• 1920s Hanging

McCrory found guilty, jury votes for hanging

At 4:50 AM on a cold Monday morning is the 1980s, I sat in the newsroom at 200 East Thomas Street preparing for the morning’s broadcast. WFPR Program Director Steve Chauvin called me in when News Director Mary Pirosko contracted bronchitis. As usual, I started 30 minutes early, ripping stories from the news-wire and rewriting local bits from the Advocate, Times-Picayune, and the Daily Star—prioritizing them all for the morning’s hourly newscasts and phoning local news-makers as they awoke to record soundbites.

On this particular morning, I had Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s spokesperson Deputy Chuck Reed on the line, when a woman started screaming four-letter unmentionables outside my door. I apologized, told Chuck I would call him back, and then opened the door to hell.

Sports Director Robin Roberts held another woman back from scratching the eyes out of the AM morning show host. Everyone’s hair and clothing looked in disarray, and the AM jock’s left eye was beginning to swell.

He yelled at me. “Did you let this woman in here?”

“Well, yea,” I said. “She said you were friends, and it’s freezing outside.”

With more screaming and some kicking, we managed to escort the cursing intruder from the building. Apparently, the AM host had stood her up for some date the night before—and in the process; she discovered he was married.

By now, you are wondering where I am going with this and what it has to do with the bridegroom murder we started reviewing last week. Bear with me. Clarity is only three paragraphs away.

Terrel Cotham “Foots” McCrory directed Sales at WFPR, but he started at the station the day Big John Chauvin opened the doors. At one time or another, Foots did everything one could do at a radio station from playing music and hosting Swap Shop to sports commentating and scrubbing floors. Foots knew almost everyone in town and could tell you a story or two about anyone you could name. Collecting these humorous tales was somewhat of a hobby of his.

Foots McCrory
Foots McCrory

When I finished my last newscast that morning, Foots met me outside the control room, chewing on an unlit cigar—and snickering. “Okay,” he said. “Give me the play-by-play.”

The morning host had not left the building, so I waved Foots down the stairs, and we walked to the Fountain Café. Over coffee, I recounted every syllable uttered by the scorned radio groupie, and Foots laughed until his face turned red. For the next hour, we swapped stories about the various Casanova’s we had known, and somewhere in that discussion, Foots McCrory told me about his uncle.

“I had a relative once who made a woman so angry; she got him life in prison. Somebody fingered him for murder, but he was innocent. The woman was his alibi, but she wouldn’t agree to tell the sheriff where he really was that night unless he would agree to leave his wife and marry her.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“He didn’t have to marry her; got out on appeal. The judge had a better punishment—leaving him to face his angry wife and the 12 kids he was going to pay child support for if he didn’t straighten up.”

Any story Foots told was funny, but my retelling suffers without Foots’ facial expressions and trademark mumbling. Most of his stories rang true but sounded hard to believe. Over 30 years passed before I discovered the trial of Mr. Royal Jackson McCrory actually took place.

On a Saturday morning, June 25, 1927, an Amite jury found Roy McCrory of Ponchatoula guilty of murder. The jury deliberated all night following the two-day trial and ultimately voted 11-2 for hanging. Since capital punishment in Louisiana required a unanimous verdict at the time, Judge Columbus Reid sentenced the defendant instead to life in Angola prison.

On June 25, 1927, the New Orleans States recounted the story this way:

“In a special session of the grand jury, the courtroom filled to standing room capacity. The presentation of evidence took more than two days, but Roy McCrory was ultimately found guilty of murdering Springfield foreman Henry D. Forrest.”

“McCrory shot Forrest in July 1925, as Forrest returned from the home of the woman he was to marry the next day. He carried with him the money to buy all of their household furnishings.”

“All efforts to resolve the crime proved fruitless until the deceased’s family brought in Captain A. R. Osborne, a noted detective from Chicago.”

SLU History Professor Sam Hyde believes the news story is wrong regarding who contacted Osborne. “This murder would have remained a mystery if Amite Newspaperman Lee Lanier hadn’t expressed outrage that so little had been done to solve the crime. He sought A. R. Osborne’s help after hearing of the detective’s success with the infamous Leopold and Loeb case.”

Detective A.R. Osborne
Detective A.R. Osborne

From the Times-Picayune, June 24, 1927:

“Osborne found the chief witness for the state, Mrs. Randolph Struble of Albany, who testified that at midnight, returning from Ponchatoula, she met a car on the night of the murder and recognized Henry Forrest riding in the backseat between two men. Forrest was leaning forward with his body limp. Struble identified the driver of the car as Roy McCrory.”

Returning to the New Orleans States account:

 “Warren Comish and Shelby Reid, McCrory’s attorneys, worked to break down the woman’s testimony to no avail. Amos L. Ponder, Jr. prosecuted the case, assisted by Amos L. Ponder, Sr, but in the end, the attending crowd seemed satisfied with the verdict and life term sentence.”

I became involved in this case when local historian Clark Forrest, Jr. asked the question: why is there no record of Roy McCrory incarcerated at Angola, and why does the census for 1920, 1930, and 1940 all denote Roy McCrory still living in Ponchatoula?

Searching digital archives and the dusty microfilm of newspapers across South Louisiana, I have found no better answer than the tale provided by Foots McCrory regarding his ancestors and their 12 children. In fact, I have discovered evidence that corroborates his little anecdote.

Five months before the McCrory trial, at a doctor’s office in Hammond, McCrory’s wife, Mary “Minnie” Causey McCrory, gave birth to their youngest son, Loy, naming him after one of Roy McCrory’s brothers.

Loy “Sonny” McCrory died 85 years later on August 30, 2012. The Albany resident lived near Hungarian Settlement and was a veteran of the Merchant Marines, Army Transportation Command and the U.S. Navy. He was also an active Mason and union president presiding over all carpenters in Louisiana.

According to his obituary, Loy McCrory’s parents preceded him in death, along with five older brothers and six older sisters.

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