The Lynching of Willie Earle in Greenville – 1947

Presented by Lucy Beam Hoffman.

Willie Earle, an African American, was accused of killing Thomas Watson Brown, a cab driver from Greenville, SC.  Thirty-one white men (mostly cab drivers – all white) drove from Greenville in the middle of the night to take Earle out of the Pickens County Jail.  They then beat him, burned him, and shot him in the face.  The largest lynching trial in the history of the US took place in Greenville, SC, in 1947.  As a co-writer of the play, The Last Lynching, Hoffman read 26 confessions in the Thomas Bolt Culbertson papers at Clemson.  Out of 31 charged with the lynching, three didn’t stand trial.  The other 28 were acquitted.  This heinous act has never received justice, and many lives were ruined.  For many years, black parents warned their sons not to misbehave or they’d get “what Willie Earle got.”  Hoffman will present this tragic, riveting story, which includes the involvement of Strom Thurmond and took place in Greenville with worldwide media coverage.

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