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

Dinning, George

(born: June 30, 1862  -  died: March 13, 1930) George Dinning (sometimes spelled Denning) is remembered for winning his lawsuit against Ku Klux Klan members in Simpson County, KY.

Dinning was a formerly enslaved man who was born in Kentucky. After gaining his freedom, Dinning earned enough money to purchase land in Simpson County. In January of 1897, Ku Klux Klan members attempted to run Dinning out of Simpson County. When Dinning refused to leave, a gunfight erupted. Dinning was wounded twice, and when he returned fire he killed one of the men in the mob named Jodie Conn. The mob dispersed.

Dinning turned himself in to the local authorities in Franklin, KY (Simpson County). While he was in jail, the mob returned to his home, ran his family off the property, looted the home, then burned the house to the ground. Still in custody, Dinning was moved from the Franklin jail to the Bowling Green jail, then on to the Louisville jail. There was fear of a lynch mob overtaking the jails.

When it came time for his trial, Dinning was placed in the Franklin, KY jail in June 1897. Kentucky Governor William O. Bradley ordered a militia from Frankfort to protect the jail. A group of men set on revenge arrived at the jail and tossed a dynamite bomb at the facility. There was little damage. One of the Frankfort militiamen, Lieutenant F. L. Gordon, fired at the mob and thought that he had hit one of the men.

Dinning's trial continued. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison. August E. Wilson, Dinning's attorney, requested a pardon from Kentucky Governor William O. Bradley. At the close of June 1897, the pardon was received, 10 days after Dinning had been sentenced. As a free man, Dinning left Kentucky and joined his family in Jeffersonville, IN. 

To recoup his losses, Dinning hired lawyer Bennet H. Young to file a lawsuit against the Ku Klux Klan members who were identified during his trial. After the suit was filed, George Dinning was attacked by three men who gouged out his right eye and beat his head into a mess of blood and bones. But Dinning survived. When the lawsuit was settled, Dinning was awarded $50,000 in damages from the attack on his home. He actually received much less than $50,000. The case made national news. An African American man had sued the Klan and won.

George Dinning faded into obscurity after winning his lawsuit. He died in 1930; he and his wife are buried in Eastern Cemetery in Jeffersonville, IN.

George Dinning's story was written by author Ben Montgomery in A Shot in the Moonlight: how a freed slave and a Confederate soldier fought for justice in the Jim Crow South.

For more information see "Afraid of a mob," Nashville Banner, 1/23/1897, p. 2; "Mob coming," The Cincinnati Post, 1/23/1897, p. 3; "Lynchers throw a bomb," The Kearney Daily Hub, 6/29/1897, p. 4; "Bradley pardons Denning," Washington Times, 7/20/1797, p. 4; "To bring suit for damages," The Boston Globe, 8/24/1897, p. 6; "Murderous assault made upon George Dinning, pardoned by Governor Bradley," The Fort Wayne News, 9/23/1897, p. 5; RWKLOSE, "There was a great rejoicing in hell this morning," 6/18/2023 (originally published 5/5/2018), online at the Roland Klose webpage; and Faith Karimi, "How a freed slave triumphed over a white lynch mob in the Jim Crow South," 2/6/2021, a CNN webpage article.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Simpson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Warren County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Franklin, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Bowling Green, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Dinning, George,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 5, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/300004797.

Last modified: 2023-09-05 16:40:51