Samuel J. Kirby married Lula Asbury Norket (DOB 4/6/1896 in Union County, NC; DOD 7/23/1939 in Mecklenburg County, NC). She was born to Mitchell Michael Norket (DOB 3/1844 in NC; DOD ? in ? ) and Mollie Unknown (DOB 1874 in NC; DOD ? in ? ). Mitchell Norket had been married first to Martha Jane Honeycutt (aka Martha Jane Huneycutt). This is where it attached to my tree. My maiden name is Huneycutt. So S.J. Kirby and his wife, Lula Asbury Norket are not blood related to me but I found this story while researching on my Huneycutt line, .
S.J. Kirby and Lula Asbury Norket had a daughter, Ethel Joie Kirby (aka Ethel Joye Kirby, Ethel Joy Kirby) who was born 10/6/1910 in Cabarrus County, NC.
1920 U.S. Census of Ninth Street, Columbia, Richland County, SC, Roll: T625_1707; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 98, Lines 19-22, "S.J. Kirby"
S.J. Kirby, Head, Rented home, M(ale), W(hite), 34 yrs old (DOB 1886), Married, Can read and write, Born in Minnesota, Both parents born in Minn, Insurance Salesman
Lula Kirby, Wife, F, W, 25 yrs old (DOB 1895), Married, Can read and write, Born in NC, Both parents born in NC, Weaver at cotton mill
Ella Kirby (sic, Ethel), Daughter, F, W, 10 yrs old (DOB 1910), Single, Attends school, Can read and write, Born in SC, Mother born in NC, Father born in MN
Mollie Norket, Mother-in-law, F, W, 65 yrs old (DOB 1855), Widowed, Can read and write, Born in NC, Both parents born in NC
Samuel J. Kirby only had one arm. It was suggested in one newspaper interview that he lost it in an accident when he tried to jump a train for a free ride. There was another accident as well that gave him a serious head injury and his wife claimed he had a silver plate in his head. She would later claim that he experienced periods of insanity but the doctors who examined him said he was sane. It seems he was a trouble maker and a brutal man. Here are the newspaper reports I found on him.
The first one I found was this one in 1915 where he was accused of beating his daughter, chaining her in the yard and shooting at her!
Yorkville Enquirer, York, SC, 8/24/1915, Pg 2
Rock Hill Record, Aug. 23: S.J. Kirby, a one-armed white man who lives in the Highland Park mill village, was arrested last week by Constable Allen on a warrant sworn out before Magistrate Wingate for cruelty to his child. The case was called before Magistrate Wingate this morning, but Kirby asked for change of venue, making affidavit that he did not believe he could get a fair trial before Wingate on account of his (Mr. Wingate) having formed and expressed an opinion on the matter. (Mr. Wingate having seen the child after the beating.) Mr. Wingate granted the change and it is supposed that the matter will come up before Magistrate Glenn of Ebenezer. It is stated that Kirby beat his little six-year-old girl most terribly and the next day chained her to a block and made her get out and sweep the back yard while he sat on the steps with a rifle and told her if she did not sweep he would shoot her in the feet. In fact Constable Allen informs us that Kirby acknowledged to him and others that he did shoot into the yard, but was not shooting at the child.
Next he is convicted of robbery and sentenced to the penitentiary.
Fort Mills Times, Fort Mills, SC, 12/23/1915, Pg 1
Herring and Kirby Sentenced
Lester Herring and S.J. Kirby, the two white men convicted last Monday of robbing Jesse Jarrell in Rock Hill in November, were sentenced by Judge Rice Thursday, Kirby being sent to the penitentiary for two years and Herring to the county chaingang for a like period of time.
Fort Mills Times, Fort Mills, SC, 11/1/1917, Pg 3
Governor Manning a few days ago granted a parole to S.J. Kirby, a York county man who was given two years in the penitentiary for robbery and larceny in this county in 1915. Before beginning his sentence Kirby had remained in jail for a few months and the parole was issued in accordance with the recommendations of the judge and solicitor in order that he might receive credit for the time he stayed in jail before he was sentenced.
A few years later, he and two buddies kill a taxi cab driver. Jesse James Gappins, Casy Otis Fox and S.J. Kirby were put to death in the electric chair for this crime. Jesse James Gappins was the youngest being born 4/15/1899 in Georgia and he was married Liz Clark. Casy Otis Fox was born 4/11/1890 in NC to James Fox and Sarah Huffman. Casey Fox was single at the time of his death and is buried at Stanley Creek, Gaston County, NC.
Members of Mob Back In Columbia
Action In Georgia Watched With Interest
Mother of Gappins Tells Sheriff Heise Of Conference Sunday-Officers Make No Move
The State, 12th.
Defeated in their attempt to storm the Richmond county jail at Augusta, Ga., and lunch C.O. Fox and Jesse Gappins, self-confessed murderers of William Brazell, 19 year old taxi driver, hundreds of Columbians, alleged members of the mob, returned to Columbia yesterday to wait further developments in Sheriff Plunkett's tour of Georgia in an effort to locate a jail in which to lodge the two prisoners, who were spirited from the Augusta prison a few hours before the masked men arrived to demand them. A few automobiles, loaded with men, said to be heavily armed, are still patroling roads leading into Columbia and Lexington and threats of mob violence, are still to be heard. "We'll wait until we get them," is apparently the opinion of the men concerned, according to persons known to have conversed with them since their return.
Sheriff Plunkett apparently was successful in eluding all members of the Columbia party, despite the fact that numbers o Columbia men had been in the Georgia city since early Wednesday afternoon, awaiting the arrival of darkness and of reinforcements. The sheriff in leaving the jail with his prisoners shortly after 10 o'clock was pursued by a car which had been parked a block from the jail all afternoon. This automobile is said to have returned to Columbia yesterday afternoon, it's driver reporting that, ignorant of the Georgia roads, he had lost the Augusta officers and two prisoners shortly after leaving Augusta. Plans had been made, it was said yesterday, had the raid on the Augusta jail proved successful to bring the two men back to the spot about three miles from Leesville, where the mutilated body of the young transfer driver was found, and there kill them.
Car to Savannah
When it was learned that the two men had been placed in the Savannah jail to be later moved elsewhere since the Savannah prison was already crowded beyond capacity cars are said to have been dispatched to Savannah to await the developments there, following the sheriff should he have made a dash to another jail.
Sheriff Alex Heise has had a long conference with the mother of Jesse Gappins, one of the two men now held in Georgia. Mrs. Gappins advancing the theory that S.J. Kirby, who confession led to the arrest of the three men, was the moving spirit behind the plot to kill young Brazell and take his car. Kirby visited her home to hold a long conference with Jesse Gappins Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Gappins said, the two men talking in secret for nearly two or three hours. Her son, after Kirby left the house, Mrs. Gappins told the sheriff, told her that he was going to leave on a trip that night and that he would write her in about two weeks and advising her in the meanwhile not to be worried. It was at this conference, Mrs. Gappins believes, that the murder-robbery plot was engineered and her son involved in the scheme.
Kirby has a particularly unsavory reputation among neighbors and county officers, and Sheriff Heise stated yesterday that it was his belief that when the entire truth was revealed that it would be found that Kirby was considerably more involved in the crime than was admitted in his confession. Kirby, in making his statement, told a story of how he had been forced by Fox and Gappins to secure the car, thinking that it was to be used to take the three men to "get some girls" near Lexington, Kirby engaged Brazell's car, he said, under compulsion and then drove to the Seaboard depot and picked up the other two men.
See Weak Link
This, officers think, is a weak link in his statement, absolving himself of blame of the killing, it being pointed out that there was nothing to have prevented him from making his escape from Gappins and Fox at the time. Kirby also had an opportunity, it is thought, to leave the car while the two men carried the body into the woods, as related in his confession. His having only one arm, it is contended, will also explain the alleged fact that he took no active part in the actual killing of the boy and the dragging of the body into the woods.
Kirby is known to have been paroled while serving a two year sentence for robbery and burglary in the penitentiary and at the time of the murder of Brazell was being watched by Sheriff Heise for alleged implication in burglaries in Columbia. He is said to have been educated for the ministry, later turning infidel. This last statement is denied at Kirby's residence, friends claiming that "he never let a day pass without reading his Bible."
"I don't care what they do with the three men," M.W. Brazell, father of the murdered boy, said yesterday. "Lynching would be too good for them and nothing that can be done will restore my boy to me. Nothing can make me satisfied; nothing can make me forget how he was killed." Mr. Brazell also gave it as his opinion that Kirby was as deeply involved as the other two men. Mr. Brazell thanked the various transfer drivers for the evidence of their friendship for his son. "I did not know Bill was so popular," he said. Practically every taxi driver and owner in the city attended the boy's funeral Wednesday afternoon, many also sending floral tributes.
Not Go After Men
No official announcement had been received in Columbia or Lexington from Sheriff Plunkett of his leaving the men in Savannah up to a late hour last night and neither Sheriff E.A.Roof of Lexington or Sheriff T. Alex Heise of Columbia is making plans to go to Savannah to relieve the Georgia officers of the burden of their two mob-sought prisoners.
Sheriff Roof stated last night that he was ignorant of the whereabouts of Sheriff Plunkett and the two prisoners, his only information on the subject being obtained from newspaper dispatches from Savannah, Ga. In the absence of official information, the sheriff said, he could make no move to either go for or to send for the two men. "Arrangements will be made, however," Sheriff Roof added, "to bring the two men back to South Carolina as soon as possible." The Lexington officer also expressed his regrets at the trouble caused Sheriff Plunkett, whom he praised highly for the enterprise shown in capturing the three men and later, preventing a probably lynching. "I was advised," Sheriff Roof said, "to leave the prisoners in Augusta, where it was thought they would be safe from the mob violence."
Sheriff Heise was also without information as to the place where the prisoners are being held and stated last night that he would make no move to bring them to South Carolina at present. Sheriff Heise will also be unable to attend the inquest in Leesville, being called to attend the funeral of Mose H. Mobley, Richland county treasurer, who died yesterday morning.
Two Prisoners Make Confessions
Kirby is at present under arrest in Columbia
Augusta, Ga, Aug 11-After riding an entire night Sheriff J.T. Plunkett early this morning landed C.O. Fox and Jesse Gappins, held in connection with the killing of William Brazell, Columbia taxi driver in the Savannah jail, where they will remain until Sheriff Roof of Lexington county or Sheriff Heise of Richland county comes to take them back to South Carolina. The sheriff would not definitely declare this to be his course, but in his conversations as much was intimated.
He and his party of officers arrived back in Augusta this afternoon shortly before 6 o'clock. They had not slept nor eaten for many hours and were exhausted. The officers were T.E. Norris, deputy, and W.D. Roberts, chief county mechanic who started the case off by arresting S.J. Kirby.
The sheriff, describing the thrilling ride he had in eluding the spy car of the mob, said he soon left it far behind after his departure from Augusta. A Buick roadster with a South Carolina license number was noticed to be standing in the next block from the jail when the officers left with the prisoners at 10 o'clock last night. When the sheriff's car drove off the other car followed. Jailer Whittle and the other officers thought the sheriff had not seen the car following but learned yesterday he had. Roberts, at the wheel, confused the trailing car by taking the sheriff's directions to turn corners, double back and start over, until finally the spy car went up a wrong street in pursuit of a car containing negroes and the sheriff got away down the road. The pursuing car went back across Hamburg bridge and told members of the mob waiting there that the prisoners had been carried to the stockade, and for that reason the stockade was first visited.
Had the prisoners not been taken away from the jail and "given a ride," there would have been much bloodshed after the mob arrived, for the officers would not have given up their men until compelled to do so. The advantage of position would have been with the defenders. A barricade could have been thrown up just inside the main gate and on the stairs leading to the cell corridors, and two men with shotguns could have slain the invaders like sheep as they poured in the front door. They could have got to the cells above by no other route save the stairs and they would have perished in large numbers, even if they killed some of the officers, which would have been improbable if not impossible.
The only reason Sheriff Plunkett moved the men, he said yesterday, was to avoid all the tension incident to rumors of a mob for the next week. He declared he wished to avoid bloodshed so far as possible and certainly would not have given up without hurting someone. "He would have killed his best friends," a county officer said, "rather than deliver up a prisoner. It was his duty to hold."
With the delivery of the men to Chatham jail, Sheriff Plunkett believes his immediate responsibility ended. "If they get away," he asserted, "they will not have gotten away from me."
The whereabouts of the mob is unknown, for the simple fact that it is believed there is no mob. It has disintegrated upon failure to procure the men and hopelessness of the prospect of getting them later.
Upon the way to Savannah Wednesday night, the officers said, Fox and Gappins, both ? ? automobiles, declared in elated tones that the car of the sheriff "could sure travel." Each mile it burned up put the prisoners farther away from their would be lynchers, and their sympathies were all with the officers. Fox did not have much to say, the officers added, but Gappins did a lot of talking.
The sheriff expected some difficulty in lodging his prisoners in the jail, because of the crowded condition of the cells. He finally succeeded in having them installed after first having to put them in police headquarters lockup.
The sheriff obtained written confessions from Fox and Gappins that they murdered the boy Brazell. In Savannah, while waiting there, he wrote out confessions and the men signed them freely. They were exhibited to reporters here upon the sheriff's return and ? out previous confessions. Kirby has already confessed.
The sheriff will leave early this morning for Leesville, where the coroner's inquest will be held at 10 o'clock.
Augusta, Ga., Aug 11-At 4:45 o'clock Thursday morning 150 men, said to be residents of Columbia, surrounded the Richmond county jail and a committee searched the premises, seeking Fox and Gappins. Earlier the same committee had searched the county stockade, by mistake, after surrounding the premises. At 5 o'clock the mob quietly dispersed when satisfied that the men sought were not incarcerated.
York, Aug. 11-S.J. Kirby, held in the state penitentiary in Columbia in connection with the killing of William Brazell, young taxi driver, near Leesville, Monday, was convicted in the York courts January 31, 1916, of clubbing and robbing a man on the outskirts of Rock Hill and sentenced to serve two years. He was paroled after a year's imprisonment. That there is no doubt concerning the identity of the man is shown by the fact that officers here remember he had only one arm, which tallies with the description of the Kirby held for complicity in the Leesville murder.
The Bamberg Herald, Bamberg, SC, 8/18/1921, Pg 1
Georgia Judge Demands Apology From South Carolina
For Invastion of S.C. Mob Into Georgia
By Judge Hammond
Augusta Judge Writes Letter of Protest to Gov. Hardwick Asking Delivery of Member of Mob
August 15, 1921
His Excellency, Thomas W. Hardwick, Governor of George, Atlanta, GA.:
As a citizen of the state of Georgia I respectfully request that you lay the following statement of facts before Hon. Robert E. Cooper, governor o the state of South Carolina, and that you demand from him apology for what has occurred and immediate effective action in righting a grievous wrong to a sovereign commonwealth, of which you are the chief executive:
On the 8th day of August, two o'clock at night, near Leesville, S.C., S.J. Kirby, C.O. Fox, and Jesse Gappins foully robbed and cruelly murdered William C. Brazell, the driver of the taxicab in which they were riding. In the stolen car the three murderers came to Georgia, passed through the city of Augusta and county of Richmond. At McBean, near the Burke county line, the car broke down and while two of the three went forward on foot, the third, S.J. Kirby, sought a nearby chaingang official, W.D. Roberts, to whom he made a statement charging the other two with the robbery and murder. He was arrested and J.T. Plunkett, sheriff of Richmond county, notified. Immediately the sheriff put in motion every force at his command-drove with two deputies sixty miles. At Greens Cut, in Burke county, with the assistance of Frank Hurst, it's sheriff, he effected the arrest of the two fugitives from South Carolina and lodged them securely in the Richmond county jail. More than this; he actively and skillfully and yet by legitimate means obtained from the three conspirators confessions of guilt ample to secure their conviction. The sheriff then immediately got in communication with the South Carolina authorities. One of the prisoners, consenting to return to South Carolina, was taken by sheriff of Richmond county in the death car, which bore blood stains, and was carried to Leesville and led to the scene of the murder. Sheriff Plunkett turned over to Sheriff Ruff, sheriff of Lexington county, at the Lexington county jail the prisoner S.J. Kirby. Sheriff Plunkett then returned to Augusta, accompanied by Sheriff Ruff, it being his purpose to remove the other two prisoners to Lexington county, but before the prisoners were removed Solicitor T.C. Callison telegraphed Sheriff Plunkett as follows: "Don't let Sheriff Ruff leave Augusta with prisoners tonight. Have him call me.". Sheriff Ruff reported that the solicitor told him over the phone that a mob was forming to waylay him on the road and take his prisoners from him and that he would ask the sheriff to hold them for him. This the sheriff of Richmond county consented to do, and the sheriff of Lexington county left for his home.
Your Excellency is asked to take into thoughtful consideration the foregoing as the first act in the drama which led to the outrage put upon the state of Georgia by the state of South Carolina. On August 10, at 8 o'clock at night Sheriff Plunkett was notified that the Augusta Chronicle had received from the Columbia State a message stating that an armed mob in automobiles was forming in Columbia; that it was going that night to Georgia and take by violence from the Richmond county jail the two slayers of Brazell and lynch them. Upon receipt of this information Sheriff Plunkett immediately called over the telephone Sheriff Heise, Sheriff Ruff, of Lexington County, and Cheif of Police Derrick, of Leesville, asking about the information that had reached him, requesting that he be given further information and that these peace officers, one of them located in the city where the mob was forming, and the others along its proposed line of march, should intercept and use all necessary force to prevent the mob coming to Georgia. He received absolutely no word of warning nor aid of any kind, nor as far as is known was any step taken by these or any other officers to prevent this invasion of Georgia by an armed mob.
The mob formed in Columbia and proceeded in a compact body along the usual highway to Augusta. It is known that Sheriff Heise knew of the formation of the mob before Sheriff Plunkett telephoned him. It is known that Chief of Police Derrick saw and spoke to the members of the mob in the automobiles as they passed through Leesville. On the uncertainty as to whether the mob would or would not attack the jail the Sheriff deemed it best to remove the prisoners to the city of Savannah.
At 4 o'clock a.m. Wednesday night an organized mob of over 100 heavily armed men went to the county stockade on Fifteenth street and with curses and threats forced and compelled an entrance to the stockade, made a search of the premises, arousing fifty or more sleeping convicts. Not finding their intended victims they then went to the Richmond county jail, a brick structure surrounded by a brick wall ten feet high. Again with threats and curses they scaled the wall, entered the jail yard and porch threatening to batter down the doors of the jail unless Fox and Gappins were instantly turned over to them. The jailer assured them that the prisoners had been removed from the jail, but these assurances were set at naught and the jailor compelled to turn over his keys and admit them for the purpose of search. They aroused the inmates of the jail, going from cell to cell in a search for their victims. Not finding them, they again with threats and curses and in tumultuous fashion left the jail. The members of this mob were guilty of a felony under Georgia law and subject to a punishment of from one to twenty years in the penitentiary. Mobs and lynchings have become so much the order of the day that unless some unique feature is presented mere comment upon the condition would seem to be vain. But up to this time mobs have been intra-state. This one was inter-state. Peace officers have been called on to deal with mobs formed within their own bailiwick. Has it come to pass that a sheriff may expect a mob from a neighbor, perhaps from a distant state.
However this may be, as a general proposition, the concrete situation is presented to Your Excellency of your sheriff, exerting almost superhuman effort to render service to the state of South Carolina-successful service, and the reward of such service is the invasion of Georgia territory by an armed, organized mob, the peace and quiet of a great city violated, the state's stronghold assaulted, it's keepers and defenders defied. Must you not require of the state of South Carolina genuine activity in securing and delivering to Georgia authority some of the hundred offenders who have outraged it? Three South Carolina criminals were arrested by Georgia authorities and returned to South Carolina with evidence to convict. Will not South Carolina arrest and deliver to Georgia one of the one hundred men who broke and defied it's laws? Had this very incident occurred between the countries of Mexico and the United States on the south , or the Dominion of Canada and the United States on the north, would not full explanation and apologies have been instantly made, and if not would the occurrence not have been a cause of war? Georgia and South Carolina are as distinct sovereigns as are two countries. A new condition is presented to your Excellency and you should take thought-serious thought-of how you should meet it. Here is invasion of your state by an armed force, defiance of it's laws and your authority. Assault and capture of your jail and stockade, your property seized, and what have you from South Carolina or it's governor in satisfaction of these unthinkable outrages?
What answer does she propose to make or will you exact?
Henry C. Hammon
The Laurens Advertiser, Laurens, SC, 9/14/1921, Pg 1 and 4
Slayers Of Taxi Driver Go To Electric Chair Oct. 21st
Trials Ended in Lexington Yesterday
Kirby Admits Part In Killing
Three Columbia Men Charged With Murder of William Brazell, Young Columbia Taxi Driver, Found Guilty of Murder In First Degree
All Three Guilty
The Advertiser was informed by long distance telephone message from Lexington last night that Fox and Gappins, the two other men charged with the murder of William Brazell, young Columbia taxi driver on the night of August 9, were found guilty of first degree murder and that they, with Kirby, who was found guilty earlier in the day, were sentenced by Judge T.S. Sease to be electrocuted on October 21.
Columbia, Sept 13-"Guilty" was the verdict of the jury in the case of S.J. Kirby, the first of the three men to be tried in the Lexington court for the murder on August 9 of William Brazell, young Columbia taxi driver.
The verdict is a conviction of first degree murder and will carry the sentence of death in the electric chair.
The verdict was returned at 10:59 a.m., the jury having retired at 10:24. The sentence will hardly be passed until after the trial of Jesse Gappins and C.O. Fox, the other two men charged with the same crime. The trial of Fox and Gappins started immediately after the Kirby case was disposed of. It was not expected to take more time than that occupied by the Kirby case. The two men are being tried together. The Lexington trial was resumed at 9:52 this morning. The cross examination of Kirby by the solicitor was the first thing of the morning. Kirby was excused from the stand at 10:05. A.B. Martin, attorney for Kirby, appointed this morning by the court, spoke for three and a half minutes. He intimated that the jury might recommend mercy for his client. Solicitor Callison's argument occupied about five minutes. He urged the jury to bring a verdict of first degree guilt as an example to the public. He referred to the prevalence of crime and urged that the punishment in this case should be in the extreme. The charge of Judge Sease as to the law in the case was brief.
The State, Sept 13
Lexington, Sept. 12-S.J. Kirby, the first of the trio of alleged slayers of William Brazell, Columbia taxi driver, to go on trial today, charged with murder, taking the stand in his own defense late this afternoon, amended his previous confessions to abandon his hitherto stoutly maintained role of a forced and unwilling accessory to the crime, by admitting that he had assisted Jesse Gappins in holding young Brazell while C.O. Fox calmly proceeded to stab the taxi driver to death. Kirby also admitted that he, with Gappins and Fox, planned the details of the automobile robbery, which culminated in the killing, several days before the murder night, intending, however, he said, only to beat the driver into insensibility, tie him securely, leave him beside the road and then make good their escape in the stolen car. The blackjack, broken over young Brazell's head by Fox was bought by Kirby the Thursday before the Monday morning when the crime was committed, he testified.
Kirby exclaimed dramatically to the jury at one point in his story, "Gentlemen, I've got to die for this and I'm telling the truth. There's only one wish I want to make before I go and that is that God will take care of my wife and baby."
Kirby admitted on the stand that he had not been able to work for over a year and therefore been able to contribute but little to the support of this wife and 11 year old daughter. His only defense as outlined in his previous stories, told in Augusta, at Leesville and in Columbia, was that he was forced into hiring the automobile, was ignorance of the real purposes of fox and Gappins, and that he was forced to continue with the men in their trip to Georgia after the crime had been committed and though all the days intervening between his arrest and the trial Kirby has maintained that he took no active part in the killing, watching the beating and stabbing from the back seat of the automobile.
Kirby Still On Stand
Kirby was still on the stand when the court adjourned at about 5:30 o'clock. Solicitor T.C. Callison to begin his cross examination of the prisoner tomorrow morning at 9:30 o'clock, when the trial will resume. With the exclusion of Kirby's testimony the defense will probably rest, the case going to the jury following short addresses by Solicitor Callison and A.D. Martin, court appointed counsel for Kirby, and the judge's charge. Jesse Gappins and C.O. Fox, also accused with Kirby of the murder of young Brazell, will be tried simultaneously, their case coming up immediately after a verdict has been returned in the Kirby case.
Kirby took the stand late in the afternoon just after the state had rested it's case. Jesse Gappins, co-defendant with Kirby and Fox, being the witness for the prosecution. Gappins took the stand voluntarily and contradicted Kirby's original story in essential details. Kirby, Gappins, said was the only member of the trio who had any idea of stealing the car. Kirby, he swore, met and invited them to make the trip to "get some girls at a house near Lexington," invited Fox and Gappins to join him in a trip to Lexington for this purpose. He also testified that Kirby, instead of asking Fox to spare young Brazell's life, three times attempted to persuade him to take the blackjack and hit the driver over the head. Kirby, he said, instead of sitting idly by watching the other two men kill young Brazell, was the first of the trio to grab the driver, choking Brazell while Fox hit the boy. He swore that Kirby instead of being threatened by Fox and Gappins, threatened his two companions. The blackjack, Gappins also testified was bought by Kirby and was given to Gappins the Thursday before the crime was committed and was later, Gappins said, give by him to Fox, who, "he thought," had the weapon in his pocket the night of the killing.
The Newberry Herald, Newberry, SC, 9/16/1921, Pg 1
The Newberry Herald, Newberry, SC, 9/16/1921, Pg 6
Kirby Now On Trial On Murder Charge
Defendant Admits Part In Killing
Fox and Gappins Will Face Jury Simultaneously Later-True Bills Returned
Lexington, Sept 12-S.J. Kirby, the first of the trio of allged slayers of William Brazell, Columbia taxid driver, to go on trial today, charged with murder, taking the stand in his own defense late this afternoon, amended his previous confessions to abandon his hitherto stoutly maintained role of forced and unwilling accessory to the crime, by admitting that he had assisted Jesse Gappins in holding young Brazell while C.O. Fox calmly proceeded to stab the taxi driver to death. Kirby also admitted that he, with Gappins and Fox, planned the details of the automobile robbery, which culminated in the killing, several days before the murder night, intending, however, he said, only to beat the driver into insensibility, tie him beside the road and then make good their escape in the stolen car. The blackjack, broken over young Brazell's head by Fox, was bought by Kirby the Thursday before the Monday morning when the crime commenced, he testified.
Kirby exclaimed dramatically to the jury at one point in his story, "Gentlemen, I've got to die for this and I'm telling the truth. There's only one wish I want to make before I go and that is that God will take care of my wife and baby."
Kirby admitted on the stand that he had not been able to work for over a year and had therefore been able to contribute but little to the support of his wife and 11 year old daughter. His only defense as outlined in his previous stories, told in Augusta, at Lessville and in Columbia, was that he was forced into hiring the automobile, was ignorant of the real purposes Fox and Gappins, and that he was forced to continue with the men in their trip to Georgia after the crime had been committed-and through all the days intervening between his arrest and the trial Kirby has maintained that he took no active part in the killing, watching the beating and stabbing from the back seat of the automobile.
Kirby Still On Stand
Kirby was still on the stand when the court was adjourned at about 5:30 o'clock. Solicitor T.C. Callison to begin his cross examination of the prisoner tomorrow morning at 9:30 o'clock, when the trial will be resumed. With the conclusion of Kirby's testimony the defense will probably rest, the case going to the jury following short addresses by Solicitor Callison and A.D. Martin, court appointed counsel for Kirby, and the judge's charge. Jesse Gappins and C.O. Fox, also accused with Kirby of the murder of young Brazell, will be tried simultaneously, their case coming up immediately after a verdict has been returned in the Kirby case.
Kirby took the stand late in the afternoon just after the state had rested its case, Jesse Gappins, co-defendant, with Kirby and Fox, being the witness for the prosecution. Gappins took the stand voluntarily and contradicted Kirby's original story in essential details. Kirby, Gappins said, was the only member of the trio who had any idea of stealing the car. Kirby, he swore, met and invited them to make a trip to "get some girls at a house near Lexington," invited Fox and Gappins to join him in a trip for this purpose. He also testified that Kirby, instead of asking Fox to spare young Brazell's life, three times attempted to persuade him to take the blackjack and hit the driver over the head. Kirby, he said, instead of sitting idly by watching the other two men kill young Brazell, was the first o the trio to grab the driver, choking Brazell while he hit the boy. He swore that Kirby instead of being threatened by Fox and Gappins, threatened his tow companions. The blackjack, Gappins also testified, was bought by Kirby and was given to Gappins the Thursday before the crime was committed and was later Gappins said, given by him to Fox, who, "he thought," had the weapon in his pocket the night of the killing.
Would Save Self
Gappins swore that he and Fox were both misled by Kirby into believing that the three of them were to go to a point about a mile and a half beyond Lexington, where they were to get some girls, and bring them back to town. Kirby, he said, hired the automobile and picked up Fox and himself at the Seaboard station, where they had gone, he claimed, to find out the schedule for the Camden train. Just on the Augusta side of Lexington, Kirby, according to Gappins' testimony, got out of the car and approached Gappins. He told him to "take the blackjack and knock hell out of Brazell." Gappins claims he refused to obey Kirby's orders, saying that such a thing would "get them all in trouble." "Damn trouble." Kirby is alleged to have replied. "They know me well at the penitentiary. I was sent up for life and got out of that and I reckon that I'll get out of this." Twice again Kirby stopped the car, Gappins said, and twice again this converstaion was repeated.
At the scene of the killing Fox had the car stopped, Gappins testified, and while Kirby held the driver, choking him with his one arm, fox hit him with the blackjack, three or four times, finally bursting the leather jacket that held the "lead." Gappins got out of the car, he said, while Fox went around the back of the car, Kirby in the meantime holding to the wounded man. Kirby released his hold on the boy's neck somewhat. Gappins testified, and the boy began pleading for his life, "I'm dying," he said. To which Gappins said Kirby answered, "Yes, damn you, you will be dying when I get through with you." Fox then stabbed Brazall, according to Gappins, and Kirby jumped on the driver as he fell to the ground. Gappins admitted that he "touched" Brazell's arm while the cutting was being done.
Blame on Kirby
Under Kirby's orders, Gappins said, he then got into the car and drove off after assisting Fox and Kirby in placing the body in the car and later in hiding it in the woods. Later on during the drive, Gappins said he became somewhat frightened at what they had done. This, he testified, was noticed by Kirby, who, he said, told him, "Your'e too damn scared. I don't have no more skimption at killing a man than I do for a dog. If I had been convicted of all the crimes I have been guilty of they'd have to hang six men a day for 12 months to pay for them."
Gappins told his story in a clear, distinct voice, somewhat brazenly as if he were recounting the tale of some fishing trip. The monotone in which it was told gave the story somewhat the aura of a memorized "piece" at a high school commencement, Gappins pausing in his story only to repeatedly mop the perspiration from his face. And Kirby, seated in the prisoner's dock, watched and listened practically emotionless, his head resting on his one arm.
Kirby in taking the stand assumed a forensic attitude, speaking directly to the jurors, whom he addressed as "gentlemen", and delivering his story with almost continuous gestures. Here he showed considerable more emotion, all of which, however, was directed to convincing the jury that his story, in which he accused Gappins of practically everything Gappins had accused him of, was true.
Clyde Hester of Columbia, owner of the "murder car", was the first witness for the state, telling of seeing Brazell last at 9 o'clock Sunday night August 7, and identifying the automobile found in Georgia as his car and the machine that young Brazell was driving.
Dr. D.M. Crosson of Leesville told of his examination of Brazell's body when it was found near Leesville, describing the knife and other wounds in the boy's right chest, about the head and on the right hand. Death, he testified, was caused by a profuse hemorrhage from a terrible wound under the right shoulder, the knife in this instance passing entirely through the lung.
Arrested Kirby in Georgia
W.D.Roberts o 522 Moore Avenue, Augusta, Ga., a chaingang guard, told of Kirby's confessing to him and of his notifying Sheriff Plunkett of Richmond county and of his arrest of Kirby and later Fox and Gappins. From Kirby's story, Mr. Roberts said, nothing would have prevented the prisoner from escaping from Fox and Gappins had he decided to do so, several opportunities were open to him according to his own story, Mr. Roberts testified.
Mr. Collens, station agent at McBean, Ga., near which Kirby was arrested, told of Kirby's visit to the railroad station at McBean to send a telegram for some money. Fox and Gappins were nowhere in the immediate vicinity, Mr. Collens said, and could not ? Kirby into doing their will in sending the telegram.
M.C. Allen, Columbia detective, described a meeting with Kirby Sunday night, August 7, just before Brazell was engaged for the fatal trip. Kirby, Mr. Allen said, made no appeal to him for protection from anyone.
Court was opened at 10 o'clock, the Kirby-Gappins-Fox case being the first to go before the grand jury, which returned a true bill at 11:45 o'clock. Surrounded by state constables and other guards the three were then brought before the court where they announced that none of them had employed counsel. Judge Thomas S. Sease then appointed attorneys for the three men. The three men were then unhandcuffed and formerly arraigned. The prisoners were then allowed time for conference with their attorney's, the court recessing until 3 o'clock.
At 3 o'clock court was reconvened and counsel for the prisoners announced that they were ready for trial waiving the three days lapse granted by law. Solicitor Callison then moved for separation of the cases, trying Kirby first, to later take up the cases against Fox and Gappins simultaneously. At 3:30 o'clock the drawing of the jury began, the entire panel being completed in 17 minutes. The large majority of the men sitting on the case are farmers and all, with the exception of four, had previously conceived notions as to Kirby's guilt. Members of the jury are: J.S. Addy, Homer Woods, Moses K. Kneece, Jesse I. Sox, E. Simpson Spy, Archie L. Sox, J. Milton Oswald, Killian Oxner, G.J. Bouknight and Jacob H. Bundrick.
Guard for Prisoners
Accompanied by a heavily armed guard the three prisoners were moved from the state penitentiary at 3:05 o'clock this morning, reaching the Lexington court house at 3:35 o'clock. Composing the guard were: State Constable T.A. Berley, Cheif J.D. Dunnaway of the Richland rural police, W.S. Ramsey and C.F. Towne of the penitentiary guard, Chrief S.S. Shorter, J.P. Broom, E.B. Carter and M.C. Allen of the Columbia detective orce, State Constable T.J. Smyrle, State Constable J.L. Poppenheim and State Constable W.C. Eichelberger. Immediately after the adjournment of the court th three men were led down the steps from the court house, escorted to the automobile, the guards being distributed among the three cars. The little caravan took the straight road back to Columbia, running along at a fairly slow pace until the corner of Huger and Gervais streest where it turned off for the state penitentiary.
The court house was crowded far beyond capacity throughout the day's session, it being estimated that approximately 2,000 persons swarmed around the court house eager to catch a glimpse of the three prisoners. The court house has a seating capacity of approximately 400, but at the morning session over 600 men, women and children were packed into the building. Judge Sease announcing that he would have aisles cleared for the remainder of the session and would allow no one inside the rail save newspaper men, ministers of the gospel and attorneys.
In all this superheated mass of humanity there were no signs of mob violence and the trial, it is thought, will be concluded without even the talk of lynching being heard. G.A.B.
Sentence of Death For Convicted Men
Gappins swung his head from one side to the other while Fox and Kirby were being sentenced. His arms seemd to worry him somewhat also. A slight twitching of the lips was the only sign of worry shown by Kirby during the ordeal.
Mrs. Kirby Overcome
Mrs. S.J. Kirby, Kirby's wife, who with her 11 year old daughter sat through the entire day's session, fainted when sentence was pronounced on her husband. She had apparently stood up under the strain until the verdict was returned. The word "guilty" was read by the clerk and suddenly Mrs. Kirby threw her head over on her daughter's shoulder and broke into tears, while her husband sat in the prisoner's dock, to all outward show, totally unconcerned with the events transpiring around him. Mrs. Kirby and her daughter were seated in the audience, five rows from the railing and the prisoner's dock while Gappins' mother and sister, who also heard the greater part of the trial, sat just inside the rail on a long bench on which were also seated W.E. Brazell and his daughter, the father and sister of the murdered boy. Mrs. Gappins was on the verge of a breakdown several times during the taking of testimony against her son and burst into tears during Solicitor T.C. Callison's address to the jury. Mrs. Gappins and her daughter left the court room when the jury retired, going into a nearby anteroom where later she was told of the verdict and sentence. She was still in tears when she was escorted from the court house to return to Columbia. Mrs. Jesse Gappins, Gappins' wife, was also a witness at the morning session, failing to return, however, when court reconvened after the dinner recess.
J.S. Fox of Stanley Creek, N.C., father of Fox, was also present at part of the trial, breaking down when he learned of the jury's verdict.
Fox on Stand
Fox, like Kirby, admitted the role he had played in the killing, calmly recounting how he had first struck Brazell with the blackjack and then stabbed him to death. Gappins, however, repeated his story as told in Kirby's trial yesterday, insisting on his innocence of actual participating in the killing. He also maintained that he was ignorant of any plan to steal Brazell's car, admitting, however, that he with Kirby and Fox had planned to steal "a car" to be driven from Columbia and sold. Gappins' story was in a large part contradicted by his own signed confession given Sheriff T.J. Plunkett at Savannah, in which he had admitted that he held Brazell's arm while Fox did the stabbing. Parts of his story were also belied by the stories o Fox and Kirby and by the evidence of previous confessions made by Gappins and the other two men to Sheriff Plunkett, State Detective T.A. Berley, W.D. Roberts, and Deputy Sheriff W.J. Leonards of Charleston.
The two prisoners were brought to Lexington fron the state penitentiary at 9:22 o'clock this morning. Kirby took the stand again at 9:52 o'clock and Solicitor Callison began his cross examination eliciting an admission from Kirby that he with the other two men, had lured the taxi driver to his death. Kirby also admitted that he did not repeat "until the car broke down" and that the three men did not come to Lexington to see any girls. With the completion of Kirby's cross examination the defense closed and after short addresses by Solicitor Callison and A.D. Martin, Kirby's attorney appointed by the court, and a brief charge as to the law in the case by Judge Sease the case went to jury at 10:24 o'clock and thirty five minutes later a verdict of guilty was returned.
Two minutes later the trial of Fox and Gappins was bgeun, the jury drawn as follows: Foreman, C.W. Hallman; Davis J. Roof, Claud O. Amiek, W. Ocy Gantt, Archie W. Craft, Simon Smith, Joe D. Sox, Jerome R. Gunter, A. Harper Shull and D.H. Wilson. Ernest B. Craps was excused from service by Judge Sease.
Confessions to Sheriff
The prosecution's case was largely based upon confessions made by the two men to Sheriff T.J. Plunkett of Augusta, Ga., who arrested the prisoners and carried them to Augusta and later took them on a wild ride to Savannah a few hours ahead of a mob which later searched the Augusta jail, looking for them. Sheriff Plunkett testified that both Fox and Gappins had blood on their shirts when arrested while there was a huge spot on the carpet in the rear of the automobile. Fox, Sheriff Plunkett said, admitted to the Georgia authorities that he had hit Brazell with the blackjack and later stabbed him while Kirby and Gappins held the boy's arms. All three of the men, Sheriff Plunkett testified Fox told him, picked up the body and placed it in the rear of the car while Grappins drove to the spot where the car was stopped and all three men picked the body out of the car and carried it up an embankment into the woods. Fox was carrying the feet, while Grappins held the boy's arms and Kirby, his head. according to Fox's story, the sheriff testified. Fox dropped the driver's feet while Kirby turned loose the head. Gappins dragging the body into the woods unaided. Sheriff Plunkett also told of Gappins confessing to the Augusta officers of his holding one of Brazell's arms while Fox stabbed the boy to death. Sheriff Plunkett also told of written confessions signed voluntarily by the two men at Savannah. These confessions were introduced as evidenced.
Sheriff Plunkett's testimony was corroborated in every detail by T.E. Norris, Augusta, Ga., who had written down the confessions of Fox and Gappins at Savannah. W.J. Leonard, deputy sheriff of Charleston county, also testified as to confessions made to him by the two defendants further corroborating Sheriff Plunkett's testomoney.
Witnesses for State
Other witnesses for the state were Clyde Hester, owner of the murder car; Dr. D.M. Crosson, who examined the body of the young taxi driver when it was found by the roadside near Leesville, and W.J. Roberts, Augusta, Ga., chaingang guard, to whom Kirby first confessed.
The state rested it's case at 12:35 o'clcok and Fox took the stand, admitting that he with Kirby and Gappins had planned to steal an automobile; that he first struck Brazell with the blackjack and that he stabbed him twice with a knife. Fox also admitted that the three men left Columbia with Brazell, intending to steal the automobile and sell it. Gappins, he said, was the first person to inform him of the plan to steal automobiles. Although admitting that he stabbed Brazell twice, once when he was standing up, held by the other two men, and the second time when he was on the ground, Fox hinted that Kirby was the man actually to blame for the killing of the driver. "I don't feel like I killed the boy," he said. Court then adjourned for the dinner recess.
Gappins took the stand when the court reconvened at 3:05 o'clock, telling the same story as he recounted yesterday in Kirby's trial, blaming Kirby and Fox for the murder and claiming that he, himself, took no active part in the real killing and instead attempted to deter the other two men in their course. Gappins also claimed that he had no knowledge of any plan to take Brazell's automobile, thinking instead, he said that he, Kirby and Fox, were going to Lexington to get some girls. Confronted with his own signed confession, Gappins admitted that he had signed the paper and heard it read to him but claimed that "something had been left out."
State Detective Berley was the only witness introduced by the state in rebuttal, testifying that Gappins had confessed to him of holding Brazell's hand during the cutting.
McKendree, Barr, representing C.O. Fox waived his right to address the jury, T.C. Sturkie speaking however as Gappin's attorney. Solicitor Callison closed and then after Judge Sease's charge the case went to the jury at 4:34 o'clock, a verdict being agreed upon after 40 minutes deliberation. G.A.B.
The Watchman And Southron, Sumter, SC, 9/17/1921, Pg
The Watchman and Southron, Sumter, SC, 9/17/1921, Pg 4
Thank you to Mike Warren for finding this newspaper article about Kirby and it is this article that indicates how he lost his arm. Yorkville Enquirer, York, SC, 6/20/1922, Pg 1 and The Dispatch News, Lexington, SC, 6/28/1922, Pg 3. Mike Warren also found some other newspaper reports of interest.
Keeowee Courier, Pickens, SC, 5/31/1922, Pg 7
The Union Daily Times, Union, SC, 6/15/1922, Pg 1
The Gaffney Ledger, Gaffney, SC, 6/17/1922, Pg 1
Central Correctional Institute (CCI) was also known as the State Penitentiary. It was located on seven acres at 1511 Williams Street, adjacent to the Congaree River. in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina.Construction for CCI began in 1866 and it served the state as a prison for 130 years. It was finally torn down in 1994. According to Wikipedia - The first permanent building was the South Wing Cell Block, which served as a cell block until 1927 when it was demolished. Started around the same time, North Wing Cell Block or as it is more commonly known, Cell Block One, was completed in 1886. North Wing stood five stories tall, built from granite with the tops of the walls crenellated. The interior was essentially an Auburn style cell block, but in the Baltimore pattern variation where the cells lined the exterior. The cells were approximately 5'x6' with a ceiling height of 6.5' and door openings of 25". The initial complex comprised two cell blocks and an administrative building. It would later evolve into a more diverse institution, including a hospital and separate blocks for females and juvenile inmates. Significant structures include the boundary wall, made of granite and brick, the North Wing Cell Block, the electric chair building, the Richards building, and the Chair Factory building. The penitentiary remained the only maximum-security prison until 1975.
In this first picture, you see the castle like original building.
In 1907, the first electric chair was installed in New Jersey. Often referred to as Old Sparky (in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) and Old Smokey (in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee), the electric chairs were thought to be more clean and humane than the hangman's rope. When someone was hanged and it wasn't done right, it could be a terrible way to die with the victim thrashing around, strangling, urinating and defecating. Electricity was just beginning with Tessla, Edison and Westinghouse. Edison, inventor of the light bulb and a pioneer of electricity, was marketing an electric transmission system based on direct current (dc). But, George Westinghouse, was a rival inventing alternating current (ac). Edison falsely claimed that Westinghouse’s AC, with its much higher voltage, was too dangerous. So, in 1887, Edison began a series of bizarre experiments at his lab, shocking to death unwanted dogs, cats and even a circus elephant with AC to prove that the current was deadly. New York soon decided on an AC electric chair as a substitute for hanging. A delighted Edison urged authorities to use the term "Westinghousing" instead of electrocuting. The first electrocution in history was a disaster. The condemned man was ax murderer, William Kemmler. He lived through the first round of shocks. His executioners had to do it all over again. "They would have done better with an axe," Westinghouse commented. New York's executioners began to perfect the combination of amperes and voltage needed to kill a man without cooking him. South Carolina installed "Old Sparky" in 1912 at the Central Correctional Institution (CCI) in Columbia. As of today, the last time it was used was 2008. 243 people were executed by electric chair before the South Carolina Penitentiary (CCI) closed.
The Watchman And Southron, Sumter, SC, 6/17/1922, Pg 1
It is in this article that Lula Norket Kirby claims her husband has a silver plate in his head.
The three men were electrocuted on 6/16/1922. The only time 3 men were electrocuted on the same day for the same crime. S.J. Kirby was pronounced dead at 6:15am. The last word on his death was this article:
The Greenville News, Greenville, SC, 11/27/1927, Pg 11