God Bless You All - I AM a Innocent Man
the 100th-year commemoration of Ed Johnson's death 1906-2006

Ed Johnson

Please join us
Sunday, March 19
4.pm, Bessie Smith Hall
200 East Martin Luther King Blvd.
Chattanooga TN 37403

As we remember the life of
Ed Johnson on the anniversary
of his departing.

g u e s t   s p e a k e r s
Attorney/author Leroy Phillips
Historian James Mapp
Mayor Ron Littlefield
Pastor Bernie Miller

The public is invited.

Program sponsored in part by both
Friends of Pleasant Garden and the
Chattanooga African American Museum

The Peace Walk
In Memory of Ed Johnson

Come join us as we
Walk For Peace
Sunday, March 19

The Walk will start at the Bessie Smith Hall and end at the Walnut Street Bridge.

Churches, civic groups, schools and organizations are encouraged to wear items/colors that represent your groups, etc.

We hope to see you there!

The event is sponsored by
The Friends of Pleasant Garden

For more information call 423. 400.9948

Dead Innocent:
the Ed Johnson Story

a play by
LaFrederick Thirkill

based on newspaper articles,
court transcripts, and book by
Leroy Phillips and Mark Curriden

Co-sponsored by the BSLA

April 14-16
8.pm - admission $10

Chattanooga State
C.C. Bonds Auditorium

grave marker in Pleasant Garden Cemetery, Ridgeside (Chattanooga) of Ed Johnson, a Black man unjustly accused of raping a White woman, hung and shot to death by a White mob in Chattanooga off the second span of the "county bridge" (now called the Walnut Street Bridge) on 19 march 1906.

Walnut Street Bridge postcard:

Hamilton County sheriff Shipp of Chattanooga, in whose custody Johnson was placed, blamed the lynching on the US Supreme Court.

the County Bridge (Walnut Street Bridge) 1906

grave marker of Ed Johnson


God Bless you all I AM
A Innocent Man

BORN 1882.
MAR. 19. 1906

Blessed are the dead
that die in the Lord.

the Walnut Street Bridge, Chattanooga "Erected in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge was the first to connect Chattanooga's downtown with the North Shore. Structural modifications have been made to turn the bridge into what is now a pedestrian walkway. The 1/2-mile span is the longest pedestrian bridge in the world and very popular among local residents. Providing spectacular views of Coolidge Park, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Riverfront, the bridge is available for weddings and special events."
After the Civil War, the bridge connected White downtown Chattanooga with the Black community in "Hill City" on the north side of the river, composed in large part of African-American freedmen west of the bridge, many from the old Beck farm.

Looking Backward - article from 1960 - on a
legal hanging and a lynching in Chattanooga

(the last sentence ["Blessed ..."] is in reverse italic [left slant].)
The marker in the northeast corner of Pleasant Garden Cemetery is
(as of november 2005) lying horizontal on the ground, face up,
with the plinth (base) nearby. Thanks to LaFrederick Thirkill
for showing us the location of Johnson's marker and
telling us more about the history of the place and events.

Contempt of Court : The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism

Contempt of Court - The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism

Contempt of Court : The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips Jr 1999

1. "... than an hour to drag Johnson to the crime scene, and the mob was too impatient for that. "To the county bridge!" someone finally shouted. A tremendous applause erupted. It was agreed. The fifteen-year- old bridge that spanned the Tennessee River, and ..." p 211

2. "... February 14, 1893, when a mob had dragged Alfred Blount, also a black man, from the same jail to the county bridge. He was lynched from the first span for allegedly attacking a white woman. It was only appropriate that the second ..." - p 212

3. "... citizens, in their beds last night hearing the shouting which accompanied the line of march from the jail to the county bridge, and the shots which told too well the story of triumph of the mob law, shuddered as they thought of ..." - p 214

4. "... Well after midnight, a horse-drawn wagon from a black-owned and -operated funeral home slowly made its way on to the county bridge. Three black men who worked for the funeral home scooped up Johnson's body, threw it in the back of the ..." - p 217

5. "... Supreme Court's ultimate intervention. And he was present when the mob stormed the county jail, dragged Johnson to the county bridge, and lynched him. His articles the next morning had detailed every aspect of the horrible event." - p 293

    the 3 lynchings of Black men in Chattanooga ...

  1. 7 september 1885 - Charlie Williams objected to segregated seating on the local street car. The white driver forcibly put him off the vehicle. Williams went home, got his pistol, and when the streetcar next came by, he shot the driver. Williams was arrested and in the Chattanooga jail when a mob broke in and lynched him from the rafters of the jail's third floor. - Chattanooga Library, local Crime folder 1885 & R.Evans.

  2. 14 february 1893 - Alfred Blount, hung from the first span of the county bridge (Walnut Street Bridge) for allegedly attacking a white woman. see the 8 july 1893 article in the Cleveland (Ohio) Gazette about his wife who sued Chattanooga.

  3. 19 march 1906 - Ed Johnson, hung from the second span of the county bridge (Walnut Street Bridge) for allegedly attacking a white woman.

("foundation sacrifice" - on the use of human sacrifice as baptismal offering to new civic projects like bridges.)

These days there's no more lynching of young Black men in Tennessee (Texas is different).
But some consider there to be a modern variant: death in police custody.

also at the Pleasant Garden cemetery ...

The alleged Scottsboro Boys' incident occurred on March 25, 1931, when several black youths were accused of raping two white girls on a train from Chattanooga to Huntsville, Ala. They were convicted but many blacks thought they had been wrongly convicted and were victims of racial prejudice. ... Many historians believe the Scottsboro case was the start of the modern civil rights movement. ... Andrew and Leroy Wright, two of the four Chattanoogans accused in the case, are buried at Pleasant Gardens Cemetery by Missionary Ridge. - chattanoogan.com


OCTOBER 27 1916
AUGUST 16 1959

  • listing of other Pleasant Garden Cemetery grave markers, Ridgeside (Chattanooga)

  • Friends of Pleasant Garden will be cleaning up the cemetery on all four saturdays, 9am-4pm, in february 2006. The public is invited to join in the efforts. Contact LaFrederick Thirkill (lathirk⁄at\bellsouth.net) for more information.

  • "Events honor man lynched 100 years ago" CTFP 29jan06

  • maps
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