"D" is for "Death"
After dark in a Sundown Town was a dangerous place to be in 1968 for any African-American: Carol Marie Jenkins knew this. But she was in Martinsville, Indiana, at night anyway, selling encyclopedias door-to-door.
Sundown for her also meant her last sunset.
The Second Ku Klux Klan rose meteorically in Indianapolis in the 1920s (after reforming again in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1915). Indianapolis had the largest Klan chapter in the nation; it organized the biggest rallies, and generated the most revenue. Recruitment was the passion of member David C. Stephenson who had moved to the Midwestern city in 1920. He later became a Grand Dragon in the terrorist organization. His fall from grace was criminal and horrific: in 1925 he kidnapped his 18-year-old female secretary, drove her into the state of Illinois, raped her repeatedly, and then took her home. The distraught girl swallowed poison. Stephenson, fearing exposure, refused to seek medical help for her and she died. He was convicted of rape and murder in late 1925.
The influence of the Klan on Indianapolis and the entire state between 1920 and 1930 was insidious and deeply rooted in graft, extortion, and thuggery. Politics were driven by Klan endorsements – a Klansman, Ed Jackson, was even elected governor in 1924 (despite the vigorous efforts of anti-Klan Indianapolis mayor S.L. Shank).
The “good” Christians of Indianapolis, and many of their Protestant ministers, openly lauded the Klan and their “values”. Shank secretly, and later openly, hated them, and used his office to stymie them where he could. He prohibited masked parades of Klansmen – if they wanted to march, he reasoned, they could no longer hide cowardly behind masks. Their faces had to be exposed. He arrested news dealers who sold the Indianapolis based Klan newspaper, The Fiery Cross, which had 125,000 subscribers nationally. He tried, and failed, to stop cross-burning within the city limits. He even ran against Klansman Ed Jackson for the Indiana Gubernatorial Republican nomination and lost.
Credit: American People's Encyclopedia map, 1963 + author
Unfortunately, he was only one man waging a war against a machine (the Klan had 3 million members in 1925). One man cannot fight the good fight alone, and the law-abiding, upstanding citizens of Indiana loved their KKK.
The outlying communities shielding Indianapolis, Sundown Towns all (particularly the more southerly burgs), maintained the white status quo any way they could.
Martinsville, Indiana, is the county seat of Morgan County. It is roughly 28 miles southwest of the heart of Indianapolis. It was settled in 1822, and at one time it was home to the world’s largest goldfish hatchery. The town was (and is) a Sundown Town. This was by reputation, and along Highway 44 south of Indianapolis, Martinsville’s intolerance of blacks in its town was widely known and grudgingly respected. African-Americans living in southern Indiana knew to stay clear of it.
Martinsville’s reputation for vigilante and mob response to black encroachment was well-known and long-established. The Klan operated freely from there, was extremely active, and was supported by Martinsville’s citizens. Today’s Martinsville citizens will probably claim the town is no longer a Sundown Town, and that any past incidents were wildly exaggerated.
Both claims are false.
African-Americans as a cohort do not make up random stories about certain towns or cities being Sundown communities. Their fears are usually based in fact. [In 2002, a black columnist for The Indianapolis Star, James Patterson, noted Martinsville was a place “where black folks traveling on State Road 37 know better than to stop after dark.”] In 1925, Morgan County had over 1,600 Klan members living there. This number was over 27% of its white male adult population.
Things are not much different today, either. The town may claim it has left its Sundown past behind, but it lies. An air of open hostility has been replaced with a quieter intolerance. The 2010 US Census data for both Morgan County and Martinsville clearly indicates there are problems with Sundowning.
Morgan County’s census listed just 0.3% African-American or black residents. The Sundown Town of Martinsville was worse – its 0.2% African-American residents translate into 23 blacks in town (this number is an astounding 109% increase over the same data in the 2000 US Census when 11 blacks were recorded living in town). [Compare this to the 9.1% black population counted for Indiana at large.]
Thus, given both sets of data, like Calhoun, Kentucky (the county seat of McLean County, itself a Sundown County), Martinsville as a county seat can also be typified as a Sundown Town safely harbored within a Sundown County.
Behaviors, too, tend toward indicating Martinsville is still a Sundown Town. In recent years Martinsville made the news when a mob yelled racial epithets at the black players on a visiting high school basketball team.
More in tune with the tenor of the town was its illustrious assistant police chief, Dennis Nail. In the fall of 2001 he wrote a racially intolerant, vitriolic letter-to-the-editor of the local newspaper wherein he railed against “queers”, “Billy Buddha”, “Hadji Hindu”, and the outlawing of organized school prayer. Nail had written the diatribe as a private citizen – he was never publicly rebuked or censured by either the town’s mayor or its chief of police.
At a packed City Council meeting on the matter, the proud citizens in attendance gave Nail a standing ovation.
When she was an infant, her mother, Elizabeth Jenkins, divorced her father. She then married a local factory worker named Paul Davis. She grew up calling Paul Davis, “Daddy”. Paul acted as a father to the girl, and he and Elizabeth went on to have five more children, all of whom looked up to Carol as their big sister. As a teenager, she wanted to become a fashion model – she dreamed of moving to Chicago and having a glamorous modeling career.
Reality, however, has a way of grounding dreams in a hurry. Carol graduated from Rushville High School in 1965. Instead of jetting off to Chicago, she got a job working at the Philco Division of the Ford Motor Company. Union jobs were secure – at least, they were secure until the union went on strike.
Martinsville, meanwhile, tried to shed its Sundown reputation. In 1967, when the Ku Klux Klan marched through the town as part of a multi-city tour of southern Indiana, the city’s mayor had urged the citizens to ignore them when they came through. Area blacks knew, however, that Martinsville hadn’t changed so much, and they still approached the town with caution.
In the fall of 1968, Carol Jenkins found herself out of work when her division called a strike at the Ford plant. To make ends meet she found a part-time job to cover her until work at the factory resumed again. Carol would sell Collier’s encyclopedias door-to-door.
On the evening of September 16, 1968, the 21-year-old Carol dressed in a white cotton turtleneck, a pair of olive-green wool slacks, and a brown jacket; as an accessory she threw a bright yellow scarf around her neck. She, two white men, and a 19-year-old black woman teamed up to hit the road and sell encyclopedias.
Their route is unclear; how many (if any) sales Carol had made by the time the group arrived in Martinsville is not known. Their boss had assigned them the area to work, and the two young black women were afraid of Martinsville. They had considered only half-jokingly buying illegal tear gas guns to arm themselves before entering town. Assured that the two white men would protect them the group went into Martinsville. They split up and began knocking on doors.
Carol was reportedly a shy sort who was polite. But she also knew the racial climate of the times, and when a car carrying two white men began following her as she walked the streets she grew nervous. The men began cat-calling and harassing her, so she approached the home of Norma and Don Neal. She explained who she was and that she was afraid of the men following her. The police were called to check out the car, but they allegedly could find no sign of it. Norma offered to drive Carol around to see if she could be re-united with the rest of her co-workers. They could not be found, so Norma took Carol back to the Neal home.
The sales group had agreed to meet at a certain time at a predetermined rendezvous point for the trip back to Rushville. Norma offered the obviously terrified Carol a ride to the rendezvous spot. According to Norma Neal, Carol demurred, saying she had already caused the couple enough bother. She struck out into the street on her own.
Carol Marie Jenkins was left to die on the street like a broken doll, bleeding out from a stab wound that had struck her in the heart. The motive was not immediately obvious – Carol had not been robbed nor had she been sexually assaulted.
Despite Martinsville’s efforts to reinvent itself, this murder was viewed as racially motivated. The Neals’ reports of Carol’s fears were told to the police. The police had no motive and no clues. Witnesses had seen Carol walking along Morgan Street (a main thoroughfare) at about 8:45 PM (Carol was last seen alive at Columbus and Colfax streets). One resident heard a scream and another watched as a car sped away, just as Carol collapsed to the sidewalk. There were no other leads, no solid identification, and no other eyewitnesses stepping forward. The only thing Martinsville hoped was the killer was not one of their own citizens.
Martinsville’s violent history as a Sundown Town and its past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan led the NAACP to offer its help in October 1968. The NAACP also contacted the US Justice Department and asked that it get involved considering the scene of the crime was a known Klan base. Paul Davis (having divorced Carol’s mother, Elizabeth Jenkins sometime beforehand) insisted the police bring in the FBI to help with the case. He was rebuffed: “I felt that because she was a black girl, nobody did anything.”
Carol’s murder case was stone-cold from the first week.
Meanwhile, the Indiana State Police got wind of the new tip and of Paul’s efforts and handed the Carol Jenkins murder over to two of its Cold Case investigators. A break in the case took some time but developed. In November 2001, an anonymous letter arrived that stated Carol Jenkins’ killer was a man named Kenneth Clay Richmond, and that his 7-year-old daughter, Shirley, had witnessed the crime back in 1968.
Shirley Richmond (40 years old in 2001) had since married and was named Shirley McQueen. Police found her quickly and interviewed her. With some clear relief she told her story. It was an ugly one, particularly for a 7-year-old.
On the night of Carol’s murder she had sat in the back seat of her father’s car. He had another, unidentified white male passenger in the front seat. Shirley described her father as a bitter racist, and he and the unknown man both drove past Carol hurling slurs at her. Shirley avowed her father Kenneth had stabbed the woman in the chest while the other man held her arms back from behind. When the men came back to the car they were laughing. “She got what she deserved,” one of them said. En route back to the farm where they lived Shirley said Kenneth had told her to forget what she’d seen. Back at home he gave her $7.00 in one-dollar bills (“One for each year of my life”) and was admonished not to tell her mother what had happened that night. The detail that led police to believe Shirley told the truth was in her description of what Carol wore the night of her murder: “and she was wearing a yellow scarf”.
In almost all murder cases a key detail is kept from the public – knowledge of such restricted information is how police know if a confessor or potential eyewitness is telling the truth of the event. In Carol Jenkins’ case, the police withheld the detail of her distinctive yellow scarf from the press and the public – it was their confirmation ace-in-the-hole should a suspect develop. Now, they had a confirmed eyewitness describing the unknown item. They believed Shirley McQueen’s story.
Investigators discovered the source of the anonymous letter. The writer was Shirley McQueen’s former sister-in-law, 46-year-old Connie McQueen. Shirley had told Connie of Carol’s murder in confidence at some point, and Connie felt she needed to do something. She was the one who called Elizabeth Jenkins anonymously as well.
In May 2002, police found Kenneth Clay Richmond. The broken down 70-year-old was living in a nursing home in Indianapolis.
In 1968, Kenneth Richmond would have been 36 years old. This career criminal and sociopath had been a Klan member. He also had other mental problems. He was an alcoholic, and on the day of Carol Jenkins’ murder he and his buddy (to this day still unidentified) had been driving around and drinking, with Kenneth’s daughter Shirley sitting in the back seat.
He worked as a laborer for a farming operation in Hendricks County (the next county north of Morgan County). He also lived on the property. After Carol’s murder, Kenneth kept a lower profile.
Owen County, Indiana, suffered the presence of Kenneth Richmond, though, in 1985 when he was acquitted of a murder there.
In 1987, he was accused of attempted murder in Florida. At trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and set free.
From 1954 to 1979 he was married to a woman named Ruby (Richmond) Welch. She told investigators he had abused her and their children, and was violent when drunk. She said he stabbed her once. She also reported that in the 1960s, Credit: APhe was violently hateful toward black people.
The most bizarre thing about Kenneth, though, was his fixation on castration. Once the idea was in his head, he cajoled her time and again to castrate him. His mental anguish must have been terrific – he told his wife castration would “tame” him. Ruby refused to do it. So, in the mid 1970s, he did it himself. That attempt was only partially successful, but he managed to complete the castration in 1982.
Kenneth Richmond was a violent psychopath. Over the years, he had been admitted to various institutions for self-mutilation and substance abuse. When he was accused of murder in the 1985 Owen County case (in which he was later acquitted) his half-sister was on the witness list to testify against him. She said Richmond had sent her a threatening letter – in the envelope with the written threat were several razor blades.
In August 2000, he attacked a police officer with a knife.
Upon his arraignment after his May 2002 arrest, Richmond was charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Carol Jenkins on September 16, 1968. He pled not guilty, and denied any and all involvement in her death.
When his past unbalanced mental behavior was brought to light, a competency hearing was scheduled. It was also learned Richmond had bladder cancer.
On August 17, 2002, a Morgan County Superior Court judge ruled that Richmond was incompetent to stand trial, lacking the ability to understand the proceedings or the charges against him. Another factor in the judge’s decision not to proceed with a trial was the likelihood Richmond had not much longer to live. He was transferred from a prison medical ward into a psychiatric facility.
Two weeks after the incompetency ruling Kenneth Clay Richmond, murderer of Carol Jenkins, died in a hospital at 3:00 AM on August 31, 2002. He died of complications of his bladder cancer.
The town of Martinsville, in an appalling display of selfishness, breathed a collective sigh of relief when Kenneth Richmond was arrested for Carol’s murder. It was less important to them that her killer had been finally caught – what was more important was that he was Credit: Mike Fender, 2002not a resident of Martinsville when he killed Carol. That meant they could use his non-residency as further proof that the town was not as racist as people claimed – it was an “outsider” who’d stabbed Carol to death.
Certainly, Richmond’s death before prosecution meant there was no justice. But at least there was the satisfaction of knowing his identity.
When Paul Davis learned of Richmond’s arrest in his step-daughter’s 34-year-old murder case he was only partially satisfied: “There is still another man out there who was involved in Carol’s murder. I won’t rest until I find out if he’s dead or alive.”
Only the 7-year-old Shirley knew the truth of what happened on September 16, 1968. Two of the other participants are dead (Kenneth Richmond and Carol Jenkins) and one has never been identified (Richmond’s drinking buddy). The adult Shirley’s childhood memories are certainly faded. Why she did not come forward sooner is beyond belief.
The most likely scenario for the night of Carol’s murder is also the simplest. Two seething rednecks are driving around Morgan County with a kid in the back seat. They think it’s fun. In a Sundown Town like Martinsville where there were no blacks in residence (and certainly none seen on the streets at night) Kenneth spots a pretty, well-built, young black female, alone after dark. She is well dressed and neat. He and his partner think they’ll maybe scare up a little action. A slow drive-by, and Carol rebuffs their advances. They follow her, and the verbal assaults on Carol become moreCredit: Rushville High School, 1965 sexually graphic and violent. She seeks refuge with the Neals for a short time.
Meanwhile, seeing Carol get off the street the men back out of the neighborhood. They continue drinking and cruising the town, and return later to find Carol once again alone. More outraged, and probably more intoxicated than earlier, Kenneth, perhaps goaded by his pal (“You gonna let that uppity nigger talk to you like that?”), jumped out. With his friend, they chased Carol down, and Kenneth stabbed her to death with an obvious weapon of opportunity: a screwdriver.
Their white supremacist egos had been wounded by this young black woman who refused to play nice. Back at the car “She got what she deserved” summed it up for the pair. Kenneth Richmond took her life, and never paid for his crime.
Carol Marie Jenkins was only out that night trying to make a few dollars selling encyclopedias door-to-door. It is pathetic, unfortunate, ironic, and just plain sad that she died at the hands of a random killer while trying to earn a living.
And for being black in the wrong town at the wrong time.
Author’s Note: On Monday, February 24, 2014, the cable channel, ID (Investigation Discovery) ran an episode of its show, Injustice Files, that focused on Sundown Towns. Among the towns profiled was Martinsville, IN; Carol’s murder was highlighted in the program.
Great show about Carol Jenkins' murder, worth watching
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(price as of Nov 21, 2014)