O’Dee Henderson

photograph of O'Dee Henderson

Location: Fairfield, Alabama

Age: 25

Year: 1940

O’Dee Henderson, 25, was a steel worker who was beaten, shot and killed by police officers Nelson Thomas, W. C. Glenn and Sergeant W. G. Cook, aided by civilian M. M. Hagood, in a police station in Fairfield, Jefferson County, AL.

On the morning of May 9, 1940, Henderson allegedly bumped into Hagood, on a street in Westfield and an altercation ensued. According to newspaper reports, Hagood alerted Glenn, who was nearby, telling him that Henderson had knocked him down. Henderson was arrested and reportedly beaten during his ride to Fairfield Police Station. Hagood also went to the station, although it is unclear if he traveled there separately.

According to their own statements, Glenn, Thomas and Hagood beat Henderson at the station, while Cook questioned him. Willie Clark, an African American cook at the station, testified at trial that he heard Henderson pleading with the officers and Hagood not to kill him.

Glenn, Hagood and Nelson reportedly beat Henderson with a blackjack, leather strap and rubber hose, until his face was swollen, bruised and unrecognizable. Nelson then shot him.

Henderson died at TCI hospital. A coroner returned a finding of unjustifiable homicide.

For more information, search CRRJ’s archive.

Read more about Henderson’s death on the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

About the Archive

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern, these uncovered stories highlight how violence affected lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics between 1930 and 1954.

Documents relating to Henderson's death

For newspaper reports, advocacy group documents and more, search our archive.
Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive
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