Woodrow Johnson

"The News Reporter", Monday, December 10, 1951, Whiteville, Columbus County, North Carolina

HEADLINES FROM FRONT PAGE: "Mob Violence Invades Whiteville; 40-year-old Mechanic is Flogged"
"Woodrow Johnson Induced to Leave House and is Taken Out of Town Where He Was Beaten"
"Men Who Called Him Out Were Not Masked"
"Victim Said Mob Gave "Drinking" as Excuse; Evidence Shows He Was Beaten Severely"

Mob violence invaded Whiteville during the weekend. Woodrow Johnson, a 40-year-old mechanic employed in Florence, S.C., was tricked into the hands of unidentified mobsters, carried to an unknown spot outside the city, and flogged. The victim told the press and officers shortly before noon today that his captors gave drinking as the excuse for beating him. The flogging took place about 8:30 Saturday night. Johnson, who lives at 408 West Williamson Street, had been home only an hour when the series of incidents started. "I had just come in from Florence where I work for the Hunt Motor Company and was taking a nap when two men came to the door." The victim said, "I thought it was someone who needed help in fixing an automobile."

Johnson said a big, robust man remarked that he wanted to see him a minute and that he walked to the car with him. He said the visitor threw his arm around his shoulder and warned, "If you holler, I'll kill you." As soon as his captors pushed him inside the automobile, which Johnson said was a 1949 Ford blue two-door sedan, they blindfolded him and ordered him to lie on the floorboard of the back seat. The victim said he didn't know where he was taken but that they drove several minutes and cam to a stop at a spot which he believed to be beyond White Marsh, two miles east of Whiteville." He said the men asked him: "Woodrow, don't you drink a lot?" When he admitted that he did drink, Johnson said they mentioned something about private money matters.

According to his recollection, he was struck powerful blows on the back of his person immediately after he got out of the car. He estimated that not more than three or four licks were struck. A moment later, Johnson said two men grabbed him by either arm and forced him down on the fender of the car while another man hit him with a belt or some other object with full force. Johnson had proof of the severe beating. When officers checked his story today, his flesh was severely bruised. He said he had no knowledge of the number of people involved in the flogging. "I'd figure that there were at least 25 of them, just from hearing them stirring about," he added. He said one of the mobsters intervened on his behalf and remarked that "That's enough" after he had been strapped three or four heavy blows while pushed down on the fender. He said the men then brought him to Baldwin's crossing just east of the city and helped him out of the car. "They didn't mistreat or abuse me in any way except for the strapping," he added.

Johnson told officers he was led to a point some distance from the car and one of the men snatched the blindfold from his face. "Don't look around or I'll kill you," he quoted the man as saying. Johnson said they warned him that if he went to the law about his experience "they would kill me the next time they got hold of me." Neither of the two men who came to Johnson's house was known to him. He said that they tall, robust man did most of the talking. The other man was a small, slender man. Johnson said that when he asked, "Cap'n, what have I done?", the only answer was "Woodrow, don't you drink a lot?" Sheriff H. Hugh Nance, Police Chief William H. Ferrell and CBI Superintendent Horace I. Shaw began work on the case, but there was no immediate development.

The Whiteville mechanic is the third white man to be manhandled by a mob in the past two months. Robert Lee Gore of Olyphic was carried across the South Carolina line and whipped in late October and similar treatment was given Clayton Sellers in the New Hope section in November. Johnson said no word was spoken about the Ku Klux Klan during the 40 to 45 minutes he was held captive and that he could not say whether any of the mob wore hoods or robes.


"The News Reporter", Friday, December 15, 1951, Whiteville, Columbus County, North Carolina: EDITORIAL PAGE
"Courageous Victim"

Woodrow Johnson probably would be the last person in the county to claim he is a perfect example of the good citizen but his defiance of a mob's threat to kill him if he notified law enforcement authorities certainly places him in the category of the courageous. It would have been far less embarrassing for him to have taken his medicine and said nothing. As a matter of fact, he had nothing to gain and possibly a lot to lose by reporting the incident.

Whatever the failings of Robert Lee Gore, Clayton Sellers and Woodrow Johnson, they are the citizens who have been brave enough to let the viciousness of the present situation be known and give officers an opportunity to probe the condition.

Only the righteous indignation of an aroused citizenry can stop such violence. It is to be hoped that mob action can be halted before the county becomes an armed camp where no citizen would dare approach the home of a stranger for any assistance in an emergency lest his life be endangered.

For the faults of these victims of mob violence, no word is spoken in justification, but for their courage in the face of dire warnings there is the utmost respect.


Contributed by B. Cole

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