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December 30, 2021 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Crimes: Whiskey Leads to Murder, Part III

The Roanoke Times. Courtesy Virginia Chronicle.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Crimes: Whiskey Leads to Murder, Part I

On August 3, 1904, the Appomattox and Buckingham Times published news about the murder trial of John Henry Banks, “The trial of John Henry Banks indicated for the murder of John Brown consumed only an hour or two of the time of the court. The jury in a few minutes after retirement, returned with a verdict of murder in the first degree. The judge fixed upon September 30 as… [Illegible].”

Later, on August 24, 1904, the Times printed more about Banks’ fate, the details again submitted by correspondent Quoit.

The colored man Banks who is confined in jail, condemned to be hung on 30 September was visited in his cell by your correspondent… Banks was intently studying the contents of the book he held in his lap when you’re correspondent entered. I inquired as to what kind of book he was reading. He replied it was the Bible. I asked him if he realized that his time was short, and if he was ready to meet his Maker. He replied that he was ready. I then asked him to let me see the book he was reading. He handed it to me [illegible] …I then asked him if he knew that it not the Bible, and if he could read it all. He replied he could read a little, but did not know that the book he was reading was not the Bible. I told him I would send him a Bible if he would like to have one. I was informed that his fellow prisoner, Robert James, who is charged with felonious shooting, was at that time using the Bible and that he could have the use of one whenever he wanted one. He said that he had made his peace with God and was ready to go. But your correspondent was irresistibly impressed that he hardly recognized what he was saying.

John Henry Banks had nearly two months to consider his actions and repent before meeting his Maker.

On October 1, 1904, the Roanoke Times ran a brief statement concerning the hanging of John Henry Banks:

Murderer Pays Penalty.

Richmond, Virginia, September 30 —Special. — John Henry Banks, a negro, was hung at Buckingham Courthouse today the murder in July (sic) last of John Brown, also colored.


Readers are left with several questions. Did Elmore Eldridge survive? What was the grievance between John Henry Banks and Preston Eldridge? Did Banks, as the Roanoke Times suggested, also hold a grudge against John Brown?

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