There was a Dr. Shaw who was quit[e] an elderly man who moved to Tulia in late 1920’s or early 1930’s. My Dad told me that this man had known my grand[d]ad “John Jennings” when he was a young man. Dr. Shaw told me that he and grand[d]ad had been very close friends. He said that he had visited in the home of John Jennings many times before he or my grand[d]ad either were married.
I asked him about John[‘s] death and he told me that they were having a
meeting where anyone who had a favorite political friend that they wanted to speak for was welcome political rally. He said that John went and made a speech for the candidate he was interested in. But it did not suit the opponent who was there.
As John was walking home this fellow waylaid him and was going to give him a whipping because of the things he had said in his speech. Dr. Shaw said instead of giving John a whipping he had to take one. Dr. Shaw said John was a Blacksmith and was a strong and active young man.
It seems as if he went on home. The next morning the man went into a hotel just across the street from John’s shop and asked if they had a gun and told them there was a mad dog out in the street. Someone got a gun for him and he walked over to the door and shot across the street killing John.
I asked how the trial turned out. Dr. Shaw said he didn’t suppose they had a trial. He said that the country was so badly torn up just after the Civil War that anyone could get by with any crime if they could get out of the country without getting caught.
Source: photocopied letter sent to Annie Jennings Cunningham by Jan Jennings, possibly September 1976
I find it intriguing that, according to family researcher Jan Jennings, no newspaper articles were published about the murder, and according to Dr. Shaw of the letter, no trial took place. It would seem to me that there was a concerted effort to “hush it up,” which makes me wonder all the more about the circumstances of John Jennings’ murder.
My grandfather heard a family legend about a man who was a district attorney who prosecuted a couple of young men in Alabama. They broke out of jail and killed the DA. The DA’s widow moved her children to Texas, afraid of retribution against the murderers on the part of her sons, once they grew to adulthood. I think it likely this legend developed from the story of John Jennings’ death, but he clearly was no lawyer of any kind.
At any rate, Lucinda Curry Jennings moved her children to Honey Grove, Texas in 1880, a full five years after John Jennings’ murder. Lucinda must have repeated this family legend to her granddaughter, Annie Lola Jennings, who would have told it to her son, my grandfather, Udell Cunningham.
Update, July 24, 2006: Jan Jennings sent me information she found related to John Jennings’ murder. I will post a followup soon.