The Last Public Execution in America
by Perry T. Ryan
In preparing this publication, the author reviewed innumerable materials and interviewed various persons who were both directly and indirectly involved with the Bethea case. The most significant sources of information are as follows:
- The Owensboro Messenger and Inquirer and its joint editions, from June of 1936 through August of 1936.
- The Louisville Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times from June of 1936 through August of 1936.
- Dozens of other periodicals published nationally, too numerous to name individually, were reviewed. Reference is made in the text to most of these.
- The file of the Daviess Circuit Court in Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Rainey Bethea, File No. 10971.
- The records of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville in File No. 1996 now in the possession of the National Archives Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia.
- The Executive Journal of Governor Albert B. Chandler now in the office of the Kentucky Secretary of State.
- Various birth and death certificates in the possession of the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics.
- The marriage license, deeds, estate settlement, and other records of Elza and Lischia R. Edwards in the Daviess County Clerk's Office.
- The inmate file of Rainey Bethea (No. 11275), of the Kentucky Corrections Cabinet.
- The personal papers of Sheriff Florence Thompson, now in the possession of her son, James Thompson of Owensboro.
- The federal census records of Daviess County, Kentucky.
- The Owensboro City Directory, 1930 through 1938.
- Dr. Philip R. Edwards' permanent employment history now in the Special Collections facility of the Margaret I. King Library of the University of Kentucky.
- A biographical file of Charles W. Anderson, Jr., maintained by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission Library.
- The records of the Kentucky Bar Association and the Kentucky Supreme Court which pertain to the various attorneys.
- Personal interviews with various participants in, or witnesses of, the trial, federal habeas corpus proceeding, and the hanging, including Attorney William Wilson, James Thompson, Mary Lillian Thompson Lee, William T. Mattingly, and William Haley, all of Owensboro; Medora Withers of Hardinsburg, Kentucky; Virginia Davis of Calhoun, Kentucky, and the late Gov. Albert B. Chandler.
While this is not an exhaustive list, other personal interviews were conducted with Harry Phil Pearce of Epworth, Illinois; Buck Reynolds of Carmi, Illinois; Neville Tucker of Sepulveda, California; Tilford Brown, former Deputy Sheriff of Jefferson County, Kentucky; Dorothy Edwards Ivey of Gadsden, Alabama; and Joseph Dishman of Owensboro.