police killing

“Times were hard and a poor nigger had to live”: the death of George Taylor.

img-20

Wilson Times, 7 May 1918.

In a nutshell (with some augmented facts): policeman Leon M. Cooper arrested George Taylor on suspicion of theft of a chicken from Morris Barker. Taylor asked for leniency. As they walked toward the police station, Taylor “broke and ran,” and Cooper fired several shots in his direction “to scare him.” Taylor was struck and killed. After an inquest, a coroner’s jury exonerated Cooper. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme.

——

  • George Taylor — in the 1880 census of Saulston township, Wayne County: farmer Jordan Taylor, 34; wife Winnfred, 43; and children Diana Taylor, 15, Nellie Langston, 14, and Robert, 12, Eliza, 11, George, 10, Rufus, 8, Mary, 9, and Jordan Taylor, 6. On 9 February 1892, George Taylor, 21, of the Town of Wilson, son of Jordan and Winnie Taylor, married Kate Lane, 20, of the Town of Wilson, daughter of Charity Lane. Baptist minister Crocket Best performed the ceremony in the presence of Mary Best, W.A. Rogers, and Vinae Araton(?). In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer George Taylor, 30; wife Catherine, 29; and daughter Nancy, 6, were listed in the household of widow Ellen M. Clark, 40. George and Catherine were servants. On 19 December 1906, George Taylor, 35, of Wilson, son of Jordan and Winnie Taylor, married Maggie Batchelor, 30, of Wilson, daughter of Peter Batchelor. A.M.E. Zion minister N.D. King performed the ceremony at Jordan Taylor’s house in the presence of Leiston Pitt, Henry Stewart, Jordan Taylor and Willie Mitchell. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: wagon factory laborer George Taylor, 38; wife Marguerett, 32; and daughter Nancy, 16, a private cook. Per his death certificate, George Taylor died 4 May 1918, “shot by police & killed while under arrest.” He was about 44 years old; was born in Wilson County to Jordan Taylor and Winnie (last name unknown); and worked as a carpenter.
  • Officer Cooper — in the 1920 Wilson city directory: Cooper Leon M police h 410 N Tarboro
  • Morris Barker — in the 1920 Wilson city directory, Barker was listed as proprietor of a department store at 113-115 South Tarboro. (Lithuania-born Barker lived on Maplewood Avenue and was part of Wilson’s tiny Jewish community.)
  • Kenan and Tarboro Streets

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 9.28.58 PM.png

(A) C. Culpepper & Son, (B) Morris Barker’s 5 & 10-cent store. Kenan Street is just beyond the left edge of this section of the 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson.

  • Mr. Culpepper’s shop — in the 1920 Wilson city directory: Cicero Culpepper & Son is listed as a horseshoer and Wheelwright at 222-224 South Tarboro.

Some claim the negro resisted.

On the afternoon of 24 March 1916, Wilson chief of police John A. Wiggs approached two black men foraging for old bottles in a trash pile near the city cemetery. Before long, one man lay dead in the street.

Newspapers across North Carolina picked up the story immediately, reporting it with varying degrees of detail.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.54.40 PM.png

Wilmington Morning Star, 25 March 1916.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.51.38 PM.png

Concord Times (Concord, N.C.), 27 March 1916.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.32.33 PM.png

Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 28 March 1916.

After a few days, the Everything, a newspaper published in Greensboro, offered a tentative assessment.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.46.53 PM.png

Everything (Greensboro, N.C.), 1 April 1916.

Four months later, Wiggs went to trial. The verdict: Not guilty.

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 1.48.51 PM.png

Salisbury Evening Post, 7 September 1916.

——

Phillip Worth seems to have been a newcomer to Wilson and to have had no one in town who knew him well. His death certificate contains little information (not even that he may have been from Alamance County) beyond his cause of death: “bullet wound in heart from pistol in hands of officer of law.”

S123_57-2740.jpg