North Carolina · School Violence

Teens kill school superintendent, roommate after being reprimanded

March 12, 1951
Union Mills, North Carolina
Two teens shoot and kill their school’s superintendent and the younger teen’s roommate

The two teens, Hugh Justice (19) and Billy Ray Powell (16) had been reprimanded by school superintendent W. E. Sweatt for “walking with girls.” The boys visited Sweatt around 10 at night and fatally shot him; he lingered in a coma for around 3 hours before dying. They then confronted Powell’s roommate, Wade Johnson (15), believing he had “tattled” on them. An argument broke out and Johnson was killed instantly.

Justice was tried first, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Powell pleaded guilty to accessory before the fact of first degree murder in Johnson’s murder and was also sentenced to life.

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