The Claude Neal Lynching - Marianna & Jackson County, Florida
|Courthouse Square in Marianna
Claude Neal's body was found hanging from
a tree outside the old courthouse in October 1934.
The structure no longer stands.
Murder Scene in 1934
Lola Cannady's mother looks down
at her daughter's body in this
moving crime scene photo taken in
Murder Scene in 2011
The hog pen where Lola Cannady
was allegedly attacked by Claude
Neal was near the trees in the
The lynching of Claude Neal ignited
a riot in Marianna. Mobs crowded
the downtown until National Guard
THE CLAUDE NEAL LYNCHING
Marianna & Jackson County, Florida
Shadows of the Past in Florida
|Copyright 2011 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: February 27, 2015
The Cannady Family
Lola Cannady's mother, younger
brother and father stand before their
house in this 1934 photograph.
The lynching of Claude Neal took place in
Jackson County, Florida, on October 25,
1926. Neal was an African American farm
worker who lived in a rural area near Malone.
The lynching was one of the pivotal events of
the Great Depression. Despite the fact that
Neal was kidnapped from a jail in Alabama
and carried back to Florida by the men who
lynched him, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) did not investigate the
crime for more than 75 years.
The outbreak in Marianna and Jackson
County began on October 18, 1934. A 19 year
old woman named Lola Cannady left her
rural home to water her family's hogs. She
Concerned family members alerted their
neighbors and a search was started for the
young woman. Scuff marks and footprints
near a water pump at the hog pen, along with
blood splatters that appeared to indicate a
fierce fight had taken place at the site.
The searchers found male footprints leading
from the pen to the nearby home of a woman
named Sallie Smith. When the men of the
neighborhood arrived at the house, they
allegedly found Smith and her niece, Annie
Smith, trying to wash blood from a man's
The only man then living in the house was
Claude Neal. The 23 year old was the son of
Annie Smith and the great-nephew of Sallie
Smith. He did not come home that night.
The body of Lola Cannady was found the next
morning (October 19, 1934). She had been
beaten to death with a hammer. Her remains
were found covered with logs and brush in a
wooded area belonging to Sallie Smith. Near
the body was a piece of blood-stained cloth
and the stem and loop from a pocket watch.
Claude Neal was found on a nearby farm
and arrested on suspicion of murder by a
sheriff's deputy and the town constable of
Malone. The bloody piece of cloth found near
Lola's body turned out to be from one of his
shirt sleeves. His pocket watch was missing
its stem and loop. The broken ones found at
the murder scene were a perfect match for
Fingerprint technology was not yet used by
local law enforcement in the United States,
but the other evidence was considered solid
by county deputies. In addition, Sallie and
Annie Smith entered a statement implicating
Claude Neal in the crime.
The two women told officers that they had
seen Neal with Lola Cannady shortly before
they heard a woman screaming. Neither
could explain why they had not gone to the
young woman's aid so both were arrested as
Word of the brutal nature of the murder
spread through the cotton and peanut farms
of northeastern Jackson County. Hundreds of
angry people flooded to the Cannady farm
and the idea of lynching Neal was widely
Lynching was still common in the United
States during the early 1930s and while it
was most prevalent in the South, such
incidents also took place in the Midwest,
Northeast and West. While previous
lynchings had taken place in Jackson
County, most such incidents in Florida had
taken place in the central part of thestate.
Sheriff W.F. "Flake" Chambliss tried to keep
Neal safe by sending him out of Jackson
County and to a series of other jails. The
suspect was held briefly at county jails in
Chipley, Panama City and Pensacola,
Florida, before being hidden away at the jail
in Brewton, Alabama.
County Clerk of Courts "Candy" Bowles also
tried to stop the lynching plans. Showing
considerable courage, Bowles climbed into
the bed of a pickup truck to address the
growing mob. "Men, please don't do this
thing," he supposedly said as he pleaded
with the angriest of the spectators.
Claude Neal confessed to the rape and
murder of Lola Cannady at the Brewton Jail
on October 22, 1934. Represented by an
attorney, he signed a statement admitting to
his role in the crime, but also implicating a
relative named Herbert Smith.
Sheriff's officers in Jackson County doubted
that Smith was involved in the murder, but
detained him so he could be taken to
Brewton to confront his accuser in person.
When Neal saw the African American farm
worker approaching the jail, however, he
admitted that he had acted alone.
A reporter in Mobile, Alabama, learned of
Neal's confession and tried to obtain a
confirmation from Sheriff G.R. Byrne. The
Escambia County, Alabama, sheriff denied
that Neal was in his jail and begged the
journalist not to report such claims.
The reporter, however, rushed the news out
over the wires. Leaders of the lynch mob
learned that Neal was in Brewton when they
heard the story broadcast by a radio station
in Dothan, Alabama.
Armed with pistols, dynamite and other
weapons, the mob showed up at the jail late
on the night of October 25. One group
decoyed Sheriff Byrne out of position. A
second group then removed Neal from the
Brewton jail by force. He was taken back to
Jackson County and hidden in a river swamp
25 miles east of Marianna by six leaders of
Thousands of people gathered at the
Cannady farm on the next day, believing they
would be allowed to witness Neal's lynching.
After a day of waiting, however, they were
disappointed to learn that the "Committee of
Six" had instead tortured and murdered the
man at their remote hiding place.
Neal's mutilated body was taken to the
Cannady farm late on the night of October 26.
George Cannady (Lola's father) and other
relatives fired additional bullets into the
man's body. Neighbors and friends of the
Cannady famiy then took the dead man to
Marianna and hanged him from a tree on the
east side of the Jackson County Courthouse.
The hanging of the body was intended as a
message for Sheriff Chambliss. He had
infuriated the mob by trying to protect Neal.
The sheriff found the body at 6 o'clock the
next morning and immediately cut it down.
Despite the claims of some modern writers,
Neal was not left hanging at the courthouse
for 24-hours. The remains were buried by 10
A boisterous crowd grew in Marianna and at
12 noon rioting broke out. Two companies of
National Guard troops were sent in to quell
the violence and the city eventually fell quiet.
No additional deaths were reported.
The NAACP and other organizations used the
Claude Neal lynching as the major example
in their drive for a national anti-lynching law.
The effort failed in the U.S. Senate, but the
publicity generated by Neal's death all but
ended such incidents in the United States.
Although the murder of Claude Neal has
been called a "spectacle lynching," he
actually was killed by six men deep in the
woods of eastern Jackson County. Many of
the events surrounding the lynching,
however, definitely took on a spectacle
No one was ever arrested in connection with
the crime. Despite the fact that Neal was
kidnapped and carried across state lines by
the mob, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) did not investigate the case for more
than 75 years. By that time all of the men
involved in the murder were dead.
To learn more about the murders of Claude
Neal and Lola Cannady, please read:
Cannady House in the 1980s
Former Jackson County Sheriff
John P. McDaniel talks with an
eyewitness in front of the Cannady
house during the late 1980s. The
house no longer stands.
Claude Neal Lynching
Edited photo of Claude Neal's body
hanging from a tree at the
courthouse in Marianna. The city
has changed dramatically over the
80 years that have passed since
this picture was taken.
Video on the Claude Neal Lynching
Historic Sites in Jackson County