On August 2, 1901, Charles Bentley was lynched in Leeds, Alabama. The account in The New York Times on August 3, 1901, gives no more information about Bentley, his age, family, or occupation.
An all-white jury found Mr. Bentley guilty of killing a white man by the name of Jim Vann in Leeds. The trial took place during a time when white jurors often convicted black defendants with little evidence. A short time after the coroner completed the investigation, a white mob gathered around the jail, took Mr. Bentley to the county border between St. Clair and Jefferson counties, hanged him, and shot him multiple times. His body was left to hang for townspeople to see.
The choice to take him to the border illustrates ways in which mobs tried to avoid the justice system. They would hope that neither county would take ownership of the murder and so not press charges. In this case, Sheriff North did help press charges.
On November 30, 1901, Jas B. King, a sawmill owner, was arrested for the murder of Charles Bentley. Mr. King said he was at the scene shortly after Mr. Bentley was dead and was not there for the actual lynching. No records could be found on what happened to Mr. King.
Mr. Bentley was lynched only two months after provisions had been made to the Alabama Constitution that addressed lynching. The provisions placed more responsibility on law enforcement to protect people in custody. Unfortunately, he was one of many men who were murdered as a result of a lapse in protection.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
“James B King Under Arrest,” The Centreville Press (Centreville, Alabama), December 5, 1901, page 8.
“Mob Hangs Alabama Negro,” newspaper unclear, Tuskegee Archives.
“Negro Lynched in Alabama,” The New York Times, August 3, 1901.