Thursday, February 9, 2012

Martin Tabert's Death By Flogging.


"(Tabert) was ordered to pay $25 or spend three months at hard labor. Tabert immediately wired his family who sent the $25 plus an additional $25 so he could return home. But through mishandling, the Leon County court never received the money.

Although prisoners sentenced to a year or more of labor were usually sent to the convict camps, a guard whisked Tabert away to the tiny community of Clara in Dixie County, 60 miles south of Tallahassee. He was assigned to the foreign-run Putnam Lumber Co.

At this camp, Tabert labored in the swamps cutting and clearing timber. He soon suffered from fevers, headaches and oozing sores. When he could no longer remain in the woods, Walter Higginbotham, the whipping boss, propped him up on his swollen feet and flogged him about 50 times with a 5-foot leather strap because Tabert failed to do his day's work.

Tabert begged for mercy, but he was so weak he could hardly talk. While he lay in his bunk unconscious, the company doctor examined him and left quinine, for what he diagnosed as "pernicious malaria." But Tabert died a little after 8 p.m. that night.

The Panama City Pilot detailed his story and death on Feb. 2, 1922, headlining the article as "Florida's disgrace."

Tabert's family brought the death of their son to the attention of those in charge in Tallahassee. Newspapers all over the country covered the story. Higginbotham was tried for first-degree murder, but acquitted.

As a result of Tabert's death, Governor Cary Hardee signed bills which forbid the flogging of prisoners and outlawed the convict leasing system in Florida. The leasing system was not completely abolished until 1923. (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/timeline/1921.html)

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