Volume 9 , Number 1 , Fall 1985
If you were playing a game of Missouri Trivia Pursuit, how would you answer the following question:
Who was Rosco "Red" Jackson, and what place does he occupy in Missouri history?
Do you give up? He was the last man executed by hanging in the State of Missouri.
At Howards Ridge, Missouri, a small cemetery is his final resting place. Needless to say, his headstone does not detail the historical significance of his death.
Jackson was born in a log cabin on Liner Creek, not far from Howards Ridge, in 1901, and died at the age of 36 on May 21, 1937.
A concealed weapon charge was Jacksons first brush with the law. As a teenager, Jackson and another boy were both enamored of the same girl. Jackson and his rival had a fight, with the rival the winner. Jackson started carrying a gun and let everyone know about it, although he really had no intention of using it. This resulted in his being arrested by the town constable for carrying a concealed weapon. His father, Andrew Jackson, hired General Washington (G. W.) Rogers to defend Jackson. He was convicted and sent to the state penitentiary.
He was later paroled, but Jackson jumped parole and went to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. Sheriff Endicott, of Ozark County, returned him to Gainesville. Escaping jurisdiction was a serious crime and prisoners were usually returned to the penitentiary. G. W. Rogers again represented him and made an agreement with the judge not to send Jackson back.
In jail with Jackson was a m7an named Tackett whose term was about over. On the Sunday following Jacksons return, the sheriff came to feed the prisoners, and as usual Hounder, his dog, came with him. Tackett threw kerosene from a lamp on the dog and set Hounder, and part of the town, on fire.
Jackson told Tackett that as he was going to the pen anyway, he would take the blame for the incident. At this point, Jackson obviously did not know of the successful efforts of G. W. Rogers. The agreement was off, and Jackson went back to the penitentiary.
Jackson was again released and returned to Pauls Valley to live.
In late August of 1934, he started home to see his father. Hitch hiking, he was given a lift by Pearl Bozarth, a well known chicken remedies salesman. They spent the night in Forsyth. Jackson slept on the courthouse lawn and Bozarth stayed at Swan Creek Camp, operated by a Mr. and Mrs. Reed. Bozarth and Jackson left for Ava about 8:30 A.M. the next day.
Later that day, a farmer found Bozarths body with a bullet wound in the abdomen. The investigation disclosed the following evidence:
Mr. and Mrs. Reed said that a man wearing black and white oxfords left camp with Bozarth that morning.
A filling station attendant advised that a man wearing black and white oxfords helped gas the car when they stopped.
A man who ran a hamburger stand on the Forsyth square said Jackson told him about his arrangement to ride with Bozarth. Jackson was tied to Bozarths murder. Now they had to find Jackson. How? Learning that Jackson had a girlfriend at Henrietta, Oklahoma, lawmen watched her house. Sure enough, Jackson drove up with his girlfriend and was arrested.
The car had an altered appearance. What had once been a gray, Dodge Coupe, complete with leaping ram radiator camp, wire wheels, and ~Tidemounts, was now a black Dodge Coupe, no ram, no sidemounts, and different wheels. The paint job was done with a brush. Found in the car was a gun. Spare tires, used brush, can of black paint, a ram broken from a radiator cap, and a paper bag with the name of a hardware store on it were found near Pauls Valley, OK. A man from the hardware store stated that he sold the paint and brush to Jackson.
The case was wrapped up. On the return trip to jail, Jackson told the authorities about the murder. This is what he told them. Riding down the highway, Jackson told Bozarth to pull over. Jackson took the gun and told Bozarth to walk away from the car and not look back. Jackson followed him away from the car, Jackson asked for his money. Bozarth turned and tried to knock the gun away, but was shot in the process. Jackson then took the car and Bozarths money, and headed for Oklahoma. Near Pauls Valley, he repainted the car and left the ram and sidemounts.
Again, Rogers was hired to defend Jackson. Jackson told Rogers a quite different story. He claimed Bozarth had picked up a second hitchhiker and this man shot Bozarth and forced Jackson to drive the car to Pauls Valley, and change the looks of the car. When the man said he had no further use for it, he gave it to him. Jackson stuck to this story all through the trial.
Rogers made a plea bargain with the Prosecutor of Taney County which provided that Jackson would plead quilty for life sentence. Pending trial, Jackson was being held in the jail at Ava. He escaped and the plea bargain was off.
Jackson was at large for some time. Officers would go to the Liner Creek cabin from time to time and look for him, without success. Only later would they learn that Jackson was hiding under the front porch during some of their visits. A friend of Jacksons helped him get over to Koshkonong, Missouri, where he would hole up for several weeks. This man then went to the police, telling them that he would be picking Jackson up and they would stop for gas at Caulfield where authorities could arrest him. Everything went as planned and Jackson was jailed at Forsyth.
On change of venue, the case was sent to Stone County and tried at Galena.
In December of 1934, the trial began with Judge Robert Giddeon presiding. The state presented its case and Jackson testified as to the other hitch-hiker. The jury found Jackson guilty but could not agree on a sentence. Without blinking an eye, Judge Giddeon sentenced Jackson to death.
Pending review of his case, Jackson was sent to the state penitentiary at Jefferson City.
The law in Missouri at that time required execution in the county of trial. His appeals exhausted, Jackson was returned to Galena.
In the icy waters of the James River, Jackson was baptized by a local minister. He said he had wanted to be baptized for some time, but waited because he
wanted credit for being sincere."
On the eve of his execution, Jackson told Sheriff Frank Stevens, of Ozark County, that he had committed three other murders.
On the crowded Galena square, the 21st of May, 1937, Rosco "Red" Jackson climbed the 14 steps to the scaffold. He was quoted as saying: "Well now folks, its not everybody that realizes what it takes to die. Its easy when its accidental, but its not easy when it comes gradual. I want you to feel Im the center of all this public reproach and disturbance. I know its too much to ask for the graditude for everyone, but Im leaving without any ingratitude to anyone. A man reaps what he sows and my harvest is here." He also said he regreted the sorrow brought to his parents.
The trap was sprung at 6:05 A.M. Jackson brought his tied hands up to his chin and said "so long, boys," and took his place in Missouri history.
Sheriff Simmons of Taney County took the noose, cut it up and handed out the pieces for souvenirs, an act many thought to be in very poor taste.
Shortly after his death, the statute providing for execution in the state gas chamber became effective.
The Honorable Clyde Rogers, Associate Circuit Judge (Retired), 44th Judicial Circuit, of Gainesville, son of General Washington Rogers, allowed me access to his fathers file on Jackson, and his personal recollections of the case.
Frank Stevens, of Gainesville, son of Sheriff Frank Stevens, provided personal recollections.
Editors Note: Miss Brown was the second place winner in the Societys 1984-85 Historical Essay Contest. She was a student in Mr. Ed Friters American History Class at Gainesville High School, Gainesville, MO.
CopyrightÓ White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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