Interfaith Paths to Peace holds event to commemorate last public execution in U.S.


by WHAS11

Posted on August 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Updated Saturday, Aug 14 at 4:36 PM

(WHAS11) – Saturday marks 74 years since the last public execution in the United States.

It was held in Owensboro, Kentucky and on Saturday there will be an event in Louisville remembering what happened that day.

On August 14 1936, a man by the name of Rainey Bethea was hung to death.

He was sentenced to die for raping and murdering 70-year-old Lischa Edwards.

More than 20,000 people from all across the country gathered in downtown Owensboro to watch. The crowd gathered mainly because the Owensboro sheriff at the time was Florence Thompson, a woman.

It would be the first time a woman would ever hang a man in the United States.

In the end a male police officer from Louisville acted as executioner.

"If it did any good at all... it brought the attention that this should never happen again,” a witness, Bob Tucker, said.

After the execution Kentucky legislators outlawed public hangings. It was a move that was eventually copied by other states.

It would be the last public execution in the United States.

To commemorate the event Interfaith Paths to Peace will hold a dramatic reading of the story at 10 Saturday morning in Jefferson Square; which is across the street from the old jail where Bethea spent his last night alive.