Victim Name: William W. Watts
Method of Death: Hanged and riddled with bullets
Accusation: Criminal assault on a married white woman
City: Newport News
Mob Composition: Masked
Summary: William W. Watts, a white man, was lynched on the morning of January 5th, 1900, in Warwick County for criminally assaulting Mrs. Thomas Simpson, a married white woman.
Three weeks before his lynching, William Watts arrived penniless in Newport News, asking for assistance to Mrs. Thomas Simpson (Peninsula Enterprise). On January 4th, 1900, Watts went to Mrs. Thompson house to thank her for her help. According to the Peninsula Enterprise, “After conversing with [Watts] a few moments [Mrs. Simpson] retired into the hallway. Watts followed, seized her by the throat, forced her into the sitting room and overpowered her after a desperate struggle”. Watts then tried to escape by catching a train to Richmond, but was captured and put in jail in Newport News. On the morning of January 5th, “three masked men entered the station house, overpowered the jailer and secured the keys and quickly dragged Watts outside, where they were joined by four masked companions. He was taken first to the house of Mrs. Simpson, who identified him, and then to the outskirts of the city, where a mob of several hundred men was congregated. He was bound by the wrists to a sapling and his body riddled with bullets. The rope with which the body of the victim was bound was cut up and distributed among the onlookers. The identity of the lynchers is a mystery” (Peninsula Enterprise).
Following the lynching, Thomas Watts, father of William and a police officer in Lynchburg, began to investigate his son’s lynching (Richmond Dispatch). On January 25th 1900, a special grand jury in Newport News opened an official investigation into the lynching of William Watts; on January 31st, the grand jury indicted Benjamin Chandler, the suspected ringleader of the lynch mob (Richmond Dispatch). However, Chandler was not in town the day of the verdict and it is believed that he escaped to Cuba to avoid prison; Governor Tyler placed a $100 reward for the arrest of Chandler (Richmond Dispatch).
News Coverage: Alexandria Gazette; Peninsula Enterprise; Richmond Dispatch; Virginian-PilotArticle Link (from Alexandria Gazette published on 1900-01-27)
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1900-01-12)
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1900-01-21)
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1900-02-01)
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1900-02-03)
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1900-02-07)
Article Link (from Virginian-Pilot published on 1900-01-26)
Article Link (from Peninsula Enterprise published on 1900-01-13)