Claude Neal & Spectacular Accusations

Lynching, Murder & Mystery in
Nature’s Grace: The Claude Neal Case
Chattahoochee River, Jackson County, Florida on April 4, 2014 (Kristina Hurlburt-Porter Collection)
The Story of Claude & Lola
Nestled in the beauty of spacious field, slightly rolling hills, tall pines,
large arching oak trees with Spanish moss and a wide expanse of a the
Chattahoochee River. Almost 80 years ago, death came swiftly and terrifyingly for
Lola Cannady, a petite white girl who was engaged to be married, and Claude
Neal, a black man. Claude was immediately named her accused killer and rapist.
Lola’s body was discovered on October 19, 1934 by family and community
members who were searching for her. Claude’s lynching brought the national
spotlight to the folks of Jackson County. The history of racial violence and white
supremacy took center stage, resulting in an inquiry, calls for action, and riots.
Lost in the spotlight, and spectacle of it all, was the fact that two people, who
knew each other were dead. Both had met violent deaths at the hands of their
killers, and the question of who those killers were is not one that has a clear
answer. Their story is one of questions, murder, opportunity, and motive.
Claude Neal’s Lynching
• Claude Neal’s lynching death placed a national spotlight on Marianna,
Florida. He was grabbed from a jail cell in Brewton, Alabama where six
men had created a diversion to distract the sheriff in charge of his custody.
The six men tortured and killed him in a wooded area in Greenwood,
Florida near the home of the girl he was accused of raping and killing.
• Claude’s dead body was then brought to the home, where reportedly the
father of Lola Cannady, shot Claude’s body. After the torture and shooting,
his body was taken to the town square in Marianna, Florida, and hung
from a tree to deliver a message. The message was: don’t cross the line.
• He was 23-years-old, married, and the father of a three-year-old daughter,
Allie Mae. His wife was expecting another baby, but that pregnancy did
not survive the attempt to escape with Allie Mae. Little information as to
what event occurred ultimately cause harm Mrs. Neal’s pregnancy is
Crime Scene of Claude Neal’s Murder
• Claude was
killed by a
“Committee of
Six,” allegedly at
this tree.
credit: Tampa
Bay Times).
The tree’s location is difficult to get to, on the edge of the Chattahoochee River.
According to Dale Cox, Jackson County Historian, the path is covered with
overgrowth which has to be cut down in order to get to the tree.
Lola Cannady Facts
20-Years-old from the Greenwood area (some articles
have her listed as 19-years-old)
Daughter of a farmer
Lived on property with her family adjacent to where
Claude Neal lived.
Active in the Bascom Baptist Church. She is buried in the
Bascom Cemetery.
She had just graduate high school.
Engaged to be married.
Discovered with her head bashed, body bruised. Found
on edge of field, in a shallow grave covered by brush.
Image Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The
Claude Neal Lynching,” by reporter Ben Montgomery.
Published October 20, 2011. (right)
Last name is often spelled as Cannidy.
Her body was discovered October 19, 1934.
Lola’s Story
• On October 18, 1934 Lola left her family home, and walked to the
watering spout on the edge of the property near where the pigs were
kept. She was described as a beloved family member, who was newly
graduated from high school, and engaged to be married. It is said she was
active in the Bascomb Baptist Church. Her body is buried at the Bascomb
• On October 19th her bruised and battered body was discovered barely
covered by brush and debris. According to police reports it was evident
that she suffered a severe blow to the head, crushing her skull. Lola’s
upper body showed extreme bruising, and her body showed signs of
scratches that led investigators to believe she had fought for her life, and
tried to escape her attackers.
• Two doctors examined Lola’s body after it was discovered. One said she
was raped before being killed, and the other doctor disagreed.
• The killer did not try to hide her body well enough to cover the crime. The
mystery of why her body was not well hidden, and what exactly caused
the attack remains.
Three theories concerning the mystery of Lola’s death are:
1. She was the victim of an attack by Claude over the issue of a milk cow. The Cannady
family had seized the cow because Claude’s mother failed to pay off a debt. The debt was
caused by her reporting the Cannady brothers for drunk and disorderly conduct
Reason: According to local historian, Dale Cox, the cow was used as a lien on a loan,
because Mr. Cannady had to bail his two sons out of jail. It is said Mr. Cannady felt that
Claude’s mother owed him the money because she was the one who reported the brothers
for the drunk and disorderly conduct. Cows were valuable during the Great Depression.
2. Lola spurned her lover, Claude. According to the NAACP reports, it was stated that they
were romantically linked and she had tried to end the relationship. This claim has been
reportedly refuted by both families.
3. Lola was killed by her own family members and Claude Neal paid for it with his life. This is
a topic of debate and shows up on blogs and in chat rooms.
Cannady Family Home
Family home, about ¼ mile from
location of murder site. This picture
shows the deteriorating state of the
home. The home was later torn down.
Lola’s mother weeps at the site
where her daughter’s bruised
and battered body was
Image sources:
(Left) Southern History, a blog by Jackson County author & historian, Dale Cox. (left)
(Right) Photograph from Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The Claude Neal Lynching,” by reporter Ben
Montgomery. Published October 20, 2011. (right)
The Discovery of the Body of Lola Canniday
Body Discovered Chronology:
This list is from the Sheriff Chambliss’ diary dated Friday October 19, 1934:
6:00 AM: Notification of Missing Girl
6:30 AM: Body of girl found in woods about one-eighth of a mile southeast of water pump, with crushed head.
8:30 AM: Coroner’s jury impanelled
8:30 AM: Neal arrested on suspicion by Deputy Coulliette and brought to Marianna. He was transferred
immediately to Chipley where he remained about an hour, and he was then transferred to Panama City. When
arrested his watch ring was out of his watch.
9:00 AM: Watch ring found in woods near where body was found, and turned over to Sherriff that night.
9:30 AM: Dr. Hodges (county physician) makes examination of body for coroner’s jury, and reports that she had
murdered-that she was bruised and lacerated.
10:00 AM: Sallie Smith, great aunt of Neal, arrested by Sherriff and placed in Chipley (Florida), and Neal’s wet
clothes were taken from her house. She and Neal live in the same house.
11:00 AM: Tracks of two persons along and North and South fence discovered. One looked like a man’s track and
the other like a woman’s track. Reported to Sherriff at 1:00 P.m.
12:00 Noon: Dr. MacKinnon (another local physician) makes examination of body at request of Sheriff and State
Attorney and reports no signs of rape appear…
3:00 P.M.: Checked up on whereabouts of a white man named Calvin Cross, who was under suspicion, and
absolved him.
4:00 P.M : Lola Cannidy buried at Bascom (Florida)
Source: Anatomy of a Lynching, The Killing of Claude Neal by James McGovern , p. 44
Accusations & Evidence
• The evidence against Claude Neal was:
• 1.) A watch which was missing the watch ring. A watch ring
matching his broken watch was reportedly discovered at the
crime scene.
• 2.) Claude had a ripped shirt. According to the sheriff's report
the bloody material found at the crime scene fit his shirt.
• 3.) His mother and aunt were allegedly found washing
Claude’s bloodied and torn trousers. Wet clothes were
removed from the house they shared at 10:00 AM on the day
Lola’s body was discovered.
• 4.) Claude’s mother and aunt were arrested and held in
connection with the case shortly after his arrest.
Claude Neal’s Jail Locations
• Claude Neal was arrested on October 18, 1934,
two hours after the discovery of Lola’s body
(according to He was moved to jails in
the following locations:
1. Chipley (Florida)
2. Panama City (Florida)
3. Pensacola (Florida)
4. Brewton Alabama (about 142 miles from the original
site Greenwood, Florida). October 26, 1934 a mob
reported to be of 100 people grabbed Claude from
his jail cell after creating a diversion. Sherriff
Chambliss discovered Claude’s body on October 27th.
1934 Newspaper Clippings-Calls for Investigation
Regarding Claude Neal’s Lynching Death
Above: a sample of articles recorded by the Tuskegee Institute; archival
evidence collection on micro film at the University of South Florida-St.
Petersburg, FL.
The Night Claude Neal Was Kidnapped
From Brewton, Alabama
The events of the night of October 26th a mob of reportedly 100 people traveled
142 miles to Brewton, Alabama to where Claude was being held. They kidnapped
Claude, and a “Committee of Six” took him to a remote location on the edge of the
Chattahoochee River.
At the time of the kidnapping Sherriff Chambliss, and Deputy Dave Ham were
transporting two bank robbers to their jail cell after a trial. During the court trial
someone had slipped a gun to one of the bank robbers. One bank robber shot
Deputy Ham, and a shoot-out began.
As a result of the shoot-out, Sherriff Chambliss was able to proceed with the
unwounded bank robber to jail. The deputy and the other bank robber were taken
to the hospital in Marianna, Florida.
This map shows the
South East of the United
States, and the red dot is
Marianna, Florida.
Marianna serves as the
seat of Jackson County,
and is the location of
where the body of
Claude Neal was hung
from a tree in the center
of town. The town is also
the location of the 1934
riots that followed his
Map of Route from Greenwood, Florida to Brewton, Alabama. The mob traveled 142 miles
each way, for a total of 282 miles, to grab Claude Neal from his jail cell on October 26, 1934
d37 Click on this link and turn by turn instructions are available.
Jackson County Racial History
• Jackson County had a long history of lynching and murder African
Americans. Disregard for the law was firmly in place.
• From 1868-1870 according to research, 150 African Americans were
murdered in Jackson County.
• In the same era, it is said that the sheriff was afraid to serve
warrants on in Marianna, and more terrified to venture out of the
town limits.
• McGovern further highlights the tradition of lawlessness when he
• “There were numerous murders in the county, many for trivial
reasons. Between November, 1933 and July 1934, newspapers
reporter nine trials for murder or assault to commit murder. In one
instance a man shot a policeman for hitting his son after arresting
him for drunkenness, and in another a boy was shot while deliver
papers by a man who suspected he was a chicken thief”
(McGovern p. 31).
Images of the Past
occasion when this mid 1920's photograph was taken is uncertain, except that it was a
commemorative gathering of veterans of the Confederacy and their families. Some of those in
the photo are of the family of a Confederate veteran, Lovette Jackson, shown second from
right. This may have possibly been an United Confederate Veterans reunion from September
26-29, 1927.”
A Look at How Claude Neal Died
Emory Associate Professor of African American Studies Carol Anderson tells the
story of horrific abuse in this installment of the video series "The Hidden History of
the Quest for Civil Rights." Please note the story contains graphic details.
To view the presentation please follow the link below by using ctrl and right click
PBS Documentary & Point of View
To view the complete story provided by PBS Click on the following link by pressing
ctrl & clicking at the same time.
Riots & Calls for Investigation
• The mayor of Marianna, Florida had to call the
governor of the state for National Guard assistance in
the weeks following Claude Neal’s lynching.
• The NAACP investigator, Walter White, helped to
develop a anti-lynching bill that was passed in the
House, but failed in the Senate. He had the support of
Mrs. Roosevelt, but not President Roosevelt. Part of
the reason for the lack of support is the southerncontrolled Senate would not have cooperated with The
New Deal of the anti-lynching law was passed.
Demand for Justice: Below is a sample
of a news article from 10/28/1034
Source: Tuskegee Institute Papers (on microfilm), University of South Florida-St.
Peterburg, archival collection
CNN Opinion
Between Trayvon Martin Case & Claude Neal Lynching
Please click on this link to find the article by using ctrl and right click.
Tampa Bay Times, “Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude
Neal” by Ben Montgomery
• Below is a link to the article by renowned
reporter and author, Ben Montgomery.
• Mr. Montgomery presents an encompassing
perspective on the case. This article was
published October 20, 2011, which was 77
years after the lynching of Claude Neal.
Local Historian’s Blog, Book, and
Research Creating a Local View Point
• Dale Cox, a local Jackson County historian and
writer published a book in 2012 after years of
research into the case. He also maintains a
blog, and specializes in Southern History.
Below is a link to Mr. Cox’s blog. Please press
ctrl and right click to access this blog.
Rumors and Fact
• A debate rages on one blog (link is in blue below). A writer, listed as “O
Williams” claims to be the relative of Claude Neal. His accusations are that
it was not Claude who killed Lola, but Lola’s own family members. The
writer on the blog says the family has evidence that will clear Claude.
• To see the debate press ctrl and right click on the link below (warning the
responses are emotionally charged, and from some of the family members
involved of Claude Neal, Lola Cannady, and family members of the lynch
Restorative Justice
The FBI was given powers to investigate cases such as Claude Neal’s by President
George W. Bush to help bring restorative justice to victim’s families.
The fund created in the early 1990s by President Bush is set up to provide some
type of compensation and restore justice to both sides of the cases based on the
outcomes of the FBI investigations.
The process of restorative justice involves examining the crime, the laws broken,
and working to develop some type of reconciliation with all stakeholders involved.
The particular fund set up by President Bush focuses on Civil Rights cases.
Orlando Williams, the nephew of Allie Mae (Claude’s daughter) has fought for
years to get an investigation opened by the FBI and clear his family’s name. The
FBI investigation was opened just before Ben Montgomery’s article was published
by the Tampa Times. You can find Mr. Montgomery’s article, and the discussion on
Mr. Williams fight for justice, by pressing ctrl and clicking on the link:
• What remains of the case are books, speculation, blogs, and records of
Lola’s death and Claude’s lynching.
• When using google, and typing in the name Claude Neal 6.29 million hits
are returned.
• When typing in Lola Cannady to the same search engine 21,00 hits are
returned. Lola’s tragic and violent death has been overshadowed by
Claude’s lynching.
• Pictures of Claude’s body hanging from the tree in Marianna sold for 50
cents, and sparked national outrage ( reference: Montgomery, Ben, Tampa
Bay Times).
• Howard (“Buck”) Kester, investigator for NAACP investigator, named three
men in his report. Griffin, Carter, and Brown. It was believed that the three
men were not directly involved in the lynching of Claude Neal.
(Montgomery, Ben, Tampa Bay Times).
Justice: The Family of Claude Neal met in late 2010 at this AME Church, in Greenwood, Florida to
discuss the case. Allie Mae Neal’s nephew, Orlando Williams worked for 25 years to get the case
re-opened by the FBI. It was here that he hoped to learn more about the case and what family
members could recall. According to the article By Ben Montgomery a family reunion was held
near this church where amongst the barbecue was talk of the case. (Reference: Montgomery,
Ben, Tampa Bay Times)
Photo by Kristina Hurlburt-Porter, taken April 4, 2014
Anderson, Carol. "The Spectacle Lynching of Claude Neal." Emory University. Web. 4
Apr. 2014.
Cox, Dale. “The Claude Neal Lynching-Marianna and Jackson County.”
Dale Cox, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
"Freedom Never Dies: The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, Claude Neal Lynching." PBS, 1 Jan.
2000. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
McGovern, James R. Anatomy of a Lynching: The Killing of Claude Neal. Louisiana State University Press,
1992. Print.
Montgomery, Ben. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay
Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Wilkerson, Isabel. "Trayvon‘ s Killing and Florida's Tragic Past." CNN, 26 03 2014. Web. 17
Apr 2014.
Image Credits & Sources
Chattahoochee River, Slide 1. Photograph by: Kristina Hurlburt-Porter
Tree, Slide 4: Photograph by: Tampa Bay Times. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Lola Cannady, Slide 6: From Tampa Bay Times. "Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal." Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Cannady Family Home, Slide 8: Cox, Dale. “The Claude Neal Lynching-Marianna and Jackson County.” Dale Cox, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
Lola Cannady’s mother, Slide 8: “Spectacle: The Lynching of Claude Neal."
Tampa Bay Times, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.
Newspaper Clipping, Slide 12: Tuskegee Institute, on microfilm, University of South Florida –St. Petersburg,
Archival Collection
Images Credits & Sources, Continued
Map: slide #13, Source: web. 4 April 2014.
Map: slide #14, Source web. 4 April 2014.
Confederate Flag : Slide #16: Source: web. 16 April 2014.
Video : Slide # 17: Source: Anderson, Carol. "The Spectacle Lynching of Claude Neal."
Emory University. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
PBS Documentary Article Image: Slide #18: Source: web .10 April 2014.
Newspaper Clippings Slide # 20, Slide 12: Tuskegee Institute, on microfilm, University of South Florida –St.
Petersburg, Archival Collection
CNN Story: Slide 21:Wilkerson, Isabel. "Trayvon‘ s Killing and Florida's Tragic Past." CNN, 26
03 2014. Web. 17 Apr 2014.
Church: Slide 27: Kristina Hurlburt-Porter Photograph
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