Thomas “Tommy” Shipp was born March 1, 1911 in Kentucky (death certificate). On the night of August 6, 1930, Thomas Shipp (19) saw his friend James Cameron (16) and offered him a ride home. Cameron accepted, and then they picked up another friend Abram Smith (19). Shipp and Smith both suggested robbing someone for some extra money, but Cameron insisted he was not interested. Shipp and Smith ignored his request and went on to a place in the woods called “lovers lane”. They came across a parked car. In it were Claude Deeter and Mary Ball. Shipp gave Cameron the gun (.38-caliber revolver), and Cameron opened the door to the car. The man in the car was Cameron’s friend. Cameron shinned his shoes, and the man often asked how his family was doing. When Cameron realized it was Deeter, he gave the gun back to Shipp and ran off(Cameron).
When Cameron ran off Shipp and Smith robbed Deeter of his wallet, and keys to his car, but knowing that Deeter could identify them they thought the right thing to do was to kill him. Shipp shot him. One bullet went completely through his body. Also one of the boys took a stick to Deeters’ head. Rumors say that Shipp and Smith raped Mary Ball as well, but that was never proven to be true. Deeter crawled all the way out of the woods to the nearest road. He then was rushed to Marion General Hospital where he lived through the night. Deeters’ parents told him to forgive the boys for what they had done and at first Deeter couldn’t forgive them, but moments before he died he told his family that he forgave them(Cameron).
In a matter of less than a day all three boys were found and arrested and each of them was put in their own cells. Quickly, after the town knew the boys were in jail, thousands of men, women, and even children rushed down to the jail with weapons anything from sledgehammers to gas cans. Without hesitation the mob broke threw the doors of the jail and past law enforcement to get to the boys. One at a time Shipp and Smith were dragged out of their cells and taken behind the jail and brutally beaten to death. After them came Cameron almost beaten to death, by the time Cameron was taken to the courthouse Shipp and Smith were already hanging lifeless. Cameron had the rope around his neck, when he asked God for forgiveness and miraculously he was spared(Cameron, oral presentation). The mob wanted the bodies to hang there all night as a warning to the African American race, but O.L. Stout, the coroner, insisted the bodies be taken down(Cameron, oral presentation).
James Cameron was charged with being an accessory before the fact to voluntary manslaughter. He spent four years in prison, he saw freedom at age 21, and began school again. Thomas Shipp was buried in the Weaver Cemetery on August 11, 1930. The undertaker was J.E. Johnson in Muncie, Indiana. Thomas died at the age of 19 years, 5 months, and 6 days. Thomas Shipp was not married nor did he own his own land. The photo that is so common and known to most people was sold for 50 cents after the lynching. Thomas Shipps life will not go down in vain. He will continue to be remembered(Indiana Monthly).
- Cameron, James. A Time of Terror. Baltimore, Maryland: Black Classic Press , 1993.
- Thomas Shipp's death certificate- Marion Public Library, microfilm: reel 2, book 8,page 76
- Indiana Monthly- Marion Public Library, Indiana room
- Cameron, james. "The Lynching of James Cameron, Thomas Shipp, and Abram Smith." Available from http://www.thehypertexts.com/mysterious_ways/mysterious_ways_lynching_of_james_cameron.htm. Internet; accessed 25 May 2011.
- Madison, James. A Lynching in the Heartland. Palgrave, 2001.
- This paper was written by Charles Kuntz at Marion High School, 2011.
- (Special Thanks to Callie Williams for allowing me to build on to her prior project)