The Murder Of William Tabor, Deputy Sheriff of McDowell County WV

This blog made me horribly sad. A corrupt mayor, being investigated for the corruption of two young girls as well as taking bribes, shoots the Deputy Sheriff sent to investigate him. Subsequent trial was, from all accounts, a farce and he runs away as quickly as possible after being acquitted.

There is a ton of grey area and missing information on this one.

Deputy William Tabor was shot and killed while attempting to arrest the mayor of Welch, West Virginia.

The Welch city council had been meeting in deliberations on whether or not to impeach the mayor over accusations that had been made against him involving two girls. When the mayor learned of the deliberations he broke down the door to the meeting room and demanded to know what was occurring. After overturning the conference table he left.

In the meantime, Deputy Tabor was driving the two girls to Kimball. However, the mayor intercepted the Deputy, overtook him and demanded that he hand over custody of the girls.

Deputy Tabor turned the girls over and then followed the mayor to his home. When he exited his vehicle the mayor told him not to approach and then shot him when he didn’t comply. Deputy Tabor was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his wounds the following day.

The mayor was charged with Deputy Tabor’s murder.

Officer tabor was a Veteran of World War I. He is buried in Cartwright Cemetery in Welch, McDowell County, West Virginia.

Source: An Appalachian School in Coal Country: Facing the Challenges of a Changing
By Terry Huffman

Bluefield Daily Telegraph March 4, 1921

Mayor Whitt, Of Welch, In Jail On Charge Of Murder

Town Greatly Stirred by Shooting of William Johnson Tabor.

Numerous Reports As To Cause Are Circulated.

No photo description available.

William Johnson Tabor, who was shot on the streets of Welch by Mayor J. H. Whitt at 6 o’clock Wednesday evening, died at the Welch hospital at 2:30 o’clock yesterday morning. Mayor Whitt, who was arrested following the shooting Wednesday evening and released on bond, was rearrested yesterday and placed in the McDowell county jail, charged with the murder of Tabor, county traffic officer and deputy sheriff of McDowell county.

The town of Welch has been greatly stirred by the tragedy, and numerous reports have been circulated as to the trouble leading up to the shooting. From reliable sources it is learned that several charges had recently been preferred against Mayor Whitt, and an effort was being made to impeach him. On Wednesday afternoon the council was in session and was hearing some of the accusations which had been made against the mayor. It appears that there were two girls implicated in the charges. While the council was sitting behind closed doors it is alleged Mayor Whitt broke into the meeting by breaking down the door, and demanded to know what was going on. When told of the meeting he is said to have turned over the table around which the councilmen were sitting and then left.

It appears Deputy Sheriff Tabor had taken the girls in a car towards Kimball. En route to Kimball his car was overtaken by Mayor Whitt and the chief of police of Welch, who ordered Tabor to turn the girls over to them. Johnson did so without any argument and returned to Welch, following the machine in which Mayor Whitt, the police chief and the two girls returned to Welch. The machine stopped in front of the mayor’s home and he stepped out. Johnson drove his machine just a little ahead of the car and stopped. He walked back, stating, it was said, he wanted to talk to Mayor Whitt. As he approached Whitt, it was said, he was advised not to come any closer. With this Whitt pulled his gun and shot twice. Both shots took effect, one entering the lower part of the leg and the other near the hip. The second shot ranged upward, penetrating some of the vital organs.

Tabor was rushed to the hospital. Sheriff Hatfield soon reached the scene, and excitement ran high throughout the town. At first it was thought Tabor had received only flesh wounds and Mayor Whitt waived preliminary hearing and gave bond for his appearance before Judge Herndon at the next session of the court. After Tabor’s death, however, Mayor Whitt was rearrested on the charge of murder and placed in jail. It was reported here late last evening that Judge Herndon was preparing to hear some of the evidence and would determine if he would permit Whitt to give bond.

William Johnson Tabor was aged twenty-eight years. He was born May 28, 1892, at English, and was the son of W. T. and Nannie Johnson Tabor, who removed to Welch one year later. His parents now reside at Lynchburg, Va., having removed there a few years ago. Deputy Sheriff Tabor was more familiarly called “Bill Johnson,” and was a grandson of the late Mr. and Mrs. J. Frank Johnson, sr., of Welch, with whom he made his home until their death, and later lived with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Logan.

The Johnson family is one of the most prominent of the pioneer families of McDowell county. The deceased was educated in the Welch public and high schools, and after completing the course there went to Swathmore College and from there, after serving his country in the late war, he entered West Virginia University where he was an attendant up to the holidays of the present year. While at the state university he distinguished himself in athletics, being a star player on both the basketball and football teams. In the last football game of this season, in which he played, his playing gave West Virginia its only point against Princeton.

Mr. Johnson was a veteran of the world war, having volunteered with Company K, second regiment, West Virginia National Guard, on September 14, 1914. He served with that company on the Mexican border with the rank of corporal. Following the declaration of war against Germany he was mustered into the United States army on July 17, 1917, and served with the 150th infantry, thirty-eighth division, at Camp Shelby, Miss. While with this division he was rapidly promoted to the rank of second lieutenant, and with his company sailed overseas October 5, 1918. With this division he fought and was wounded. He received from President Woodrow Wilson the accolade of new chivalry of humanity, which states he served with honors in the World War and was wounded in action. On November 11, 1918, he was transferred to the twenty-ninth division (Blue and Gray). He returned home with this outfit on May 19, 1919, and was immediately discharged from the service on his return to the states.

Mr. Tabor was a member of McDowell Lodge No. 112, A. F. & A. M. of Welch, McDowell County Post No. 8, American Legion, and the Delpha Tau Delpha fraternity of the West Virginia University. At the time of his death he was traffic officer and a deputy sheriff of McDowell county and was assistant to Col. W. J. McClaren in the road department office of McDowell.

The funeral service will be conducted by Rev. L. W. Pierce at the late home in Welch at 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon, after which interment will be made in the Cartwright cemetery. The services and burial will be in charge of the Masonic lodge and the American Legion.

Mayor Whitt was arrested and charged with murder but won acquittal at his trial (allegedly based on perjured testimony). Whitt left the area for parts unknown on September 27, 1921.

He was born in English (McDowell County, WV) and grew up in Welch, WV. He served in the Army as a corporal under General Pershing chasing the notorious Mexican outlaw Pancho Villa. He reenlisted and was a World War I veteran wounded in action and was rapidly promoted to 2nd Lt. and then 1st Lt. during the War. He received Pres. Woodrow Wilson’s “Chivalry of Humanity” Award (similar to today’s Purple Heart medal). After the War he entered WVU and was a star athlete and a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He was killed in the line of duty as Deputy Sheriff of McDowell County. He was shot on a street in Welch by Welch Mayor J. H. Whitt on March 2, 1921 and died the following day. Unmarried, no children.

McDowell Recorder March 11, 1921

Funeral And Burial Of William Johnson Tabor

Popularity of Deceased Shown by Record Crowd in Attendance.

What has been estimated to be the largest crowd ever assembled at a funeral in McDowell county was that gathered Sunday afternoon to pay their last sad rites to William Johnson Tabor. Fully three thousand people participated and from a reliable source we learn that over three hundred automobiles were in Welch and at the cemetery.

Although it was intended that the funeral services were to be held at his late home, it became evident early in the day the crowd was too large for it or any other building in the city, so the services were conducted on the court house lawn and then many of those attending could not get close enough to hear the eulogies of Rev. L. W. Pierce, who had charge. At the conclusion of the ceremony the casket was opened and the file of friends of the deceased who looked for the last time at his lifeless body wore expressions of the deepest sorrow.

The body was then taken in charge by McDowell Lodge, No. 112, A. F. & A. M., and with an escort from the ranks of the American Legion, was conveyed to the Cartwright cemetery, where it was laid to rest. After the Masons had completed their solemn ceremony the American Legion advanced to the grave and after their bugler had blown “taps” the firing squad gave their “salute” by firing thrice over the open grave.

The active pall bearers were: Simon Solins, John B. Barley, W. J. Hatfield, J. H. Mitchell, F. H. Kirchner and B. E. Downs, representing McDowell lodge, and W. E. Eubanks, B. Hampton Gray, Samuel Solins, Paul W. Jones, John W. Blakely and Chester Harman, of the American Legion. The floral bearers were members of the two organizations.

The floral tributes were numerous, they being expressive of the high esteem in which “Bill Johnson” as he was so familiarly known, was held by his numerous friends and associates. To his bereaved parents and family this, no doubt, was a solace as floral offerings reveal that feeling of the donor that words fail to express.

F. W. P.

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