George Stinney Jr. was an African American child who was executed at the age of 14 in the murder case of two white girls, Betty June Binnicker (11 years old), and Mary Emma Thames (7 years old) in 1944; making him the youngest American and also the youngest one in the 20th century to be executed by electrocution.
George Stinney Jr. (full name, George Junius Stinney Jr.) was born on Monday, October 21, 1929 (age 14 years; at the time of death), in Pinewood, South Carolina, United States. He was raised in the segregated mill town of Alcolu in South Carolina. Alcolu was a small, working-class mill town where white and black people were separated by railroad tracks. Even after living separately on opposite sides of the railroad spur, men from both white and black families worked together for the D.W. Alderman and Sons Company. The Post and Courier George Stinney Jr., along with his parents and four siblings, lived near the railroad tracks in a three-room company house reserved for black families. He attended Alcolu’s school for black children where he was a student of 7th grade. The Guardian
Eye Color: Black
Hair Color: Black
Family & Ethnicity
Parents & Siblings
His father, George Stinney Sr. was a former sharecropper and was employed at the town’s sawmill. His mother’s name was Aime who was a cook at Alcolu’s school for black children. The Post and Courier George Stinney Jr. had two brothers – John (half-brother) and Charles, and two younger sisters – Katherine and Aime.
Two white young girls, Betty June Binnicker (11 years old), and Mary Emma Thames (7 years old) had gone missing on March 23, 1944, while they were riding their bicycles in Alcolu. Their mutilated bodies were found the next day. The incident triggered massive unrest in Alcolu.
On March 23, 1944, Binnicker and Thames were riding their bicycles and were on a search for flowers. On their way, they stopped near George Stinney Jr.’s house, where Stinney was sitting along with his sister Aime, the girls enquired them where to get maypops, the yellow edible fruit of passionflowers. Reportedly, that was where the girls were last spotted alive.
Thereafter, Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames never returned to their home. Following the disappearance of Binnicker and Thames, hundreds of Alcolu residents, including George Stinney’s father, came together to search the missing girls; however, the girls couldn’t be traced on that day. The next morning, George Burke Sr., one of the big bosses at the lumber mill, led a search operation and discovered the mutilated dead bodies of the young girls in a soggy ditch. The Post and Courier
Later, Dr. Asbury Cecil Bozard examined the dead bodies of the girls and reported that it was a brutal murder in which the girls had received multiple head injuries; however, he also revealed that there was no clear sign of a struggle. Dr. Bozard found that there was a hole boring into Thames’ skull through her forehead. Thames’ body also had a two-inch-long cut above her right eyebrow. According to Dr. Bozard’s examination, Binnicker had received at least seven blows to her head, and it was reported that the back of Binnicker’s skull was “nothing but a mass of crushed bones.” Dr.Bozard concluded that a “round instrument about the size of the head of a hammer” was used to attack the girls. Later, it was also reported that the girls had a stopover at a white family’s home, but it was never confirmed, and the police never looked for a white killer. After receiving an input from an informer that the girls were seen talking to Stinney, Clarendon County law enforcement officers arrested George Stinney and his older brother Johnny. Later, they released Johnny but held George. All That’s Interesting
A Two-Minute Trial
After the arrest of George Stinney Jr., he was interrogated in a small room in the absence of his attorney, his parents, and witnesses. After the interrogation, the police reported about Stinney’s confession that he had killed Binnicker and Thames in an attempt to have sex with one of the girls. H.S. Newman, the arresting officer, made a handwritten statement, which read –
I arrested a boy by the name of George Stinney. He then made a confession and told me where to find a piece of iron about 15 inches long. He said he put it in a ditch about six feet from the bicycle.” All That’s Interesting
Amid the rumors of lynching, the police didn’t reveal Stinney’s whereabouts, even Stinney’s parents had no information about his whereabouts. The trial of George Stinney Jr. began at a Clarendon County Courthouse; nearly after a month of Binnicker and Thames’ death. The court appointed Charles Plowden as George’s attorney, but he did “little to nothing” to defend George. The trial lasted barely two hours during which nothing could be produced to protect George, and the most significant evidence produced against him was his alleged confession, though a written record of his confession could never be produced. By the time when the trial began, Stinney had not seen his parents in weeks. During the trial, there were almost 1500 strangers surrounding Stinney. After barely a 10-minutes deliberation, the all-white jury found George Stinney Jr. guilty, and they didn’t recommend mercy for him. Stinney’s death sentence was pronounced by judge P.H. Stoll of Kingstree on April 24, 1944. All That’s Interesting
Campaign to Save George Stinney
As the date of Geroge Stinney’s execution progressed, various campaigns and protests started across South Carolina to save his life. Protestors petitioned Gov. Olin Johnston; demanding clemency for George, owing to his young age. Protestors from all over the state and across the country sent hundreds of letters to the governor’s office, and all they demanded was mercy for George.
When protestors warned Gov. Olin Johnston of racial tensions, he responded with a letter in which he described George’s alleged offense, Johnston wrote –
I have just talked with the officer who made the arrest in this case. It may be interesting for you to know that Stinney killed the smaller girl to rape the larger one. Then he killed the larger girl and raped her dead body. Twenty minutes later he returned and attempted to rape her again but her body was too cold. All of this he admitted himself.” The Post and Courier
The Execution of George Stinney
On June 16, 1944, George Stinney Jr. walked into the execution chamber at the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia, dressed in a loose-fitting striped jumpsuit and Bible tucked under his arm. Reportedly, at the time of his execution, the 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. was 5′ 1″ tall and weighed 95 lbs. The Guardian
According to sources, when he was strapped into an adult-size electric chair, the electricians had to struggle to adjust an electrode to his right leg because of his small stature, and the mask was too big to cover his face.
Before executing him, the jail authorities asked him his last words, and he replied –
Then, the prison doctor asked –
You don’t want to say anything about what you did?”
And George again replied –
Then, the switch was turned on, and 2,400 volts surged through Stinney’s body. Reportedly, the current jolt caused the mask to slip off his face. The witnesses present in the room later revealed that eyes were wide and teary, and saliva was emanating from his mouth. After two more jolts of electricity, he was declared dead. All That’s Interesting
And Geroge’s Conviction Was Overturned
In 2014, after 70 years of George Stinney Jr.’s execution, his murder conviction was overturned. On December 17, 2014, Judge Carmen T. Mullen, while overturning George’s murder conviction, termed the death sentence –
Great and fundamental injustice.”
After the exoneration of George Stinney Jr., his sister, Katherine Robinson said,
It was like a cloud just moved away. When we got the news, we were sitting with friends… I threw my hands up and said, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ Someone had to be listening. It’s what we wanted for all these years.” All That’s Interesting
Many novels, books, TV series, and films have been inspired by the case of George Stinney Jr. The first one was David Stout’s first novel, “Carolina Skeletons (1988),” which depicted the case of George Stinney Jr., and it was adapted as a television movie of the same name. Then, Albert French wrote the novel “Billy” based on this case in 1993. The novel, “The Green Mile” by Stephen King, which was published in 1996, was also inspired by this case. In 1999, the novel, “The Green Mile” was also adapted into a film of the same title in which Tom Hanks was in the lead role. The character of “John Coffey” in the film was loosely based on Stinney’s case and was played by Michael Clarke Duncan.
Frances Pollock wrote an opera titled “Stinney” in 2015. A short film titled “83 Days” was released in 2018, which was based on Stinney’s case.
- George’s life was spent in a sawmill village, Alcolu, some 80 miles north of Charleston.
- His family had a cow, and they used to grow vegetables in the garden. George would often take the family’s cow to meadows for grazing. The Washington Post
- On Sundays, George, along with the rest of Alcolu’s black families, would visit the nearby Greenhill Baptist Church. The Post and Courier
- While in prison, George met the seventeen-year-old Wilford “Johnny” Hunter who got arrested for joyriding in a stolen car. Later, Hunter revealed some facts about George, like he loved to sing country songs from The Grand Ole Opry, especially Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You,” and loved to play hide-and-seek in the bunks. The Post and Courier
- After George’s arrest, his father, George Sr. was fired from his job at the mill, and his family fled to their grandmother’s house in Pinewood.
- A reporter from The State newspaper in Columbia revealed that George looked calm and “apparently little concerned” throughout the trial.
- George was dressed in jeans and a faded blue shirt when his trial was going on at the Clarendon County Courthouse in downtown Manning. The Post and Courier
- George’s cellmate, Wilford “Johnny” Hunter, also revealed that once George had told him –
Johnny, when they electrocute me, I’m coming back and I’m gonna haunt you!”
- Johnny Hunter also wrote a letter to a preacher in Florida named S.P. Rewell on George’s request. According to George, S.P. Rewell had helped his brother back when he was in trouble.
- Johnny Hunter also revealed that George had talked about his innocence to him and once he told him –
Johnny, why do they want to kill me for something I didn’t do? Why?”
- The fourteen years old George was charged with murder, tried, convicted, and executed by the state; and it all took just 83 days.