The Case of Robert Lee Goldsby
This Page contains information relating to the Robert
Lee Goldsby Case, the cause of his arrest,
indictment, conviction, and death for the murder of Mrs. Bryant Nelms on September 4, 1954, in
Mr. & Mrs. Nelms were married April 21, 1944 by Rev. John A. Wade.
Officers Nab Five Negroes in Slaying of Woman at Vaiden
Less than two hours after they shot and killed a white woman on the outskirts of Vaiden, and critically wounded her husband, a carload of St. Louis Negroes were apprehended south of Lexington still fleeing from the officers.
Mrs. Bryant Nelms, 33, was shot dead when she came to the rescue of her husband, Bryant Nelms, 34, who had been critically wounded moments before.
Arrested four and a half miles south of Lexington between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Saturday were Robert Lee Goldsby, 28, said to be the gunman; his mother, Willie Lee Turner; his wife, Laura Mae Goldsby; Robert Gallion; and Rosie Lee Turner. Also in the car was Goldsby’s three-year-old child, Patricia Ann.
All are from
A spokesman for the
The Negroes, traveling south in a 1951 Dodge, drove speedily and noisily up to the Nelms’ café and dairy bar on the outskirts of Vaiden. Nelms asked them to move on, and they refused. Nelms went inside and returned with his gun.
But the Negroes opened fire first and wounded him. He fired one round into the car as he dropped to the ground. Mrs. Nelms rushed outside, and one of the bullets fired from the car struck and killed her.
The Negroes, traveled south and continued southward. Witnesses to the incident notified officers, providing a good description of the automobile, and road blocks were thrown up for a wide area.
A short time afterward the car was recognized near Lexington where the Negroes stopped for gas.
Sheriff Richard Byrd and Deputy Sheriff Farmer gave chase southward on Highway 51, and had to fire on the car before they could bring it to a stop.
The Negroes pulled off the highway and handed over an empty .32 revolver.
The Holmes County officers and Deputies Lewis McDougal and Herman Michie of Carroll County brought the Negroes to Jackson for questioning and safekeeping. Feeling was said to be running very high in the Vaiden area where the Nelms had lived all of their lives and had many friends.
One version of the shooting was that the Negroes drove up to Nelms’ place and demanded whisky. He was said to have told them he didn’t sell it whereupon the Negroes dumped several empty bottles out as “souvenirs.” He was said to have called for his gun, in this version, and as Mrs. Nelms handed it to him from the door of the dairy bar, the Negro in the car shot her.
One bullet went into her heart, bringing instant death. Nelms was wounded about the head and back, and another bullet went into his hip, coming out through the stomach. He is in critical condition in a Grenada hospital.
Mrs. Nelms had two children, Billy, age 8, and Bobby, age 6; her parents, Mr. And Mrs. Andy McCorkle, all of Vaiden, two sisters and four brothers.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Lee Funeral Home of Winona will have charge of the arrangements.
(Inserted Text Caption in the body of the story reads as follows):
Robert Lee Goldsby, St. Louis, signed a confession at State Highway Patrol Headquarters late Saturday afternoon to the effect that he shot and killed Mrs. Bryant Nelms and wounded her husband. Charges had not been filed as questioning was being continued.
Woman Killed by Negro Motorist
Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, MS. September 5, 1954 P.2.
Bulletin – Lexington (UP) – Robert Goldsby, 28, who was en route to the Gulf Coast on vacation surrendered to Holmes County Sheriff Richard A. Byrd, after a wild chase on State Highway 17. He was accused of killing a Carroll County white woman at a drive in café near Vaiden.
Vaiden, Miss. (UP) – A Carroll County white woman was shot and killed today and her husband critically wounded by a Negro motorist at the café they operated two miles north of here.
Sheriff H.E. Ashmore identified the victims as B.S. Nelms, about 40, and his wife, about 35. Authorities threw up roadblocks for a car bearing a Missouri tag and carrying two women and one man, all Negroes.
The State Highway Patrol reported at 10:15 a.m. that the Negroes were captured near Lexington, about 25 miles southwest of here. They were not identified immediately.
Ashmore quoted witnesses as saying the man swerved into the café parking space about 8 a.m., “and almost turned the car over.” Nelms went to investigate, Ashmore said, found the motorists were drinking and ordered them to leave.
When they refused, Ashmore said, Nelms called to Mrs. Nelms to bring him his gun. The driver then shot Nelms in the mouth and hip and turned the gun on Mrs. Nelms, killing her instantly, the sheriff said.
Ashmore said there were two witnesses to the shooting.
Nelms was rushed to a hospital in critical condition.
Vaiden is on Highway 51 about nine miles south of Winona.
Slayer to Face Murder Charge
Companions May Also Be Accused
Clarion Ledger, Jackson, MS. September 6, 1954. P.1.
Vaiden – Robert Lee Goldsby, 28, St. Louis Negro, was charged with murder in the death of Mrs. Bryant Nelms, 33, of Vaiden, Deputy Sheriff Lewis McDougal said Sunday afternoon.
The other four Negroes riding in the car with Goldsby, Willie Lee Turner, Laura Mae Goldsby, Rosie Lee Turner, and Robert Gallion, all of St. Louis, will probably be charged as accessories, the deputy sheriff said.
All were taken to Jackson and questioned several hours at the State Highway Patrol headquarters, then lodged in the Hinds County Jail for safekeeping.
The Negroes will likely remain in Jackson, McDougal said, until the Carroll County Grand Jury convenes in November.
Mrs. Nelms was shot and killed and her husband critically wounded at their dairy-bar on the outskirts of Vaiden Saturday morning at 8 o’clock by Goldsby.
McDougal said that the Negroes sailed into the dairy-bar at high speed and, in a cloud of dust, almost turned over. Nelms ordered them to move on and an argument resulted. The shooting followed and the Negroes sped away in the 1951 Dodge.
They were recognized a short time later near Lexington, and were taken on to Jackson.
Funeral services for Mrs. Nelms
were held Sunday afternoon from the
Nelms, who was rushed to the Grenada Hospital, was reported resting fairly well but still in a critical condition.
Clarion Ledger, Jackson, MS. September 7, 1954. P.1.
(Picture of Goldsby on the bottom of the page with the following caption):
Preliminary Hearing Set for 5 Negroes Charged in Killing of Vaiden Matron
Clarion Ledger, Jackson, MS. September 7, 1954. P.1.
Vaiden, Miss., September 6 – A preliminary hearing probably will be held within a few days for five St. Louis Negroes charged in the killing of a café operator’s wife, Dist. Atty. John E. Aldridge said today.
Robert Lee Goldsby, 28, was charged with murdering Mrs. Bryant Nelms at Vaiden Saturday, the district attorney said from Kosciusko, where he was in court.
Nelms remained critically wounded in a Grenada hospital.
Goldsby’s four companions were charged with being “accessories after the fact” – aiding and assisting Goldsby to escape. The charge draws a lighter sentence than the murder charge.
Had they been charged as “accessories before the fact,” they would have faced the same penalty as for murder – a maximum of death.
Mrs. Nelms was killed as she dashed out of the small café to aid her husband after he was shot during an argument with the carload of Negroes.
Officers said Goldsby admitted firing the shots.
All five are being held in the Hinds County Jail in Jackson until the preliminary hearing is held.
They were captured in Lexington about an hour after they roared away from the slaying scene. The highway patrol threw up roadblocks in the area.
Goldsby’s companions were identified as Willie Reed Turner, Laura Mae Goldsby, Rosie Lee Moore, and Robert Gillion.
Charge of Murder is Filed Against Negro in Slaying
Daily Sentinel-Star, Grenada, MS. September 7, 1954. P.1.
Vaiden, Miss. – AP – A first degree murder charge has been filed against Robert Lee Goldsby, 28 year old St. Louis Negro, in the Saturday morning slaying of a Carroll County white woman, Sheriff H.E. Ashmore said today.
Goldsby was also charged with assault in the wounding of her husband. Ashmore said Goldsby admitted shooting down the couple, Mr. And Mrs. B.C. Nelms, at their drive-in café near here when Nelms ordered them to leave and called for his shotgun.
Charges of accessory after the fact and aiding a felon to escape were filed against four passengers in Goldsby’s car – Robert Gillion, 22; Laura Mae Goldsby, 26, Goldsby’s wife; Willie Turner, 43; and Rosa Lee Moore, 40, all of St. Louis.
Ashmore said Goldsby admitted the shooting after the group was captured near Lexington Saturday.
Ashmore quoted witnesses as saying the man swerved into the café parking space about 8 a.m., “and almost turned the car over.” Nelms went to investigate, Ashmore said, found the motorists were drinking and ordered them to leave.
When they refused, Ashmore said, Nelms called to Mrs. Nelms to bring him his gun. The driver then shot Nelms in the mouth and hip, turned the gun on Mrs. Nelms, killing her instantly, the sheriff said.
Vaiden is on Highway 51, about nine miles south of Winona.
Mr. Nelms, a patient at Grenada Hospital, was reported getting along satisfactory today.
Mrs. Nelms, the former Mozelle McCorkle, a lifelong resident of Carroll County and a member of the Baptist Church, is survived by her husband, two sons, William Bryant Nelms and Robert Wade Nelms; her parents, Mr. And Mrs. W.A. McCorkle of Vaiden; two sisters, Mrs. Charlie Stewart of Vaiden and Mrs. Spencer Mullen of Grenada; four brothers, W.E. McCorkle of Hollandale and Charles McCorkle, Fred McCorkle, and William “Pete” McCorkle, all of Vaiden, and her grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Charlie McCorkle of Vaiden.
Funeral services were held for Mrs. Nelms Sunday at the Vaiden Baptist Church.
Ironically, in January, 1955, because of Mississippi's conversion from
the electric chair to the gas chamber, the Clarion Ledger reported:
Five Negroes Are Charged In Shooting
Captured After Fleeing Vaiden And Jailed
Winona Times – September 10, 1954
Five St. Louis Negroes involved in the fatal shooting Saturday of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms and the wounding of her husband, Bryant Nelms, at their dairy bar at Vaiden are being held for preliminary hearing at the Hinds County jail in Jackson, after having fled and being captured later the same day 30 miles distant in Holmes County.
According to reports, Robert Lee Goldsby, 28, admitted the shooting and is charged with first degree murder of Mrs. Nelms and with assault with intent to kill in the case of Mr. Nelms, who is in critical condition in a Grenada hospital.
Charges of accessories after the fact and aiding a felon to escape are reported to have been lodged against the other four Negroes: Robert Galion, 22; Laura Mae Goldsby, 26, Robert Goldsby’s wife; Willie Turner, 43; and Rosa Lee Moore, 40.
The shooting occurred Saturday when the carload of Negroes [drove] recklessly into the parking lot of his [(Nelms)] dairy bar and Mr. Nelms ordered them to leave. Goldsby is charged with firing four shots from a pistol at Mr. And Mrs. Nelms.
Funeral services for Mrs. Nelms were held Sunday at the Vaiden Baptist Church, with Lee Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.
She leaves her husband, Bryant S. Nelms; two sons, William Bryant Nelms, 9 and Robert Wade Nelms, 7; her parents, Mr. And Mrs. W.A. McCorkle of Vaiden; two sisters; Mrs. Charlie Stewart of Vaiden and Mrs. Spencer Mullen of Grenada; four brothers, W.E. McCorkle of Hollandale, Charles McCorkle, Fred McCorkle and Andrew Clyde McCorkle, all of Vaiden, and her grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Charles McCorkle of Vaiden.
Mrs. W.B. Nelms is Victim [of] Brutal Slaying
at Vaiden Saturday
Conservative, Carrollton, MS. September 10, 1954 P.1.
Five Negroes, all from Saint Louis, Mo., are being held in the Hinds County Jail at Jackson in connection with the fatal shooting of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, 30, and the serious wounding of her husband, Bryant Nelms, at the dairy bar operated by Mr. And Mrs. Nelms one mile north of Vaiden on Highway 51. Charges range from first degree murder to aiding a felon to escape have been placed against the Negroes.
The shooting occurred Saturday morning when the Negroes are reported to have driven recklessly into the parking area at the dairy bar and were ordered to leave by Mr. Nelms. An altercation followed resulting in the fatal shooting of Mrs. Nelms and the wounding of Mr. Nelms. The Negroes then drove by back roads to Lexington where they were captured by Holmes County officers about two hours after the affray.
Mrs. Bryant Nelms
Conservative, Carrollton, MS. September 10, 1954 P.1.
Funeral Services were held at the Vaiden Baptist Church at 4:00 o’clock Sunday afternoon. . .for Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, 30, whose death occurred Saturday, September 4. The services were conducted by the Rev. Joe Cooper, pastor.
Mrs. Nelms was a lifelong resident of Carroll County and was a young woman of lovable Christian character and a helpful friend and neighbor.
Survivors are her husband, Bryant Nelms; two sons, William Bryant and Robert Wade Nelms; her parents, Mr. And Mrs. W.A. McCorkle of Vaiden; two sisters, Mrs. Charlie Stewart of Vaiden and Mrs. Spencer Mullen of Grenada; four brothers, W.E. McCorkle of Hollandale, and Fred, Charles, and William McCorkle of Vaiden; and her grandparents, Mr. And Mrs. Charlie McCorkle of Vaiden.
Winona Times, September 10, 1954, P. 6
Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms
Vaiden was saddened over the tragic death of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, who was instantly killed Saturday morning, Sept. 4, in front of her dairy bar, 2 miles north of Vaiden.
Funeral services were held Sunday, Sept. 5, at 4 p.m., at the Vaiden Baptist Church.
Pallbearers were Weldon Baskin, Bernard Sanders, Joe Stanton, Clarence Pierce, W.G. Barker, Billy Eubanks, Tom Dulin, and Leo Tindall. Honorary Pallbearers were all her friends.
Goldsby's First Trial
Negro Goes on Trial for Roadside Deaths
Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, MS. November 17, 1954 P.2.
Vaiden, Miss. (UP) – Robert Goldsby, St. Louis Negro charged with wounding a Carroll County storekeeper and killing his wife, went on trial today for murder.
Goldsby was accused of shooting Mrs. Richard Nelms last Sept. 3 when he stopped at their store to buy gasoline and food.
Officers said Nelms threatened to use a shotgun during an argument with Goldsby and the Negro pulled a pistol and started firing, wounding Nelms and killing Mrs. Nelms. Five passengers in Goldsby’s car were held as material witnesses.
Storekeeper and Negro Exchanged Shots in Vaiden
Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, MS. November 19, 1954 P.1.
Vaiden, Miss. (UP) – Storekeeper Richard Nelms and a St. Louis Negro tourist exchanged pistol shots during an argument in which Nelms’ wife was killed, a New Orleans steelworker testified.
Dan Willis told a Circuit Court Jury yesterday that the argument between Nelms and Robert Goldsby, accused of murdering the storekeeper’s 29-year-old wife, began when Goldsby braked to a stop in front of Nelms’ café Sept. 4.
Willis said Nelms asked Goldsby “what he meant by coming in like that” and ordered Goldsby to “leave and I mean right now.”
The witness said Nelms walked away from the car, then returned with a hammer in his hand. Willis said three shots were fired and Nelms fell, striking the side of Goldsby’s car.
Mrs. Nelms ran to her husband, Willis said, and was shot. She died instantly.
Willis testified that Nelms then pulled a pistol from his pocket and fired three or four times at the fleeing tourist’s car.
Willis, who said he was working on an automobile gas gauge when the shooting occurred, told defense attorneys he had been staying at Nelms’ home since coming to Vaiden to testify.
Goldsby, 28, was arrested by officers a short distance from the café when he tried to run a roadblock. Four other persons in the car were held as material witnesses. A fifth, Robert Gillion, was indicated as an accessory before the fact.
Goldsby Sentenced to Die Dec. 24 in Vaiden Shooting
Clarion Ledger -- November 20, 1954 -- P. 1
Vaiden, Miss., Nov. 19 -- AP -- Robert Goldsby was sentenced today to die in Mississippi's portable electric chair for the murder of a Vaiden white woman Sept. 4.
A Circuit Court jury took less than 15 minutes to convict the 28-year-old defendant from St. Louis, a native of Mississippi. Circuit Judge Henry Lee Rodgers sentenced Goldsby to die in the electric chair on Dec. 24.
The jury refused to recommend mercy. That made the death sentence mandatory.
The conviction probably will be appealed to the State Supreme Court.
Goldsby, in a choked voice, replied "Nawsuh," when asked if he had anything to say before sentencing. He had appeared calm throughout the testimony. Two highway patrolmen whisked him out of the room after Judge Rodgers told Goldsby he must die the day before Christmas for slaying Mrs. Moselle Nelms, wife of a Vaiden dairy bar operator.
Her husband, Bryant Nelms, was wounded seriously in the same spatter of gunfire.
Goldsby is the second man scheduled to die Dec. 24 in the state's only electric chair. Ross Hawkins was sentenced to die the same day for slaying his wife.
Goldsby testified today that he never saw Mrs. Nelms during the few seconds it took him to fire four shots that wounded Nelms and killed Mrs. Nelms.
Witnesses to the shooting testified that Goldsby, and five other Negroes, sped up to the dairy bar in their car. An argument started and Nelms ordered them to leave. They refused and Nelms went inside for a gun.
When he walked out, Goldsby opened fire with a pistol.
Nelms was hit twice. A third bullet went astray.
Mrs. Nelms dashed out to aid her husband. The fourth bullet killed her.
Goldsby claimed he was firing at Nelms in self-defense. Nelms struck him "up the side of the head" with a rubber mallet, Goldsby claimed.
But a state witness, Dan Willis, testified yesterday that Nelms struck at Goldsby after the Negro shot him. And a defense witness, Rosalie Moore who was with Goldsby, said that Nelms struck at Goldsby but missed and hit the car door.
"I would say that I never saw Mrs. Nelms running to the car."
He denied hearing her scream, "quit shooting my husband."
The defendant readily admitted shooting Nelms "to protect myself" but denied that he continued to shoot after Nelms hit the ground.
"I was nervous and scared," he said in reply to a question of why he shot four times. "I shot as fast as I could pull the trigger."
Goldsby Sentenced to Die for Death of Vaiden Woman
Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, MS. November 21, 1954 P.2.
Vaiden, Miss. (UP) – Robert Goldsby, a 28-year-old St. Louis Negro, today faced death in Mississippi’s electric chair for the fatal shooting of a rural white storekeeper’s wife Sept. 4.
An all-white jury took only 15 minutes yesterday to find Goldsby guilty of murder in the shooting after an argument with Richard Nelms when the Negro tourist sought to buy gasoline and goods at Nelms’ small café and store near here.
Goldsby, who pleaded self defense, was sentenced to die Dec. 24. His conviction, however, was automatically appealed to the State Supreme Court.
When asked by Judge Henry Lee Rodgers if there was anything he wanted to say, Goldsby, who had remained impassive during the three-day trial, answered chokingly: “No Sir.”
Witnesses said Mrs. Moselle Nelms was killed instantly as she rushed to her husband, wounded after he ordered Goldsby to leave his place.
Goldsby said he fired a pistol when Nelms struck him “up the side of the head” with a hammer. “I was nervous and scared,” he said, “and shot as fast as I could pull the trigger.”
Sentence of Death Given Negro Killer
Judge Commends Defense Attorney For Doing Duty
Winona Times, November 26, 1954, P.1
In the Carroll County Courthouse at Vaiden Friday afternoon of last week, Robert Gouldsby, a St. Louis Negro, and a native of Canton, was sentenced to die December 24 in the portable electric chair for the pistol slaying of Mrs. Moselle Nelms, Sept. 4.
The shooting occurred at the Nelms Café near Vaiden and Mrs. Nelms’ husband, Bryant, was wounded in the gun-fire.
The jury was out only 15 minutes before bringing in a verdict of “guilty as charged” at 2:45 p.m. last Friday.
Shortly afterwards, Gouldsby’s wife, Laura Mae, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was given six months in jail. The same charge was dismissed against Robert Gillion, who was with Gouldsby at the time of the shooting.
District Attorney John E. Aldridge of Winona was prosecutor, and Rupert Ringold of Winona was one of the attorneys for the defense.
Concerning Mr. Ringold’s role in the trial, Circuit Judge Henry L. Rodgers, who presided, wrote him the following letter, dated November 20th:
Let me express thanks of the Court for your cooperation in the trial of Robert Lee Gouldsby. I realize the handicap under which you worked, and natural reluctancy to take a case unpopular in the community; nevertheless your acceptance of the duty certainly commends you to the admiration and respect of right-thinking people. You discharged your duty with fidelity, and therefore entitled to the commendation of the court. Again I thank you.
With every assurance of my high appreciation for your splendid and kind friendship, I am, your friend, Henry Lee Rodgers.
Carroll County 2nd District Court Minutes – First Trial (1954)
Goldsby Again Seeks Clemency In Federal Court
The Conservative, April 4, 1958. P.1.
Robert Lee Goldsby, St. Louis Negro, under death sentence for the 1954 slaying of a Vaiden white woman, will again seek clemency in U.S. District Court at Oxford.
Atty. Gen. Joe T. Patterson said Saturday that he will appear in court on behalf of the state to fight the granting of further extensions of relief from execution at the hands of the state for Goldsby.
Newly appointed judge Claude Clayton of Tupelo, will preside at the hearing for Goldsby.
The Negro, held in the death cell at Parchman penitentiary, has managed to drag his case through state and federal courts since his conviction and death sentence in November, 1954.
In September, 1954, he and a group of other Negroes drove into a filling-station café operated by Bryant Nelms and his wife at Vaiden. After creating a disturbance, Goldsby stands convicted of shooting Nelms to the ground with a bullet in the neck, when the latter ordered the carload of Negroes off his property.
Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, the wife, ran from the café to the aid of her husband and was shot in the side, dying almost instantly.
Goldsby was duly tried and convicted, appealed to the State Supreme Court, where he lost again, and then the case was taken to federal court.
Once in the federal court, Goldsby claimed that he was convicted by a jury that had no Negroes on it and thus was unjustly sentenced. On this premise, the case has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, and has now returned twice to the federal district court after going recently to the Circuit Court of Appeals at Mobile.
Atty. Gen. Patterson said Saturday that he will on Thursday again contend that the Negro’s claims should not be honored because they were not made during his trial in the state courts, and that the man is seeking a retrial of his case in federal court at the expense of the state courts, and on grounds which were not laid in the state courts.
Goldsby Case Begins New Route Through Courts
The Conservative, April 18, 1958. P.1.
Robert Lee Goldsby, charged with the slaying of a Vaiden white woman, is contemplating an appeal of his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, New Orleans.
The Negro, a native of St. Louis allegedly slew Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms of Vaiden in September, 1954, as she rushed to the aid of her husband, Bryant Nelms, who had been shot down by the Negro.
Goldsby, at the time of the double shooting, had driven into the Nelms service station restaurant near Vaiden, along with others of his race and apparently created a disturbance. The Negro was admittedly drunk at the time.
Mrs. Nelms was slain by a bullet allegedly from Goldsby’s pistol which entered her side, killing the woman almost instantly.
IN MANY COURTS
The case has traversed the State Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court and it is starting back along the same old track twice trod in the federal courts.
Goldsby’s principal contention for freedom is that no Negroes were on the jury that convicted him.
It seems of small if any consequence whether he was guilty of the slaying of which he is charged. The race question is paramount.
At this time, the Negro is held in the death cell at Parchman penitentiary.
If the federal courts ever tire of his case, he state supreme court will be asked to set a new death date for Goldsby.
U.S. Circuit Judge Claude F. Clayton last week ruled against the Negro on the grounds that Negroes were barred from his jury at the time of his trial.
He had adequate counsel, Judge Clayton said, and should have raised the point at the time of the trial.
Ross R. Barnett, Jackson attorney, retained by Nelms in the case at a hearing at Oxford a few days ago, instituted an investigation and brought before the court the fact that Goldsby, who claimed to be 23 years of age at the time of the crime was really 28 years old.
He also set forth that the Negro who claimed originally to have only a fourth grade education, actually completed high school in St. Louis, by his own admission.
Judge Clayton, when confronted with these facts by Atty. Gen. Joe T. Patterson and Mr. Barnett, held that “with these factual findings, the court could not do otherwise than conclude, as a matter of law, that ample opportunity was afforded Goldsby to raise in the courts of the State of Mississippi, the constitutional question involved in the hearing, and undoubtedly if the question of the absence of Negroes from the grand jury, and the absence f Negroes from the petit jury had been presented in the circuit court of Carroll County, by a proper motion to quash such a motion would have been sustained.”
It was set forth by Judge Clayton that ample opportunity was given and that the counsel and the Negro both knew it at the time, and waived the right. Judge Clayton further said that there was no evidence to support the contention of Goldsby that the systematic exclusion of Negroes from juries was practiced in Carroll County.
The Conservative, April 25, 1958. P.1., Col. 1.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has again set a date – May 29 – for the execution of Robert Goldsby, Negro, convicted of the murder of Mrs. Bryant Nelms near Vaiden in 1954. No announcement has yet been made of further appeals by Goldsby, but we expect there will be some other scheme forthcoming to keep him out of the gas chamber. We believe in giving a man every opportunity when his life is at stake but such cases as this, where the courts allow prolonged evasion of justice are inclined to make us lose respect for the laws we have.
Execution Date Set For Killer
The Conservative, April 25, 1958. P.1., Col. 2. (Comments)
Four years of court fights apparently ended Monday when the Mississippi Supreme Court set May 29 for the execution of a St. Louis Negro convicted of shooting a white woman to death.
It was the fourth time the state court set a date for Robert Lee Goldsby, 32, to die in the gas chamber for the September, 1954 death of Mrs. Bryant Nelms of Vaiden.
REACHED HIGHEST COURT
Each time, attorneys for Goldsby have won delays by appeals to the Federal Courts. The Supreme Court denied appeals in 1955 and 1956. Last year, Chief Justice Earl Warren granted a stay until all federal rights were exhausted.
Those rights apparently were exhausted April 3 when Federal Judge Claude Clayton, named to the North Mississippi bench in March by President Eisenhower rejected Goldsby’s claims that his civil rights were violated.
Goldsby Granted New Stay By Supreme Court Of U.S.
Chief Justice Holds Up Execution Set Thursday
The Conservative, May 30, 1958. P.1.
--Washington, D.C., May 27 – Chief Justice Earl Warren Tuesday stayed the execution of Robert Lee Goldsby, Negro, sentenced to die Thursday for the fatal shooting of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms in Vaiden, Miss., in 1954.
The stay will allow Goldsby to appeal to the Fifth United States Circuit Court of Appeals. He was turned down by the Supreme Court on Dec. 12, 1955 and Dec. 11, 1956.
The high court wired Gov. J.P. Coleman that the execution was staged “until he can exhaust his rights under the law.”
After going as far as he could in state courts, Goldsby applied to Federal courts for a writ of habeas corpus. If the Fifth Circuit rejects his appeal, he may file a third petition with the Supreme Court.
His attorney told Justice Warren the appeal to the Circuit Court will be filed June 17.
Goldsby said he can show a long time systematic exclusion of Negroes from jury service in Carroll County, Miss.
Goldsby is in the Mississippi State prison at Parchman.
Fact, Fancy and Frivolity
By Buchanan !
The Conservative, May 30, 1958. P. 1. Col. 1.
[Ed. Note: “Buchanan,” is C.C. Buchanan, the Associate Editor of The Conservative.]
Chief Justice Earl Warren and the U.S. Supreme Court seem determined to thwart the execution of Robert Lee Goldsby, convicted killer of Mrs. Bryant Nelms near Vaiden in 1954. The latest stay of execution granted “until he can exhaust his legal rights,” saved Goldsby from the gas chamber again this week. We wonder how many legal rights a killer can claim after conviction and the usual appeals and reviews have determined that he has had a fair trial. Probably if the murder had occurred in any but a Southern State the killer would have gotten his rights in short order from the execution, but in Mississippi, the case stays before the courts on order of a crackpot, jackleg jurist who wouldn’t know a “legal right” if he met one whose only thought is to stay in the good graces of the NAACP and the Communist Party for political expediency. Such action on the part of a court brings to rock bottom our already low level of respect for all that the court which wants not only to adjudicate the laws but also tries to usurp the right to make laws and govern through fear a people who can no longer depend upon their lected representatives for their government. The Goldsby case is but one of many on which the Supreme Court has sacrificed legal and logical reasoning for wild-eyed dreaming.
Speaking About Rights – What About Our Rights ?
Published Comment, Author Unknown
The Conservative, May 30, 1958. P. 1., Col. 4.
Chief Justice Earl Warren, of the United States Supreme Court, has granted a stay of execution for Robert Lee Goldsby, who was scheduled to die this week for the fatal shooting of Mrs. Bryant Nelms in Vaiden in 1954.
The Chief Justice said the execution was stayed “until he (Goldsby) has exhausted his rights under the law.”
Just what does it take to exhaust his rights?
Goldsby was tried and convicted in Carroll County and sentenced to death.
No one has questioned the fairness of the trial.
His case has been reviewed and affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court and has been turned down twice by the United States Supreme Court.
Appeals to the District Federal Courts have been denied. Only Monday his petition for a stay of execution was denied by Judge Claude Clayton, of the North Mississippi Federal Court District.
We repeat: What does it take to exhaust his rights?
And what about the rights of the family of the dead woman? And the rights of the law-abiding citizens of Carroll County and the State of Mississippi?
The Chief Justice might well ponder these questions.
Goldsby Gets 15th Delay In Execution
The Conservative, October 10, 1958. P.1., Col. 2.
The U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals this week gave Robert Lee Goldsby’s attorneys 20 days in which to file appeal briefs.
Mississippi Attorney General Joe Patterson and Asst. Atty. Gen. Ruble Griffin were in Montgomery to argue for the 5th time the State’s side in the Federal Court of Appeal.
A Jackson attorney appointed as special prosecutor for the state aided in the case. He was identified as Ross Barnett.
Goldsby, 32, claims in his appeal, his civil rights were violated when he was tried in 1954 for the murder of Mrs. Moselle Nelms in the parking lot of her husband’s café near Vaiden.
Just Like Paul Wrote It
By Paul Tardy
The Conservative, October 10, 1958, P. 1., Col. 1.
If you ever commit murder, be sure to paint yourself black and join the NAACP. Absolutely nothing can be done about it. It might help to name yourself Goldsby.
Goldsby Case Gets Extension
The Conservative, February 6, 1959. P. 1.
Atty. Gen. Joe Patterson says the state has until the end of this month to prepare its appeal in the Robert Lee Goldsby Case.
Goldsby, 32, a Negro is a native of Canton and resident of St. Louis. He was sentenced to death in 1954 for the fatal shooting of Mrs. Bryant Nelms, of Vaiden.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that Goldsby was tried by an unconstitutional jury because Negroes had been systematically excluded. Goldsby was ordered retried or released.
The state was given until Feb. 6 to file its appeal and ask for a rehearing on the court order. But Patterson said Monday he had gained a 21 day extension to prepare the appeal.
Patterson faces the task of deciding how to get a Negro on a jury in a county in which there are no registered Negro voters. Mississippi law limits jury duty to those who are voters.
He may ask that the case be transferred to another county if a retrial is still ordered.
State Appeals Goldsby Ruling
The Conservative, June 19, 1959. P. 1.
The state of Mississippi charged Friday that a recent Federal court decision gives Negroes license to commit any crime and escape prosecution.
The state appealed a decision by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that overturned Robert Lee Goldsby’s conviction.
The Court of Appeals took the action Jan. 16, 1959, on a writ of habeas corpus charging there was “systematic exclusion” of Negroes from the jury that found the St. Louis Negro guilty of murder four and a half years ago.
The state’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court pointed out there were no qualified Negro voters in the judicial district where Goldsby was convicted.
IMMUNITY IS CLAIM
It is said the decision “will operate to grant unjustly to the respondent and to all other members of the Negro race absolute immunity in the court in which the respondent was tried.” “If all members of any race voluntarily refrain from seeking to become qualified for jury service over the years, as in the instant case, we know of no legal means by which they can be required to become so qualified, and we are sure that this court would not suggest that Negroes be coerced against their will to become qualified jurors,” the appeal said.
Allowing the decision to stand, it said, would mean that “the continued failure of Negroes in the Second Judicial District of Carroll County to present themselves for registration and to qualify as electors and thus refrain from becoming qualified jurors will render all Negroes immune to successful prosecution, for any and all crimes which they might commit in said Second Judicial District.”
The appeal also claims that defense attorneys waived the right to object to the jury by not doing so at the trial that no systematic exclusion of Negroes was proved and that the lower court’s decision conflict with federal and state decisions.
CONVICTED IN SHOOTING
Goldsby was convicted in November, 1954 of shooting down Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms at her service station and café near Vaiden two months earlier. The shooting allegedly occurred after Mrs. Nelms and her husband ordered Goldsby and several other Negroes to leave the station because they were creating a disturbance.
The State Supreme Court has set five execution dates for Goldsby but each time legal action has stopped the execution. The Court of Appeals gave Mississippi eight months to retry Goldsby. The court said it would re-consider the case if a new trial was not held by then.
Court Opens Vaiden Fall Term Monday
Probable Retrial of Goldsby Case Will Attract Wide Attention;
Other Capital Cases On Docket
The Conservative, November 5, 1959. Pp. 1, 2.
Court and law enforcement officials at Carroll County’s second district courthouse in Vaiden are expected to be overwhelmed with visitors next week as the regular fall term of Circuit Court opens on Monday, Nov. 12, with the much-publicized Goldsby case set for probable retrial.
Robert Lee Goldsby, a native of Canton, and then resident of St. Louis was sentenced to die in 1954 for the fatal shooting of Mrs. Moselle Nelms as she rushed to the aid of her husband, wounded during an argument with Goldsby and other Negroes with him.
Legal maneuvering, appeals and hearings that eventually reached all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States have resulted in staying Goldsby’s execution to this date, and in fact have resulted in an ultimatum of retrying or releasing within eight months.
Goldsby has been held under death sentence at the Mississippi penitentiary at Parchman, but will be brought to Vaiden on Monday by the time set for court to convene.
First, however, there will be the usual routine of empanelling the Grand Jury and the Petit Jury. Then will come the charge to the Jury by Judge Henry Lee Rodgers, Circuit Judge of the Fifth Circuit District of Louisville.
There are only five civil cases slated to be brought up at this term in an unusually light civil docket, and these are slated to be disposed of next.
It is assumed that the Goldsby case will be then taken up, although there are three capital offenses awaiting action by the Grand Jury, which may result in trials at this term of court. One is the case of Bill Richards, accused in the pool room slaying of Louis Riley on August 5. Both were white residents of Vaiden.
Another pending matter is the shooting of Willie Thomas by O.T. Williams. Both are Negroes and Thomas, seriously injured, is recovering. The third matter is the alleged rape of Negro China Terrell by Negro Wardell Givens.
It is assumed that the Goldsby
case will be set first because according to Circuit Clerk George Tubeville, Jr., certified copies of the motion for
retrial by District Attorney John E. Aldridge of Winona were sent stating
that the case would be set and called on November 12. Copies were sent to all principals
including Negro attorney George Leighton
Circuit Clerk Tubeville has received response from Leighton indicating that he would be present Monday. He had not heard from the two white Mississippi court appointed attorneys as of Wednesday.
Governor-Elect Ross Barnett, who participated in the original case as an attorney retained by Bryant Nelms, husband of the murder victim, has indicated that he will participate in this trial again assisting District Attorney Aldridge. Besides the governor-elect, other distinguished attorneys, reporters and photographers, and interested observers are expected to be present and strain the capacity of Vaiden’s small courthouse to the utmost.
Goldsby’s original conviction was appealed by Leighton, former Assistant Illinois Attorney General, on the grounds that there were no Negroes on the jury that convicted Goldsby. The latest appeal fared better than Leighton’s first appeal in 1956 on the same grounds. In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mere absence of members of a race was insufficient grounds to overturn a conviction.
But in Leighton’s appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, decided in January of this year, the court ruled that Goldsby was tried by an unconstitutional jury, one from which Negroes were systematically excluded. Mississippi law limits jury duty to men who are qualified voters. There were no Negro qualified electors in Carroll County at the time of the trial, and at the time of the appeal there were no applicants for registration.
The wide publicity given the case, the legal maneuverings of the past five years and the unprecedented order to retry or release the defendant have all contributed to the interest in this case. The court at Vaiden will most certainly be in the headlines, observers believe.
[Ed. Note: In the same issue of The Conservative, P. 1., a list of 50 men summoned for jury duty was published. If the Goldsby case had been retried at Vaiden, my father, Alf T. Collins, and my uncle, Wilson M. Caddess, had both been summoned as potential jurors for this term of court, and would have possibly been empanelled.]
Goldsby’s Second Trial
Venue Change Given Goldsby
Goldsby Case Moved To Jackson; Others Plead Guilty; Court Ends
The Conservative, November 12, 1959. P. 1.
There was a quiet and almost anti-climatic ending to the fall term of court in Vaiden as Judge Henry Lee Rodgers granted a change of venue in the trial of Negro Robert Lee Goldsby, already convicted in 1954 for the slaying of a Vaiden resident, Mrs. Moselle Nelms.
Court appointed defense attorney Rupert Ringold of Winona argued the motion to change the scene of the second trial from Carroll to another county. It was opposed by District Attorney Johnny Aldridge who was supported in his arguments by both Governor-elect Ross Barnett and Mississippi’s Attorney General, Joe T. Patterson.
In essence, a change of venue means that Goldsby will be prosecuted, defended, and judged by the same court officials who have already participated in the trial up to now, but the jury will be chosen from within the county of Hinds where the new trial is to be held.
Other cases pending in the court were also quickly disposed of.
Bill Richards, accused of the murder of Louis Riley in a pool room shooting that took place in Vaiden in August had his case continued to the May Term of court on plea of his attorney that Richards was physically unable to stand trial at this time.
Negro O.T. Williams plead guilty to the shooting of Willie Thomas and was sentenced by Judge Rodgers to a two-year term in the penitentiary. Thomas, also colored, was not present for the trial as he has not been located since his recovery from the shooting.
Another Negro, Wardell Givens, plead guilty to the rape of China Terrell, was sentenced to serve 10 years at Parchman.
Goldsby, who had been brought to Vaiden heavily guarded by Mississippi Highway Patrolmen, was taken to the Hinds County jail in Jackson. Judge Rodgers set the date to be during the week of December 7.
Barnett Reports Won’t Withdraw From Goldsby Case
The Conservative, December 3, 1959. P. 1.
Gov.-elect Ross Barnett said Tuesday he would not withdraw as special prosecutor in the second murder trial of Negro Robert Lee Goldsby unless ordered to do so by the court.
Barnett said he received a letter from George Leighton, Negro defense attorney from
Chicago, requesting him to withdraw because he thought it would be unfair for
Goldsby to be prosecuted by
“It will be up to the court to decide whether I should get out of the case,” Barnett said.
“I understand a motion will be made next Monday to have me relieved as special prosecutor.”
Barnett said if the motion is made it will have to be argued in court.
Goldsby Jurors Drawn
The Conservative, December 3, 1959. P. 1.
A defense attorney for Negro Robert Lee Goldsby’s second murder trial said Monday Gov.-elect Ross Barnett may be asked to withdraw as special prosecutor.
Circuit Judge Leon Hendrick picked a 150 man venire from which to pick a jury for next Monday’s trial of the St. Louis man accused of killing a white woman in Vaiden in 1954.
Rupert Ringold of Winona, court appointed attorney, said George Leighton, a Chicago Negro attorney for Goldsby, has written a letter to Barnett asking him to withdraw because it would be unfair to Goldsby to be prosecuted by the state’s next governor.
Goldsby’s 1954 conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court on grounds no Negroes were in the jury that convicted him. A court clerk said he was “almost sure” the venire includes some Negroes.
Goldsby Trial Hilites
The Conservative, December 10, 1959. P. 1.
Most Carroll County citizens are keeping up with the Goldsby case, but for the record, here is a summary of the proceedings to date in the trial now underway in Jackson.
Monday, the entire day was spent in selecting and examining jurors from among the 150-man venire. . .a 24-member regular panel. There were five Negroes in the 150 summoned.
Two Negroes were among the members who got as far as the jury box with the final 24, but in their challenges by the state they were removed and the all white jury of 12 now hearing the case was finally selected.
Also on Monday, George Leighton, Negro attorney of
Tuesday, Judge Henry Lee Rodgers overruled the motion and the five white prosecuting attorneys began their attempt to convict Goldsby of murder for the second time.
The mystery of the missing pistol arose on this day also. However, Wednesday it was located in the desk of one of the Supreme Court justices. The unidentified justice heard about the missing gun over a newscast and notified the court he had placed the pistol in his desk.
SENTENCED TO DIE AGAIN
Wednesday, jurors heard testimony from several witnesses, including Goldsby himself testifying in his own behalf. The case closed late in the afternoon and the jury after two hours and thirteen minutes deliberation found Goldsby guilty of murder. Judge Rodgers sentenced him to die in the gas chamber on January 27. However, the case will be appealed, defense attorney Leighton says, to the United States Supreme Court again if necessary.
Carroll County 2nd District Court Minutes – Second Trial (1959)
High Court Affirms Goldsby Sentence
Nov. 15 is Execution Date For Killer of Vaiden Woman
The Conservative, October 6, 1960. P. 1.
Mississippi’s Supreme Court upheld Monday Robert Lee Goldsby’s second conviction for murdering a white woman six years ago and set Nov. 15 as the date of his execution.
In denying Goldsby’s 16th appeal and setting his 8th execution date, the court discounted the argument that then Gov.-elect Ross Barnett’s position as a special prosecutor was an undue influence on the jury.
Goldsby, now 34, was convicted of murder in the pistol death of Mrs. Moselle Nelms, 29, as she ran to help her husband, Bryant Nelms, whom Goldsby had wounded moments earlier.
Goldsby, a resident of St. Louis, Mo., was en route to Canton to visit relatives.
The shooting occurred at Vaiden Sept. 4, 1954. Goldsby has been in death row at state penitentiary ever since.
IN a 36 page decision written by Justice W.N. Etheridge, Jr. – and concurred in by the other eight justices – the Supreme Court held that Goldsby’s second trial was fair and impartial and that the jury “was amply warranted in finding that defendant was guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Goldsby won a second trial when the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Negroes were excluded systematically from Carroll County juries and therefore Goldsby did not receive a fair trial.
But the court ruled the original indictment was valid and that the state must either try Goldsby again or release him within eight months.
attorney, Negro George Leighton
of Chicago, won a change of trial site to
Leighton appealed the conviction on grounds that Barnett was special prosecutor while governor-elect [and] that juror H.L. Martin was a state employee and therefore was disqualified for jury service in this case, and that Goldsby did not start the chain of events that ended in death.
Leighton also argued that Goldsby shot Nelms in self-defense and that the overwhelming weight of evidence would have resulted in a manslaughter conviction.
The Supreme Court ruled that employment by the state was not a bar to jury service in this case and that Barnett’s position as special prosecutor while the state’s governor-elect did not affect the outcome of the trial.
The high court said Barnett had been hired by Nelms five years earlier, shortly after he had been defeated in his campaign for governor.
Citing a recent case in which the popularity of the district attorney was argued as a reason for overturning a conviction, the high court said: “If popularity for the district attorney should be held a ground for reversal, then the courts could not operate when the district attorney holds the esteem of the people.”
The supreme court added that Holmes County Sheriff Richard Byrd, who helped arrest Goldsby, testified that Goldsby told him he had shot Nelms and his wife.
The shooting began when Nelms ordered Goldsby and a carload of Negro relatives off his roadside café parking lot near Vaiden because he objected to the way the car came in and stopped.
Goldsby testified that he shot Nelms when the white man swung at him with a tire mallet while carrying a pistol in his pocket.
Goldsby To Die November 15 Court Rules
Winona Times, October 6, 1960
The Supreme Court of Mississippi Monday set Nov. 15 as the execution date for Robert Lee Goldsby, 34-year-old Negro who was twice convicted of murdering Mrs. Mozelle Nelms of Vaiden in 1954.
While fixing the execution date, the court denied an appeal by Goldsby, who was convicted of fatally shooting Mrs. Nelms as she ran to aid her husband, Bryant Nelms. Nelms had been wounded in the parking lot of Nelms’ café service station between Vaiden and Winona.
George Leighton, Goldsby’s Negro attorney from Chicago, had appealed Goldsby’s second conviction. Justice W.N. Etheridge wrote a 36-page decision which was concurred in by the eight justices, saying that the Supreme Court overruled Leighton’s argument that Goldsby’s conviction of murder was against the overwhelming weight of evidence, that it should have been manslaughter instead of murder because Goldsby shot in self-defense.
Goldsby [who] was convicted by a Carroll County jury shortly after the slaying, won a new trial, and again was convicted in Hinds County where Negroes were available for jury duty, although none were accepted by the attorneys.
Goldsby Asks Stay in Death Decree
The Conservative, Carrollton, MS. November 10, 1960 P. 1.
A stay of execution was requested Saturday for Robert Lee Goldsby, center of a six-year legal fight, who is scheduled to die in the Mississippi gas chamber Nov. 15.
Defense attorney George Leighton asked the State Supreme Court
for the stay in order to file an appeal to the murder conviction with the
Goldsby, 33, a Negro, was first sentenced to death in November, 1954, for the fatal shooting of a white woman in Vaiden but legal strategy kept him alive.
A Federal Court overturned the first conviction that Negroes were “systematically excluded” from the jury which found him guilty. Goldsby was retried and reconvicted last December and the State Supreme Court upheld the conviction last month.
When the court set Nov. 15 as Goldsby’s death date, it was the sixth time he had been scheduled to die.
Leighton’s appeal to the state court was based in part on Gov. Ross Barnett’s participation in the second trial as special prosecutor at the time he was Governor elect. Leighton said Governor Barnett was then “the most popular man in Mississippi,” and his appearance overwhelmed the jury and made the trial unfair.
A few Negroes were on the panel from which a jury was selected for the second trial and although none was accepted for jury duty, the “exclusion” issue was not raised.
Goldsby, who worked in St. Louis, was in the state to visit relatives on Labor Day, 1954, when he shot Mr. And Mrs. Bryant Nelms after Mr. Nelms ordered him to leave their country store for creating a disturbance. Mrs. Nelms died.
Deny Hearing of Goldsby by Supreme Court
The Conservative, Carrollton, MS. March 30, 1961 P.1
Robert Lee Goldsby, a Negro twice convicted of the 1954 slaying of a white woman near Vaiden, was denied a Supreme Court hearing. Goldsby is under a death sentence.
The white woman, Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, was shot after her husband had told several Negroes to leave the Nelms gas station and dairy bar.
Goldsby was first convicted in November, 1954, but the U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans ordered a new trial on claims by counsel by Goldsby that Negroes were systematically excluded from the trial jury.
Goldsby was scheduled to be executed Nov. 15, 1960 but the Supreme Court granted him a stay to permit the filing of the appeal acted on Monday.
The appeal said the second trial was unfair because a state employee served on the trial jury and Governor-elect Ross Barnett acted as prosecutor.
Goldsby’s Sixth Death Sentence Set For May 31
Winona Times, April 20, 1961, P. 8.
Robert Lee Goldsby, Negro convicted in the slaying of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, wife of Bryant Nelms, of Vaiden in Sept. 1954, was given his sixth death sentence Monday when the state Supreme Court set May 31 for his execution in the gas chamber in Parchman State Penitentiary. [Ed. Note: On January 1, 1955, the State of Mississippi began using the gas chamber to effect executions, instead of the previous method of the “portable” electric chair.]
Previous death dates had been cancelled by the United States Supreme Court in a long legal battle that began when Goldsby was tried at Vaiden and found guilty. He claimed that Negroes were systematically excluded from jury service in Carroll County by not being permitted to register as voters, a prerequisite.
Goldsby was then tried in Hinds County at Jackson where Negroes are qualified for jury service and was again given the death sentence. His latest appeal to Washington was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ninth Death Date Set for Goldsby
The Conservative, Carrollton, MS. April 20, 1961. P.1.
By: Bob Pittman
The Mississippi Supreme Court Tuesday set May 31 for the execution of Negro Robert Lee Goldsby, twice convicted for the slaying of a Carroll County white woman.
It is the ninth death date set for the 34-year-old Negro in the fatal shooting of Mrs. Moselle Nelms of Vaiden. Mrs. Nelms was shot to death on Sept. 4, 1954.
Since that time, Goldsby has staged a drawn-out legal battle in which he has been tried twice and filed 17 appeals.
His first death date was set for Dec. 24, 1954, a month after his conviction in Carroll County Circuit Court at Vaiden.
His first conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans on grounds that Negroes were systematically excluded from the jury which convicted him.
He was retried and convicted in Hinds County after his attorneys asked for a change of venue.
There were no Negroes qualified for jury duty in Carroll County because none was registered to vote.
Voter registration, at that time, was a requisite for jury duty.
Negroes were on the jury list but none was selected when he was tried in Hinds County.
The 1960 Legislature removed the voting requirements for jurors.
Yesterday’s execution date is the third set by the court since the second trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal last month.
One of the grounds of the last move for appeal was that Gov.-elect Ross Barnett served as special prosecutor.
Goldsby, 34, of Canton and St. Louis, was convicted of murdering Mrs. Nelms in the parking lot of her husband’s roadside café and service station.
Nelms was wounded and Mrs. Nelms killed after he ordered Goldsby and his companions off his premises for creating a disturbance.
Goldsby has sat out his almost seven years of appeals in death row at Parchman State Penitentiary. His last stay of execution came only five hours before he was scheduled to enter the state’s lethal gas chamber.
Goldsby At End Of Road As Date For Death Nears
Winona Times, May 25, 1961, P. 1
An attorney for Robert Lee Goldsby, St. Louis, MO., Negro who was convicted of killing Mrs. Bryant Nelms at Vaiden in 1954 and is scheduled to die in the Mississippi gas chamber on May 31, said that no further appeals are planned in the legal fight to save the convicted killer.
“There are no plans for any further legal proceedings,” George Leighton, Goldsby’s Negro attorney, said. He did say, however, that he would ask Gov. Ross Barnett to commute the death sentence.
Seven death dates have been set with each previous execution cancelled by further appeals.
His first conviction was overturned by a U.S. Court of Appeals on grounds that Negroes were “systematically excluded” from the jury which found him guilty in Carroll County. There were no Negroes registered to vote in the county, and therefore none was eligible for jury duty.
Re-tried in Jackson in December, 1959, Goldsby was again sentenced to death for the murder of Mrs. Nelms. Governor Barnett, then a Jackson lawyer, was hired by the husband of the slain woman as a special prosecutor and took part in both trials.
Leighton said that Goldsby would have been found guilty of nothing more than manslaughter in most other states. “The fact that it was a white woman who was killed by a Negro in Mississippi had a lot to do with the resulting sentence,” he said.
Leighton, who opposed Barnett in the second trial, said that, “I never have been treated with greater respect and consideration than I was in Mississippi. I have no quarrel with the treatment I received there.”
Goldsby Dies in Gas Chamber
Winona Times, June 1, 1961, P. 1
Negro Robert Lee Goldsby, who was twice convicted of murdering Mrs. Bryant Nelms of Vaiden in front of her husband’s store, went to the gas chamber at the state penitentiary at Parchman Tuesday night after his chief defense attorney, Negro George Leighton of Chicago, gave up in the legal fight to save Goldsby’s life. Thus comes to an end a court battle that has gone on since the murder in 1954.
At 12:52 Wednesday . . .
Gas Chamber Death Comes to Goldsby
Bryant Nelms Witnesses Execution at Parchman
The Conservative, Carrollton, MS. June 1, 1961. P. 1 & 4
By: W.C. Shoemaker
(from the Jackson Daily News)
Parchman, Miss. – Negro Robert Lee Goldsby died in Mississippi’s gas chamber early today while the husband of the white woman he murdered watched.
The 35-year-old St. Louis shoe factory worker and former Jacksonian inhaled the first whiff of deadly cyanide at 12:43 a.m. Nine minutes later he was dead, ending a series of trials and appeals that covered almost seven years.
Goldsby was put to death for the murder of Mrs. Moselle McCorkle Nelms, 29, on Sept. 4, 1954, at the service station she and her husband, Bryant Nelms, operated near Vaiden.
Nelms, who was wounded by Goldsby’s gunfire, watched intently as the Negro died.
Today’s death date was the ninth set for the Negro since he was first sentenced in November 1954 at the Carroll County Courthouse in Vaiden.
Others were stayed pending appeals.
He was retried in Hinds County in December, 1959, and again sentenced to death.
Bids Mates Farewell
Goldsby stepped quietly from his cell shortly after midnight stopping at the cells of three death row mates to bid them farewell and entered the six-sided gas chamber at 12:36 a.m.
He wore prison striped trousers and a tee shirt and slipped out of his shoes at the chamber door.
He watched as State Executioner C.W. Watson of Jackson and assistant Berry Bruce of Belzoni strapped his hands, legs, and chest to the gas chamber’s single chair.
Four minutes later Catholic Priest James G. Britt of Shelby pressed a crucifix to his lips and Baptist minister Paul Wilson of Cleveland waved at him as the door slammed. He did not speak after entering the chamber.
At 12:43 a lever clanged and the cyanide was activated while he turned his head to watch.
His fists clenched as he inhaled.
Nelms and about a dozen other witnesses were less than two feet away with a clear view through the glass walls of the chamber.
Dr. Hector P. Harrell, the penitentiary physician, said a heart beat recording device attached to Goldsby’s wrist showed he died at 12:52.
The Rev. Britt gave him the last rites of the Catholic Church while his body was still inside the chamber.
Chaplain F.O. Martin said that Goldsby ate heartily of his last meal at 6 p.m. It consisted of fried chicken, French fried potatoes, fried shrimp, fruit cocktail, ice cream, grape juice, and lemonade.
Earlier yesterday he was visited by his mother. He said he received letters from his wife and five children in St. Louis.
The Rev. Britt said he wrote 10 letters during the day. Some went to relatives, some were addressed to ministers, and another went to a Jackson newspaper. In all he expressed sorrow for the crime he committed.
Early last night he told a reporter he was not afraid to die. “I know I am going to a better place. I’m positive I’ve been saved by Jesus Christ,” he said.
He smiled as Hinds County Chief Deputy Sheriff Frank Jones read to him the court’s order of execution shortly after midnight and he said he was “ready to go.”
His execution was conducted under the direction of the Hinds County sheriff since the sentence which sent him to the gas chamber was pronounced in the Hinds County Circuit Court.
Says He’s Sorry
A few minutes earlier he had asked the three ministers to express his sorrow to his family and that of Nelms.
His mother claimed his body and Cook Funeral Home brought it to Jackson for burial.
Goldsby had claimed at his trials that he was en route to his mother’s home for a visit when the killing occurred. He was in a car with several other Negroes when the vehicle skidded into the Nelms’ driveway and set off the shooting.
Nelms was dropped with a shot outside the station and his wife was shot to death as she ran to his side.
Goldsby is buried at Mt. Pisgah