“Conservative” Fox News ran this piece demonizing a Kentucky county for holding a legal public execution 75 years ago. The executed convict was a monster who raped and murdered a 70 year old woman.
Fox News seems to suggest that we should be feeling sorry for the perp, in part because he was black.
Bob Howe points to an overgrown, muddy patch of land in a cemetery in Owensboro, gesturing to where the grave of the last man publicly executed in the United States may be.
“I think it was over there,” said Howe, an 81-year-old lifelong Owensboro resident and retired county coroner. “I used to pass it on the way to school. That’s what I was told. It was over there somewhere.”
The grave is anonymous and unmarked, like other places associated with Rainey Bethea’s hanging on Aug. 14, 1936. As the 75th anniversary of the execution approaches, it is something some in Owensboro would like history to remember differently.
Bethea, a farmhand and sometime criminal, went to the gallows near the banks of the Ohio River before a throng of people estimated at as many as 20,000 strong. The execution drew national media coverage focused on a black man being executed by a white, female sheriff with the help of a professional hangman.
“It was not a carnival in the end,” insisted 85-year-old James Thompson, the son of then-sheriff Florence Thompson.
Still, Kentucky lawmakers cited the negative publicity surrounding Bethea’s hanging in ending public executions in the state in 1938. Kentucky was the last state to do so. Later, Gov. Albert B. “Happy” Chandler expressed regret at having approved the repeal, claiming, “Our streets are no longer safe.”