, was the occasion in Huntsville, Texas for electrocuting African-American Melton Carr for raping a white woman in Walker County.

I have found hardly any information pertaining to this case online, but the detail that Carr was reprieved from an earlier execution date “on a petition from officials and citizens of Walker county” — implicitly, white citizens — might be a suggestive indicator for a crime so incendiary under other circumstances. We have seen that detail before in the case of Tom Joyner’s ancestors, who had broad clemency support because the racial politics of the time made an open judicial exploration of their actual innocence impossible.

Hours later, the first-ever radio broadcast of the Rose Bowl introduced another New Year’s Day tradition to the national consciousness — and just by the by, changed the South forever.

After that game, there would be only more January 1 execution date in American history: the 1943 double gassing of Rosanna and Daniel Phillips.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Electrocuted,Execution,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rape,Texas,USA

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2 thoughts on “1926: Melton Carr”

  1. Elsie Lane says:

    Here’s a 1925 court decision about the case, I don’t know if you want to add anything (more than a month later, but at your discretion), but if you do, here’s a little bit that you could:


    And this is another court decision from 1925, but with less information about the case itself:


    I hope this helps you, or I hope this is at least interesting. Take care! 🙂

  2. JCF says:

    Just read those articles about (so-called) “game that changed the South”: talk about underwhelming! So Alabama beat “the damn Yankees”: whoop-de-doo. Did any fewer lynchings (speaking of) result? We know those “Whites Only” signs didn’t come down for another 30-40 years.

    RIP, Melton. Know that it would take a HECK of lot more than a guilty verdict, to be convinced of your actual guilt…

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