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
- 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
- The inmate file of Rainey Bethea (No. 11275), of the Kentucky
- 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