Executioners first used ‘Old Sparky’ in 1915

Prisoner being strapped into the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in New York, circa 1900. Image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

By Debbie Jackson with contributions from Hilary Pittman, in the Tulsa World

With two jolts of electricity, Oklahoma in 1915 executed its first man condemned to die by electrocution.

Oklahoma’s method of execution has been in the headlines again recently. State officials say they have obtained from a manufacturer the drugs necessary for two executions scheduled for this month.

State law allows electrocution if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, and the use of a firing squad if the electric chair is banned.

Also known as “Old Sparky,” the electric chair was used to execute 82 condemned inmates from 1915 to 1966.

The relic remains at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

The last inmate to die in Oklahoma’s electric chair was killer James D. French, but do you know who was first?

He was Henry Bookman, a 28-year-old black man who was convicted of killing a white McIntosh County farmer on April 2, 1915. Bookman said he acted in self-defense but there was scant evidence of his motive for the brutal crime.

Justice was swift in 1915. Within two months of his arrest, Bookman was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution. After two delays, he was executed on Dec. 10, 1915.

Following the execution, the World reported that prison officials waited four days for word from Bookman’s family.

Receiving none, they buried him in a pauper’s grave at the penitentiary. The story said no funeral was held, but black convicts were planning a memorial service the following Sunday.

The story reported that Bookman was the seventh person legally executed since statehood (and six of the seven were black). Also, 22 others had been hanged by mobs.

Read more at the Tulsa World

Author: konigludwig

progressive social democrat, internationalist, conservationist

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