After 75 years, last public hanging haunts city
Bob Howe points to an overgrown, muddy patch of land in a cemetery in Owensboro, gesturing to where the grave of the last man publicly executed in the United States may be.
The grave is anonymous and unmarked, like other places associated with Rainey Bethea's hanging on Aug. 14, 1936. As the 75th anniversary of the execution approaches, it is something some in Owensboro would like history to remember differently.
Bethea, a farmhand and sometime criminal, went to the gallows near the banks of the Ohio River before a throng of people estimated at as many as 20,000 strong. The execution drew national media coverage focused on a black man being executed by a white, female sheriff with the help of a professional hangman....
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