Chuck Lanehart digs up the past in a two part Caprock Chronicle on G.R. Miller, the only hanging ever recorded in the Texas panhandle.
In the early 1900’s, G.R. Miller quickly became a career criminal in Hardeman County. However, it was after release from prison that Miller committed a spree of violent acts in Childress and on a train. In summary:
Miller robbed his employer in Childress
He commits arson of his friend’s house
Miller murders 3 innocent men on a train while attempting to escape
After a brief trial, Miller is sentenced to life in prison for one murder, a second murder earns him the death sentence. In the town of Clarendon, Miller is scheduled to be hanged on June 3, 1910.
At the time, public executions were popular events and Miller’s hanging attracted locals and tourists on the railroad to camp out and witness his death.
Between 1819 and 1923, 390 people were hanged in Texas in the county where the trial took place, and four died by firing squad. Of these, 58 per cent were Black, 25 per cent White, 12 per cent Hispanic, and the races of the others are unknown.
Lynching was more common than legal execution in Texas between 1885 and 1942, when at least 470 people met this ugly fate. Of these, 72 per cent were Black, 16 per cent were White, 11 per cent were Hispanic, and one was Native American. Only one lynching incident has been verified in the 43,000-square-mile Panhandle-South Plains region.
Largely in response to the alarming number of lynching incidents, executions by hanging were terminated in 1923 when the State of Texas ordered all executions to be carried out by the state, in Huntsville, by means of the electric chair.