The U.S. Senate has apologized for failing to enact anti-lynching laws first proposed 105 years ago. And, Missouri is among the states with a sorry chapter in the history of lynching. College professor Michael Pfeifer, who lives in the state of Washington, says the first lynching in Missouri was 1836 – a black man accused of murder and assisting an escape. He says the last one was in 1981 – the shooting of Ken Rex McElroy in Skidmore. 42 blacks and 12 whites were lynched -most hanged. One account does not describe the victim’s race. The head of the State Historical Society, Gary Kremer, says a lynching in Maryville in 1931 led to creation of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The victim was tied, alive, to the roof of a school which was then burned down. The incident prompted the Legislature to conclude Missouri needed a statewide police force that would not have to wait for a sheriff’s request to act. Lynching as we usually think of it ended with the killing of a black World War Two veteran in Sikeston in 1942 – an incident that prompted Adolph Hitler to claim he was doing nothing worse in Germany than white people in America were doing.
A partial list of lynchings in Missouri (after 1900), prepared by Professor Michael J. Pfeifer, Faculty Member, American Social History, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington.