The Death of John Lennon

No – not the Beatles singer.  :-)

My mother’s grandmother was named Lucinda Lennon Robinson.  From census records I knew that she had a brother named John but until a few days ago I did not know much about him except his approximate age as I’d only located him in two census records – 1880 & 1900.  While I was recently searching the NC death certificates database at Ancestry, I found him.

According to his death certificate – John Lennon died December 12, 1938 in Whiteville, Columbus County, North Carolina.  He was married to a woman whom I think is named Olive and they had at least six kids that I could find in the post-1900 census records.  What is striking to me though is that the death certificate reported his cause of death as a homicide from injuries received during a knife fight. I had to see if I could find a mention of this in the newsaper.

I emailed the librarian at the county library and she was extremely helpful. Within half-a-day she emailed me to let me know she had it and she’d scan it soon.  Today she sent not only one, but two articles!  As elated as I was to receive the email, I was also very saddened to read the report.

John was only 45 years old when he died and from the newspaper record, it states that a man named Frank Wooten stole a shotgun from John at some point in the past.  Because of this, Wooten was indicted and sent to work as part of a chain-gang.  Apparently, upset that he’d been sent away, Wooten took revenge on my great-grandmother’s brother.

The headline of the first article from The News Reporter of Whiteville reads “Negro Victim of Revenge Murder: Western Prong Negro Dies Today Shortly Berfore noon of Knife Wounds Inflicted by Another Negro.”  The hardest part of the article is the description of his body when he was found in a nearby ditch just before he died….

“He was discovered in a ditch in Mount Olive, and attaches at the clinic said that he was slashed from head to foot, stabbed several times, and one eye was completely knocked out.  Walter Haines, a negro, picked the guy up and brought him to the Clinic of Dr. Carnes here this morning.  The physician said that he found it necessary to take more than 200 stitches on Lennon’s head alone.”

The second article pretty much said the same thing as the first one.  This article gives few extra details except that the knife was a pocket knife.  My family was heartbroken that this had happened to him.  But, I will now focus on trying to locate John’s children.

You can read both articles here.

Read this document on Scribd: Articles about John Lennon’s Death

2 thoughts on “The Death of John Lennon

  1. I’m sorry to hear about the way your relative died, and at such a young age. But I’m happy that you were at least able to find out that bit of your family’s history. Good luck in trying to locate that distant cousin.

  2. Hi Taneya,

    What a shock to find out details like these! Over time, family lore tends to downplay anything negative, until one day, someone like you discovers the truth. I was in a genealogy class once with a lady who discovered, through her research, that her grandfather had hung one of his own sons, and she had no idea how to break it to the family. The family had done such a hush-hush job on the circumstances that all memory had just about faded away. Skeletons in the closet or not, it’s all family history, and there’s probably more negative stuff out there than we care to know about. I wonder what did happen to John’s family after his death?

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