01 December 2006

Marshall Ratliff-Santa claus robber lynching


White man lynching in Texas-1929
Posted Monday, Dec. 2, 1929Last year ten Negroes were lynched in the land. Mississippi killed half of them. Louisiana and Texas ran neck and neck for second place with two each. Missouri brought up the rear with one. With five weeks of the year to run, the 1929 score of Negroes lynched stood last week at nine (Florida, three; Mississippi, two; Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, one each), when out of Texas came grisly news of another lynching. But this was a special lynching and did not alter Texas' position on the Black List. Instead of a Negro, the Texans lynched a white man.

On Christmas Eve, 1927, Marshall Ratliff disguised himself as Santa Claus and, with three companions, robbed a bank at Cisco, Tex., killed two policemen. Captured and condemned to death, Robber Ratliff was returned to the county jail at Eastland, Tex., to undergo a sanity test. Eastlanders grumbled at the law's delay. Feigning paralysis, Ratliff last week snatched a gun from Jailor Tom Jones, killed him, but failed to escape.

Next evening the Mob marched to Eastland jail. They dragged Murderer Ratliff from his bunk, stripped him of his clothes, paraded him 200 yards through the main streets to a telegraph pole. A rope jerked Ratliff off the ground, broke, let him down with a thump. Under the code of the Old West, when a lynching rope broke, the victim was freed. Eastland that night did not follow the Old West's code. Fifteen terrible minutes passed before a new grass rope was produced. Up went Ratliff a second time."Maybe he wants to talk," suggested a leading lyncher.

Down came Ratliff again. "Go on! Talk!" shouted the crowd. But the rope was around Ratliff's neck so tight that he could only gasp and sputter."Hell!" cried a lyncher. "He don't want to talk. String him up!"So up went Ratliff for the third and last time. Men, women and children gaped up in silence at his naked body as it swung for two hours in the wind.No one was ever tried in association with the lynching, although a grand jury was formed.

Several thousand persons viewed Ratliff's body the next day at a furniture store in Eastland before Judge Garrett ordered the corpse locked up. Ratliff's family took possession of the body and arranged for a funeral in Fort Worth, with burial at Olivet Cemetery. Many people in Cisco over the years have claimed to have been present at the robbery or related to someone who was, and it is now a part of local folklore.

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