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Photo of victim uncovered 112 years after bridge lynching

Published:Saturday | March 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM



CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP): Lost to Chattanooga history for 112 years, a photograph of Ed Johnson was finally uncovered on the anniversary of his lynching.

Joseph Malley, a Dallas-based attorney who has been researching Ed Johnson's Supreme Court Case for a book, found one photo with the help of Chattanooga residents Mariann Martin, Sam Hall and David Moon. Hall then was able to find a better quality version of the photo, which ran in a wire story titled, "U.S. Supreme Court couldn't stop lynching."

Johnson was lynched from the Walnut Street Bridge in 1906 after he was accused of raping a white woman. Johnson's attorneys, Noah Parden and Styles Hutchins, argued his case before the U.S. Supreme Court, persuading the court to grant him a stay of execution. But a mob broke into the jail and took matters into their own hands.

Johnson's case was the first time in history the Supreme Court gave a stay of execution and the first and only time the high court held a criminal trial, which ended with Hamilton County Sheriff Joseph F. Shipp being held in contempt of court. The justices said Shipp failed to keep Johnson safe, noting some of his deputies took part in the lynching, according to a book called "Contempt of Court."

To researchers' knowledge, the photo has never been printed in a Tennessee newspaper. Malley and Moon said one possible explanation for that is because, at the time, Tennessee newspapers generally did not publish photos of African-Americans.