In an email from Betty Horne, she asks about this case. The mother of Wash Smith was Cordelia "Dealie" Smith who was half sister to Joanna Gibson, both were daughters of Cal Smith by different wives (he had 5). Joanna Gibson was killed by Wib Frady on Christmas 1917. I will put below the information we had from various newspaper articles.
Personal note: Wash to my present knowledge is the only person ever executed for a killing that happened in the LRWMA. We know of one case that freedom was definately 'purchased' by payment to government officials. However, in any case, those who killed in the LRWMA were never considered a real threat to the community but had normally been drinking at the time of the event. All the others were released and all went on to live good lives. It does make you think that maybe Wash was just too poor to have had any family member be able to 'buy' his freedom, and whether or not his execution was necessary. Can you imagine the sadness of the families that were tied to the relatives of Joanna, her husband (who was also killed), Wash Smith, Jud Wells, and Joseph Cash.
Georgia Deaths, 1919-98
Name Death Date Age County of Residence County of Death
Wash Smith 22 Nov 1930 Baldwin
- - -
Killed Judson Wells January 03, 1928 in Banks County. He was electrocuted In Baldwin County, GA. November 22, 1930.
- - - - -
The Toccoa Record
Thursday, January 05, 1928
Posse Is Seeking Farmer's Slayer
Cornelia, GA -- Jackson Wells, well known farmer of this county, was shot and killed late Tuesday afternoon at his home in Habersham county, about ten miles north of here, by a man understood to be Wash Smith.
Details of the Killing have not been received, through it is reported that Smith had been drinking. Neighbors stated that after Wells had been shot his sister, with whom he lived, was forced to run from the home by threats of Smith.
A posse was formed to hunt for the slayer, but at late hour Tuesday night he had not been apprehended. Jackson Wells, the slain man, was unmarried and lived with his sister. He has a brother whop lives in Cornelia.
- - - -
November 11, 1929
Letter From Wash Smith
Dear Editor: Will ask you to spare me a place in your paper to say a few words. I am in Athens Jail awaiting hearing from Supreme court after being kept a prisoner two years charged with the murder of Jud Wells and i think the lord will take care of me. I was held a prisoner here for five months. There were nine prisoners tried to escape. They broke jail and was about to make their get away and i remained in my cell. The jailer asked me why I didn't go too. I told him that I was trusting in the Lord to take care of me and give me justice and then I will be satisfied. I want the good old people of Banks county to know I am not in sorrow so much. It will be surprising for some of the people to know that I think enough of my county to write them a word and I had a wonderful dream here in Clark county jail. I dreamed that I come clear of the charge they have got me for, and was the pastor of the old Mountain View church and I pray every night that my dream will come true, and I can surly say that I have had dreams to come to pass and many prayers answered since I have been in prison. So I hope and trust to the Lord that this one will be answered and I want to thank the good people that are holding to me through thick and thin, for if anyone would step to think how it would be if they were in my place then they could have some sympathy for me. I sure hope that they will never be in my place unjustified for there are not no pleasure in it, but I am praying to the Lord that I will get justice in my case before it is too late. Well I will bring this to a close for this time and if this time and if this hits the waste basket I will come again. If you will print this for me I sure will be glad of it.
Very Truly yours,
- - - - -
Friday, November 21, 1930
Wash Smith To Die In Chair
Three-hour Plea for Executive Clemency as Last Hope is Made in Vain
Wash Smith, convicted nearly three years ago in Banks County of the murder of Jud Wells a neighbor, will die Saturday in the state's electric chair at Milledgeville. Smith is 20 years old.
Governor Hardman declined Friday to commute the youth's sentence to life imprisonment, after a three hour Session in which the long legal battle was received, and appeals for the boy's life were made by his lawyer and friends.
With the refusal of executive clemency went the youth's last hope of life. The prison board had previously denied clemency, as had a jury in a second trial. Smith was convicted in 1928, when he was only 17 years old.
The shooting said to have occurred in an argument over Smith's sweetheart. Two brothers of Wells were present at the hearing, with their attorneys, to resist executive clemency. L. E. Wellborn, a railroad fireman of Atlanta, who said he heard the story of the boy from Sheriff Welcher of Banks County, while Smith was being taken to Milledgeville on a train, appealed to the Governor for the boy's life.
- - - -
November 22, 1930
Chair Awaits Wash Smith
STATE PRISON FARM, MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga., Nov. 22 -- Doomed to die about 10:30 o'clock today for the murder almost three years ago of Jud Wells, Banks County merchant, Wash Smith awoke today after a long peaceful sleep to announce he is ready.
While the sentence decrees Smith must die between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. executions where hope of clemency has been abandoned usually are carried out at 10:30.
Smith was just a boy, 17 years of age, when he killed Wells. Only 20 now, he apparently was unconcerned today, although he fought desperately for freedom through two trials and convictions, and sought mercy from the Prison Board and the Governor.
The last of these avenues of escape from the death chair came Friday when Governor Hardman declined to interfere.
"Death is just death" said the youth this morning. "I had as well go this way as any other, I am ready"
Guards permitted him to sleep as late as he wished on his final day on earth. He slept until 8:30 and showed deep interest in a hearty breakfast.
- - - - -
November 22, 1930
GA. SLAYER DIES IN CHAIR
STATE PRISON FARM, Milledgeville, Ga., Nov. 22 -- With no more emotion than was evidenced by a calm request that no relative of the man he killed be permitted to witness his death, Wash Smith, Banks County youth, died in the electric chair today for the murder of Jud Wells.
Smith was seated in the chair at 10:50 o'clock this morning. The first charge of electricity passed through his body five minutes later, with the second following at 10:59. He was pronounced dead at 11:03.
The body was taken to Banks County for burial at Homer.
Smith's death was a solitary one. His request barring relatives of the dead man was granted. A telegram from one of his brothers was his sole consolation from members of his own family. None but prison officials witnessed the execution.
" It is that none of the relatives of the man i killed be allowed to be present to enjoy my death."
Smith went to the chair calmly, hoping to the last executive clemency would stay death.
He declared he was forced to kill to save his own life. A brief word of comfort arrived, a telegram from Atlanta, signed "Trippe"
Smith did not disclose the sender's identity.
URGED TO DIE GAME
The telegram said:
"There is always hope, but if the worst comes you will know how to hold up your head, old boy."
E. P. Scoville, of the Salvation army, said Smith's last statement to him and Chaplain E. C. Atkins was:
" I am ready to meet my maker."
They said he never seemed to realize however, that death was imminent and repeatedly declared:
" I can't help feeling that I'll get another chance because one of the witnesses admitted he lied."
- - - - -
The Toccoa Record
November 27, 1930
Mountain Grove School News
Several from this community attended the funeral of Wash Smith at Mt. View, last Sunday evening.