O’Dee Henderson

Location(s): Fairfield, Alabama

Year: 1940

O’Dee Henderson, a twenty-five-year-old employee of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Railroad Company (TCI), was shot and killed by police officers in Fairfield, AL on May 9, 1940. At around 7:15 a.m., Henderson bumped into a fellow TCI employee, M.M. Hagood, on the street in front of the TCI building in Westfield, AL, and according to Hagood, an altercation ensued. According to newspaper reports, Hagood alerted Officer W.T. Glenn, who was nearby and told him that Henderson had knocked him down. Glenn reportedly stopped a white man who was driving by and asked him to help transport Henderson to the police station. During the car ride, Glenn hit Henderson in the face multiple times. Hagood also went to the station, although it is unclear if he traveled there separately.

According to their own statements, as reported by the Birmingham Age Herald, Glenn, Hagood, and Officer Thomas Nelson beat Henderson at the Fairfield Police Station as Sergeant W.G. Cook questioned him. Henderson was seated in a chair, and some reports indicate that he was handcuffed. 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. Another witness, D.M. Flourney, saw Henderson being hit with a blackjack. Glenn, Hagood, and Nelson reportedly continued to beat Henderson with the blackjack, a leather strap, and a rubber hosepipe until his face was swollen, bruised, and unrecognizable. Nelson then shot him three times in the chest and stomach. Henderson died at TCI hospital.

See the full case briefing: (view PDF)

A set of documents pertinent to this case are included here. These are a sample of a full set of documents available by special inquiry to CRRJ.

  • Case briefing (view PDF)
  • Death Certificate filed May 17, 1940 (PDF below) 
  • Pittsburgh Courier (May 25, 1940) (PDFs below)
  • Birmingham Post (Jun 20, 1940) (PDF below)

Alabama Certificate of Death, filed May 17, 1940

o-henderson-death-certificate-1940

“Cops Lash Man in Face then Kill Him”, The Pittsburgh Courier, Page 22 (May 25, 1940)

o-henderson-Pittsburgh-Courier-1940-05-25-p22

“Sees Crushed Body of O’Dee Henderson”, The Pittsburgh Courier, Page 22 (May 25, 1940)

o-henderson-Pittsburgh-Courier-1940-05-25

“Officer Acquitted in Negro’s Slaying”, Birmingham Post, Section 2, Page 9 (Jun 20, 1940)

o-henderson-Birmingham-Post-1940-06-20

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