Murder At County Line
A book called "Murder at County Line" was written by Avoline Bloodworth (1985) about the murder of Howard Underwood from Potterville, Taylor County, who sold McNess products. (Potterville is on the Taylor/Macon County line, near Hicks and Garden Valley.) The murder took place December 3, 1923 on a dirt road leading to the Flint River near Potterville. The two young men, Willie Jones and Gervis Bloodworth, who were convicted of committing the murder, have the distinction of being the last people to be hung in Taylor County. As the trial unfolded, it was discovered that they had been drinking and splitting shingles for a man at Garden Valley, a Mr. Simmons. They planned to go to Florida and needed money for the trip. Their intention was to take two young women, Nora Blanche Jones and Julia Jones, with them. Interestingly, Julia was the wife of Homer Jones, Willie's brother. At some point, Mr. Underwood gave them a ride. Being a salesman, he had money on him at the time. And the rest, as they say, is history.
SOURCE: The Bibb Recorder, Friday, Jan 12, 1968 (edited by Barbara Timm)
Summary of Events From the Book
Howard Underwood had a wife, Maggie Mae and nine small children. He worked as a Salesman for McNess products (household spices and medicines).
The Victim's Family
Sikes Underwood, Howard's brother, ran a store in Potterville. Howard's older daughter, Ruby was married and lived in Texas. His other daughters, Ula and Ouida worked at the cotton mill in Potterville.
One of the Murderers
Willie Jones, born December 15, 1905, was the son of Jim M. Jones. He stated at the trial he was 18 years old the 15th day of December, 1923.
The Murderer's Family
Jim (James Marion) Jones and his wife, Addie (Whatley) Jones, were married October 23, 1892 Upson County, Georgia. Besides Willie, they also had sons David, James and Homer.
Both Jim and Addie are buried in Upson County, Georgia at Old Mill Cemetery. Jim and Addie Jones used all their money and land to help Willie.
Dave Jones, 1900 - 1980, married Sallie Lou Coulter, born April 7, 1893 and died December 10, 1973. Dave remarried Maggie Dixon, born 1905 and died March 17, 1987. Both Dave and Maggie are buried Riverside Cemetery, Macon, Georgia
James Marion "Jimmy" Jones was born August 18, 1903 and died February 4, 1948. He married Ethel Plymale, born January 5, 1904, in Taylor County on March 7, 1919.
Homer Jones, born May 20, 1904 and died February 1977, married Julia Hinton, born 1900, in 1913. She died on April 11, 1958 in a house fire in Upson County, Georgia.
Other siblings were John Paul (9/5/1911 - 8/31/1942), Emma who married R.J. Mathews 1/29/1918, Bryant and Euel
The Other Murderer
Gervis Bloodworth was born Sept 7, 1904 and was raised by his grandmother because his parents separated soon after he was born.
Both youth blamed whiskey as their downfall and both mentioned helping to make liquor with their families as young boys.
The first trial took place Dec 18, 1923 in Butler Courthouse.
Attorneys for the State
Walker R. Flournoy, Gilbert C. Robinson, and C.G. Daniel
Attorneys for the Defense
Homer Beeland, Walter E. Sneed and C.W. Foy
The Superior Court
The Honorable George P. Munro, presiding
Lois Smith, L.V. Smith, J.W. Aultman, A.H. Jarrell, R.D. Pye, Johnnie Caldwell, James Montgomery, W.F. Gray, J.T. Parker, J.W. Mott, Marion Jinks and L. Wilson
Dr. T.G. Turk, witness for the State, testified: "I made an examination on the body . . . he had a wound from a shotgun just back of the right ear, low down. I am a graduate physician from the Atlanta School of Medicine, and have practiced generally for 16 years in Reynolds. The wound I speak of was just back of the right ear and was made with a shotgun at close range."
Addie Jones stated in court that Willie was baptized in Mt. Olive Church in 1921 by Brother Shelley of Macon. He didn't go to school until he was 11 due to sickness, so his total schooling was only about 9 months.
After five trials and pleas to the Governor, the execution of the boys took place on Jan 20, 1926. During their jail stay, both young men were converted and begged to be given a life sentence instead of death so that they might "preach the gospel" in prison.
They were buried in Girard Cemetery (Phenix City, AL) in separate caskets in a double grave (according to their wishes) in a lot owned by Mrs. Laura Fulleron (mother of Gervis Bloodworth).
Howard Underwood's Funeral & Burial
Goddard Funeral Home made the funeral arrangements for Howard Underwood. The body was carried home to remain until time for the funeral. Friends took turns sitting up with the body.
Howard Underwood was born on April 11, 1871 and died on Dec 3, 1923. He is survived by his wife, Maggie Mae Waters Underwood, seven daughters and two sons. He is also survived by his mother, one brother and 5 sisters. He was buried at Mt. Olive Church in Potterville. his funeral was witnessed by the largest funeral assembly ever assembled in Potterville.
The book provides direct quotations from court testimony, newspaper reports, personal letters. It makes you feel like you are right there. Numerous witnesses in the Potterville area are mentioned by name.