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July 4, 1910


On this day
July 04, 1910

White Mob Lynches Norris Dendy and Leaves His Body in a Churchyard

On July 4, 1933, a white mob in Clinton, South Carolina, seized a 35-year-old Black man named Norris Dendy from a local jail cell, beat him, and hanged him. The mob then dumped Mr. Dendy’s brutalized body in a churchyard seven miles from Laurens County. Even though several Black people witnessed the mob seizing Mr. Dendy from the local jail, no one was ever held accountable.

On the afternoon of July 4, Mr. Dendy was picnicking at a lakeside resort with family and friends for a Fourth of July celebration. During the day, an altercation broke out between Mr. Dendy and a white man, and Mr. Dendy allegedly struck the white man. A crowd of white men began pursuing Mr. Dendy, and he fled the resort, terrified. The white men at Lake Murray alerted officers in the nearby town of Goldville to pursue and arrest Mr. Dendy. Soon after, officers arrested Mr. Dendy for “drunkenness” and “reckless driving.”

By the evening of July 4, Mr. Dendy remained in the custody of Clinton officials at the local jail, but despite the pursuit of the white mob earlier in the day, his cell remained unguarded and unprotected. During this era of racial terror lynchings, white lynch mobs regularly displayed complete disregard for the legal system, and it was not uncommon for lynch mobs to abduct Black people from courts, jails, and out of police custody. In some cases, police officials were even found to be complicit or active participants in lynchings. Law enforcement officials, charged with protecting those in their custody, often failed to intervene, or as was the case here, completely abdicated their responsibility.

Late in the evening, at least four white men arrived at the unguarded jail, where only a single Black janitor remained, and seized Mr. Dendy from his jail cell. Around the same time, Mr. Dendy’s wife, his five children, and his mother arrived at the jail—likely in an attempt to visit Mr. Dendy—and witnessed the mob break into his jail cell. When they tried to intervene, the lynch mob struck Mr. Dendy’s mother and fired a pistol at Mr. Dendy’s family. The mob then tied Mr. Dendy’s wrists and ankles with rope and kidnapped him, driving him away from the jail. 

The mob beat Mr. Dendy’s head so many times that he suffered a fatal fracture at the base of his skull. Unsatisfied, the mob then hanged Mr. Dendy before dumping his body next to the Sardis Church, a churchyard seven miles from Laurens County on what is now Highway 72 East. 

Despite accounts from multiple eyewitnesses who witnessed the mob's action, a year later, a grand jury refused to indict the members of the mob. No one was ever held accountable for the lynching of Mr. Dendy. 

Norris Dendy was one of at least 11 documented victims of racial terror lynching in Laurens County, South Carolina, between 1877 and 1950. To learn more about how racial terror lynching claimed the lives of more than 6,500 Black women, men, and children in the U.S. between 1865 and 1950, explore EJI’s reports Lynching in America and Reconstruction in America

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