The Trial of Sheriff Joseph Shipp et al.: An Account

12 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007

See all articles by Douglas Linder

Douglas Linder

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: 2007


Only once in its history has the United States Supreme Court conducted a criminal trial. The trial, taking place in both Tennessee and the District of Columbia in 1907 and 1908, resulted in the conviction of a sheriff, a deputy sheriff, and four members of a Chattanooga lynch mob. Outraged justices ordered the trial on criminal contempt charges after an almost certainly innocent black man, having been convicted of raping a white woman, was lynched less than a day after word reached Chattanooga that his scheduled execution had been stayed by the U. S. Supreme Court. The trial of Joseph F. Shipp et al. is a story of tragedy and heroism that had been all but forgotten until Mark Curriden, a Dallas reporter, and Leroy Phillips, Jr., a Chattanooga attorney, published their 1999 book, "Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism." Now, with the success of "Contempt of Court" - and a movie based on the book - it appears that the Shipp trial may assume its rightful place as one of the famous trials in American history.

Keywords: Famous Trials, Trial, Joseph Shipp, Shipp, Contempt of Court, Chattanooga, Lynch mob, Lynching, Lynch, Ed Johnson, Nevada Taylor, McReynold, Federalism

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Linder, Douglas, The Trial of Sheriff Joseph Shipp et al.: An Account (2007). Available at SSRN: or

Douglas Linder (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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