Leonard Woods, a miner, was reported to have shot and killed Herschel
H. Deaton, a foreman at an Elkhorn Company mine, for refusing him a ride
in his car. A mob of five hundred attacked the Whitesburg jail forty-eight
hours after the death of Deaton. Neither Sheriff Reynolds nor the jailor,
Mrs. Fess Whitaker, was able to discourage the mob. With hacksaws and
crowbars they tore off a corner of the roof and entered the jail. Their
original intention was to lynch Woods and the two black women who were
accompanying him. Woods "begged off for them," stating that they had nothing
to do with the shooting, and the mob leaders decided to leave the women.
Practically all the other prisoners in the jail escaped.