Then and now

Sam Allender (1862-1932)

In 1917, the Missouri General Assembly passed two groundbreaking pieces of legislation.

Lawmakers approved a sweeping gun control measure.

And they abolished capital punishment.

Gov. Frederick Gardner vetoed the gun bill, even though it had been championed by Sam Allender, the highly regarded chief of detectives for the St. Louis Police Department. -> Gardner cited the opposition of several prominent businessmen who said the bill discriminated against Missouri merchants.

But Gardner, a Democrat whose business interests included the St. Louis Coffin Co., signed the death penalty bill.*

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch applauded the end of capital punishment in an editorial (March 20, 1917): “Missouri is in good company in refusing longer to impose on its officials the repulsive duty of executing criminals.”

And then Missouri, a fickle state, reversed course — on both measures.

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The Missouri editor whose bigotry outlived him

John W. Jacks (1897)

John W. Jacks, who died a century ago this year, was in his time an esteemed newspaperman, a native Missourian who started, owned and edited several publications before buying the Montgomery Standard in 1881 and editing the weekly for some 40 years. He was politically active, accepted state and federal appointments, ran for office and used his position and his paper to advance his interests. “One of the ablest newspapermen in Missouri” is how he was described in news stories about his death published across the state.

None of those reports, however, cited Jacks’ most notorious contribution to Missouri journalism, when, as president of the Missouri Press Association, he responded to British anti-lynching activist Florence Balgarnie’s solicitation of support by sending a racist broadside.

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‘No feeling of jubilation manifested’

the lynching of c.j. millerA black man was arrested in Sikeston, Missouri, taken across the Mississippi River to Bardwell, Kentucky, and lynched, burned and mutilated by a mob looking to avenge the murder of two white girls.

C.J. Millers story, retold by journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, was published on July 29, 1894 — 125 years ago — by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

From her account: “They told him they would not burn him if he would confess. His reply was that to kill him he would burn on earth only an hour, but if he told a lie he would burn forever.”

The lynching, which took place on July 7, 1893, was covered when it happened, including by the St. Louis papers. The Globe-Democrat’s account on July 8, for example, included graphic details and noted that the father of the murdered girls believed Miller was probably innocent.   Read more of this post