Willie James Howard: The 15-Year-Old Boy Who Was Lynched for Having a Crush on His White Colleague in 1944

Willie James Howard, a 15-year-old African American living in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida, met a tragic fate on January 2, 1944, in a harrowing act of racial violence that shook the nation’s conscience.

Willie James Howard: The 15-Year-Old Boy Who Was Lynched for Having a Crush on His White Colleague in 1944

The events leading to his death began innocently enough, with Willie James, a young African American, sending a Christmas card, followed by a letter to on New Year’s Day, expressing his feelings to a white girl named Cynthia Goff, who worked at the same store where he was employed.

Unknown to Willie, his simple act of kindness would set off a chain of events that would end in tragedy.

The card, which contained a simple message of affection and well wishes, was perceived as a scandalous act of interracial communication in the deeply segregated South of the 1940s. Cynthia, offended by the card and letter, subsequently gave them to her father, A. P. “Phil” Goff, the Live Oak postmaster and a former state legislator.

In a chilling display of racial animosity, Cynthia’s father, along with S. B. McCullers and Reg H. Scott, confronted Willie at his home, brandishing guns and forcibly taking him from his mother’s grasp. They then picked up Willie’s father, James Howard, at the Bond-Howell Lumber Company where he worked.

Subsequently, they drove to the Suwannee River east of Suwannee Springs, where they bound Willie by the hands and feet and threw him into the river. All the while, James Howard, powerless to intervene, was forced to witness the brutal murder of his son unfold before his eyes.

Willie James Howard: The 15-Year-Old Boy Who Was Lynched for Having a Crush on His White Colleague in 1944

In a desperate attempt to cover up their heinous crime, Goff, McCullers, and Scott concocted a false narrative, alleging that Willie had taken his own life by jumping into the river to escape punishment from his father. James Howard, coerced into compliance, initially corroborated their fabricated account by signing an affidavit but later recanted after selling his house and relocating to Orlando.

In a desperate attempt to conceal their heinous crime, Goff, McCullers, and Scott drafted a false narrative, asserting that Willie had taken his own life by jumping into the river to evade his father’s punishment. Coerced and terrified for his life and the safety of his remaining family members, James Howard reluctantly endorsed their fabricated account by signing an affidavit. However, after selling his house and relocating to Orlando, he later recanted his statement.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by activists like Harry T. Moore, tirelessly pursued justice for Willie James Howard and his family. Despite their efforts, a county grand jury failed to indict the perpetrators, and a federal investigation yielded no convictions.

Tragically, Willie James Howard’s assailants, Goff, McCullers, and Scott, evaded accountability for their heinous actions, passing away without ever facing murder charges.

Uzonna Anele
Uzonna Anele
Anele is a web developer and a Pan-Africanist who believes bad leadership is the only thing keeping Africa from taking its rightful place in the modern world.

1 COMMENT

  1. ok we get it, how many more times do I need to feel guilty for being white when I am not racist and have never hurt anyone.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter today and start exploring the vibrant world of African history and culture!

Just In

John Brown: The Abolitionist Executed for Inciting a Slave Rebellion in West Virginia in 1859

John Brown was a prominent leader in the American abolitionist movement during the decades leading up to the Civil...

More Articles Like This