February 26, 2011 — BGS Meeting — The Hawes Murder Trial

The Birmingham Genealogical Society meets the fourth Saturday of each month (ex. Nov. & Dec.) at the Downtown Birmingham Public Library. Guests are always welcome!

Next meeting: Saturday, February 26th at 2 p.m.; Meet & Greet at 1:30 p.m.

Meeting Room: Story Castle on the 2nd Floor

Speaker: Ann Gilbert, Past President of BGS

Program Topic: The Hawes Murder Trial

On December 4, 1888, boaters found the body of a seven year-old floating in East Lake in eastern residential Birmingham. After an autopsy determined the cause of death to be murder, thousands attended a viewing at the local funeral parlor. It was not until the next day that the girl was identified as May Hawes, the daughter of Richard Hawes, a Georgia Pacific engineer and his wife Emma. At a murder inquest, witnesses revealed that Hawes often left his alcoholic wife to care for their daughters. Others said that the couple were divorced and Hawes was in Mississippi taking a new wife. After this fact was confirmed, Hawes was taken into custody. On December 8th, four days after May Hawes’ body was discovered, the scandal grew with the discovery of the bodies of Hawes’ wife, Emma and his other daughter, Irene, bound with weights and submerged in another neighborhood lake. Community outrage boiled over when a mob estimated between 1,000 and 3,000 converged on the City jail. Sheriff Joseph Smith, concerned with the safety of staff and prisoners, armed his deputies and ordered them to shoot into the crowd if necessary. Ten died in the ensuing violence including the postmaster and a deputy U.S. Marshall. The sheriff and the police chief were arrested the following day as the state militia restored order. Richard Hawes was found guilty on May 23, 1889 of murdering his family and sentenced to die by hanging.

Please join us as former BGS President, Ann Gilbert, discusses the details of this horrific crime which would set the city of Birmingham on a course that would change the city forever. (If you attended her program on the Hawes Murders a few years ago, this is part II and will focus on the actual trial transcripts that she did not have access to at the time.)


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