IN HONOR OF LENA BAKER (POSTHUMOUSLY); Congressional Record Vol. 157, No. 5
(Extensions of Remarks - January 12, 2011)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E56-E57]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 IN HONOR OF LENA BAKER (POSTHUMOUSLY)

                                 ______
                                 

                      HON. SANFORD D. BISHOP, JR.

                               of georgia

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to 
Lena Baker. Today, her family dedicates her tombstone, 65 years after 
she was laid to rest at the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Cuthbert, 
Georgia.
  She was born June 8, 1900 near Cuthbert, in the small community of 
Cotton Hill where her family worked as farmers. Ms. Baker worked as a 
maid, cleaning houses and doing laundry to support her three children. 
She also was employed by Ernest B. Knight, a local gristmill owner.
  On April 29, 1944, Ms. Baker was forced from her home by Ernest 
Knight and taken to the gristmill, where she was held against her will. 
According to court testimony, Knight brandished the iron bar that was 
used to lock the door. Ms. Baker, fearing for her life, attempted to 
leave and the two ``tussled'' over a pistol. During the struggle, the 
gun went off, killing Knight. Ms. Baker testified that she walked 
immediately to the house of County Coroner, J. A. Cox, and confessed to 
the accidental death of Ernest Knight.
  Her trial convened on August 14, 1944 at the Randolph County 
Courthouse, which was then presided over by Judge Charles William ``Two 
Gun'' Worrill, who kept two pistols on the bench. With an unconcerned 
lawyer by her side, a jury of twelve Caucasian men--hardly a jury of 
her peers--found her guilty in a trial and deliberation that, together, 
lasted less than four hours. Judge Worrill sentenced Ms. Baker to be 
executed. However, Governor Ellis Arnall granted Ms. Baker a 60-day 
reprieve so that the Board of Pardons and Parole could review the case.
  In January 1945, the board denied clemency. She then was taken to 
Reidsville State

[[Page E57]]

Prison on February 23, 1945. Ms. Baker's execution date was rescheduled 
for March 5, 1945. She is the only woman to be executed by 
electrocution in the State of Georgia.
  She went to the electric chair calmly and bravely. Her last words 
were, ``What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed 
myself. Where I was I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I 
have nothing against anyone.''
  Ms. Baker is buried in the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in 
Randolph County, where she once worshiped. In 1998 a group of church 
members finally marked her grave.
  In August 2005, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles posthumously 
pardoned Ms. Baker, acknowledging that the 1945 decision to deny 
clemency to Ms. Baker was ``a grievous error'' and that she could have 
been charged with the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter, which 
would have prevented the sentence of capital punishment.
  Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that the dedication of her tombstone today 
can heal the wounds of the past. May Lena Baker now truly rest in 
peace.

                          ____________________