June 16th, 1944

Fourteen-Year-Old George Stinney Executed in South Carolina

On June 16, 1944, George Stinney, Jr., a ninety-pound, black, fourteen-year-old boy, was executed in the electric chair in Columbia, South Carolina. Three months earlier, on March 24, George and his sister were playing in their yard when two young white girls briefly approached them and asked where they could find flowers. Hours later, the girls failed to return home and a search party was organized to find them. George Stinney, a member of the search party, casually mentioned to a bystander that he had seen the girls earlier. The following morning, their dead bodies were found in a shallow ditch.

George was immediately arrested for the murders and subjected to hours of interrogation without his parents or an attorney. The sheriff later claimed he confessed to the murders, though no written or signed statement was presented. George's father was fired from his job and his family forced to flee out of fear for their lives. On March 26, a mob attempted to lynch George but he had already been moved to an out-of-town jail.

On April 24, George faced a sham trial virtually alone. No African Americans were allowed inside the courthouse and his court-appointed attorney, a tax lawyer with political aspirations, failed to call a single witness. The prosecution presented the sheriff's testimony regarding George's alleged confession as the only evidence of his guilt. An all-white jury deliberated for ten minutes before convicting George Stinney of rape and murder, and the judge promptly sentenced the fourteen-year-old to death. Despite appeals from black advocacy groups, Governor Olin Johnston refused to intervene. George Stinney remains the youngest person executed in the United States in the twentieth century.