Historical Marker Ceremony

Bowman Cook and John Morine were dragged from jail and lynched Sept. 8, 1919.

The men had been charged with murder after a white businessman, the brother of a justice of the peace, was killed in a fight in downtown’s La Villa area.

They were jail inmates when another black man was charged with molesting a 12-year-old white girl and about 50 armed white men decided to take the molester from jail and kill him.

The Associated Press carried a clinical description of the Sept. 8, 1919, jail assault where that crowd found the molester had already been moved out of town to protect his life.

“Arriving at the jail and not finding this negro, the mob took the other two and put them to death,” the AP reported.

″… Answering a knock at the front door of the jail shortly after 1:00 a.m., Jailer Tucker was covered with pistols and ordered to make no move or outcry. He was quickly handcuffed, relieved of his keys and ordered to point out the tier of cells in which the negroes were confined. The men apparently knew the negroes and after securing them quietly left the jail.”

Cook and Morine were driven to the city’s outskirts, riddled with bullets and had ropes tied around their necks, news accounts said.

Cook’s body was dragged downtown behind a car until it reached the exclusive Windsor Hotel, where the federal courthouse stands now across the street from Hemming Park. The rope broke and the body lay in the street until police found him. Morine’s body was found near the cemetery, in the area researchers think the lynchings happened.

No one was ever charged with the killings.

Published in the Florida Times Union on September 6, 2019