January 14, 1910
Thurman Spinner is executed for the axe murder of an acquaintance after the victim tore his shirt
Spinner (as he’s recorded in the Library of Virginia records) or Skinner (as most newspapers referred to him) had been ‘possum hunting with Charles W. Noell (21) and several others near Colfax, Virginia on October 29, 1909. The group rested for a brief time, at which point Spinner and Noell — who had known each other for years — engaged in play wrestling. During the fight, Noell threw Spinner to the ground, tearing his shirt in the process.
The group continued on their way and Spinner carried an axe that was used by the group to fell trees in search of opossums. About 30 minutes after the wrestling incident, Spinner walked behind Noell and used the axe to strike him over the head, shattering his skull. Noell never regained consciousness and died on November 2.
Spinner was immediately arrested and held in a local jail until a jailer learned of a plot to lynch the prisoner. The jailer moved Spinner to the woods where the pair waited from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. During their absence, an “orderly mob” of 50 people arrived to enact vigilante justice, but left without further violence after searching the jailhouse and finding no sign of Spinner. The prisoner was soon transferred to another city to avoid any further attempts on his life.
Spinner reportedly made no defense at his trial, and was sentenced to death. He was executed at the age of 18, dying in the electric chair on January 14, 1910, less than 3 months after Noell’s murder.
Charlie William Noell. Find a Grave. Accessed: January 14, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/131428916/charlie-william-noell
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia: A Comprehensive Registry, 1866–1962. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015
“A Guide to the Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, 1796-1991 (Bulk 1906-1970). Library of Virginia. 2011. Accessed: January 14, 2021. https://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=lva/vi00990.xml
“Pays Penalty For His Crime.” The Matthews Journal. January 20, 1910
“Dies In The Electric Chair.” The Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. January 15, 1910
“Bedford Murderer Dies In Electric Chair.” Daily Press [Newport News, Virginia]. January 15, 1910
“Negro Saved From Mob.” The Sun. November 5, 1909
“To Escape Mob’s Fury.” The Daily Journal and Tribune [Knoxville, Tennessee]. November 5, 1909
“Victim Of Negro’s Fury.” The Sun. October 31, 1909
“Uses Ax On White Man.” The Washington Herald. October 31, 1909