Readers: Last week we told you about what’s believed to be the last hanging in Palm Beach County before the state centralized executions and instituted the electric chair in 1923.
Shelby Wise was accused of stabbing Claude Brown to death in April 1914 in West Palm Beach during a fight. On June 26, 1914, after deliberating for 2 1/2 hours, a jury found Wise guilty of first-degree murder.
“Hopeless, no possible chance for life, the prisoner sat with downcast eyes,” said a June 26, 1914, story in the Tropical Sun, a predecessor to The Palm Beach Post. “From not one face left in the courtroom did he read a sign of mercy, showing plainly that for him, death had already begun.”
Wise spent his time in jail singing gospel songs and preaching to fellow inmates and even the press.
“My soul is right with my maker, and I am ready to die,” he told reporters.
“Whiskey and bad women were the cause of it,” he said of Brown’s murder. “Indeed, I am sorry. But then, it is all over. And I am not worrying about it any more.”
At the county jail, on First Street in downtown West Palm Beach, work on the scaffold began. Gov. Park Trammell delayed the hanging by two weeks to let Wise’s lawyers appeal for a lesser sentence. But the state’s pardoning board turned Wise down. Told of his fate, Wise smiled and said, “All right.”
On the morning of July 2, Shelby White smoked a cigarette, then stood as deputies placed a black hood over his head. The lever was pulled, and he fell through the trap door.
Tags: notorious crimes