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Stone County historical display criticized by Democrats as voter intimidation

A historical display in the Stone County Clerk’s Office — situated behind multiple voting booths set up ahead of next week’s election — was covered Friday afternoon after Missouri Democrats complained about potential voter intimidation. The wood-paneled case —which had been there for at least five years — contained a myriad of items pertinent to Stone County’s history, including a noose from the last public hanging in Missouri.

Stone County Presiding Commissioner Mark Maples insisted the display was merely archival and not intended to be “an intimidation issue.” 

The noose is from the hanging of Roscoe “Red” Jackson, a white man, in 1937. He was accused of murdering a traveling salesman, and the execution, held in Stone County, is often considered to be the last public hanging in Missouri. 

Displayed on the third floor of the Stone County Clerk’s Office, the wooden case also included shackles and keys used in Jackson’s execution, Maples told The Missouri Times. Other artifacts, such as a bell from the USS Stone County, are also displayed behind the glass. 

“We never intended this to be an intimidation issue. We don’t do that in Stone County. We’re not that type of people,” Maples said, adding that the covering would be left up until after the election. 

The county clerk’s office covered the display after receiving recent complaints, Jeri Row, the deputy county clerk, told The Missouri Times. Row said the display has been in the office for more than five years without any previous complaint. 

As images of the noose behind red, white, and blue ballot boxes began to circulate on social media Friday, Missouri Democrats were quick to condemn the display. The Missouri House Democratic Campaign Committee said it could not “think of a clearer example of voter intimidation to people of color than a noose on display directly beside their voting booth.” Yinka Faleti, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, said it “goes beyond a gross and appalling lack of judgment by the responsible parties.” 

Megan Wilson, who has lived in Stone County since 2017, was waiting to vote last week when she saw the noose in the display case and snapped a picture. 

“I was just shocked, horrified, and could not believe that nobody was saying anything. No one found it to be a problem,” Wilson told The Missouri Times. “They just acted like it was normal.” 

“I can’t understand why it’s in a government building at all. What is that proving or showing?”

Wilson is a native of South Central Florida and said she was concerned by how others would perceive the display. She said she didn’t feel comfortable saying anything to officials while she was in the building. 

Wilson was able to cast her ballot. A spokesperson for the House Democratic Campaign Committee said she was unaware of anyone who was not able to vote because of the display. 

The ACLU of Missouri said the display next to voting booths was “appalling.” 

“It’s clear that this clerk has wholly misunderstood their job, which is to let the people vote, not create an environment that blatantly and clearly signals to Black voters that they are not welcome,” said Luz María Henríquez, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We hope this public reminder is elucidating.” 

Stone County is located in southwestern Missouri. According to the latest Census data, more than 96 percent of the county is white whereas only .4 percent of the population is Black.