From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Hathaway, John [Hathaway v Commonwealth]

(died: 1905) John Hathaway had 79 racetrack wins in 1889. He was remembered as a prominent jockey by newspapers around the country when he was hanged in Winchester, KY, for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Etta Thomas. The couple had lived together in Jackson, KY, prior to the day that Thomas left Hathaway and moved to Winchester. She lived at a brothel managed by Alice Bean.

In January 1904, Hathaway went to Winchester to retrieve Thomas, and when she refused to return to Jackson with him, he shot her several times. Hathaway was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but the case was appealed on the assignments of error and was heard by the Kentucky Appeals Court, where the judgment was affirmed.

Hathaway was scheduled to hang on on a historic traveling scaffold, January 3, 1905. Hathaway's mother fell unconscious when he was hanged and never recovered, dying a few days later. (Another article states she died a few months later.)

John Hathaway was thought to be the first famous jockey to be hanged. For more see "Hathaway v Commonwealth," Kentucky Law Reporter, vol. 26 (July 1904/Jan. 1905), pp. 630-634 [available full-text at Google Books]; "Historic scaffold," Lexington Herald, 12/21/1904, p. 5; "She never recovered," Breathitt County News, 1/13/1905, p. 1; "John Hathaway...," in the column "Interesting news notes" in the Cleveland Gazette, 1/07/1905, p. 2; and "Mary Hathaway, an old colored lady,..." Breathitt County News, 5/05/1905, p. 3.


Kentucky County & Region

Read about Clark County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Breathitt County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Winchester, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jackson, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Lexington herald (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Breathitt County news (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry: African American Horsemen, Articles in Kentucky Newspapers

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hathaway, John [Hathaway v Commonwealth],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 14, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-10-21 18:05:19