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Let's Reminisce: Last words from the gallows
By Jerry Lincecum
Feb 6, 2018
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For weeks now we have heard from men accused of sexual harassment, and quite a few of them have acknowledged their transgressions and apologized.  However, most of the apologies have been lackluster at best.  For example, Dr. Larry Nassar, whose molestation of so many girls and young women who were members of gymnastics teams was so egregious that he was given a sentence of 40 to 175 years for of criminal sexual misconduct, said only this: “There are no words to express how sorry I am.” He added: “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my life.”  His apology does not seem heartfelt.

 

In contrast, I recently discovered an account of the first legal hanging in Grayson County in 1869, as recorded in the Sherman Courier.  It includes the “last words” of the two men who were hanged.  Here are some excerpts.

 

"Last words of William O. Blackmore:  I confess I was concerned in the murder. . . .  I am heartily sorry, and I know it is but just that I should die.

 

Before I die, I want to say a few words to the young men of my country as a warning to them. . . . I was doing well until this came up, farming in Collin County.  A man from Mississippi, by the name of Thompson, came to where I was living, and I took him in as a partner.  He was a man of fine appearance, but he proposed to me several depredations and at last I consented to go with him and we killed a man.

 

Young men, if you keep wicked, profane, drinking, gambling company, you will certainly rush to ruin too.  The difference between you and me is you are looking forward upon life, and I am looking backward upon it.  I see danger where some of you do not see it, and with my last breath I warn you to keep good company or no one."

 

“Last words of John Thompson:  I am to die today and my sentence is just. . . .  Young men, these words issuing from the trembling lips of a dying man are worthy of earnest attention!  While yet a boy, I mingled in bad company, and I can see now, too late, to improve the lesson it brings.  I have lived a wild and wicked life.

 

And now, young men as I turn away from you to die, let me beseech you to avoid drinking, swearing, Sabbath-breaking and gambling, the sins which first started me down the hill of crime, amid the shadows of whose base I must surrender the life I am unworthy to keep."

 

Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches older adults to write their autobiographies and family histories.  A new class begins at Grayson College on Feb. 7.  Email him at jlincecum@me.com.