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

Lockett Lynch Mob (Lexington, KY)

The first resistance to a lynch mob by local officials and troops in the South took place in Lexington, KY. In 1920, 10-year old Geneva Hardman, a white girl, was killed. Will Lockett, an African American World War I veteran, was the suspect. While he was in police custody and without council, Lockett confessed to the murder and other crimes. His trial was set in Lexington for February 9, which was also Court Day, so a large number of people were in the city. Governor Morrow ordered all law enforcement officers and state troopers be on hand. Several hundred people showed up for the trial.

Lockett was sentenced to die in the electric chair. The crowd outside got rowdy, and there was an exchange of gunfire between the crowd and the troopers in which six people were killed and 50 injured. U.S. troops were sent to Lexington. As a second surge was building, Brigadier General Francis C. Marshall declared martial law, which remained in force for two weeks.

Four hundred troops escorted Lockett to Eddyville Penitentiary, and state guards were detached to nearby Leitchfield, KY to guard against violence. Lockett died in the electric chair on March 11. Kentucky later became the first state to pass an anti-lynching law.

For more see J. D. Wright, Jr., "Lexington's Suppression of the 1920 Will Lockett Lynch Mob," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 1986, vol. 84, issue 3, pp. 163-279; "100 Years Later: The murder that spurred a mob riot in Lexington," at the CrimeCapsule website; and "The Rule of Law & Will Lockett," Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/15/2014.

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NKAA Source: The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society (periodical)

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“Lockett Lynch Mob (Lexington, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 19, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-08-18 19:17:26