by Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet

Excerpt from Appendix A: Catalogue of Defendants

ANDERSON, WILLIAM HENRY (black). 1945. Florida. Anderson was convicted of the rape of a white woman, sentenced to death, and executed in 1945. No appeal was taken. He was executed only five months after his arrest, perhaps in part because the sheriff wrote to the governor, “I would appreciate special attention in this case before some sympathizing organization gets hold of it.”1 The victim did not resist, scream, or use a pistol that was available to her in resisting Anderson’s advances. Anderson’s sister and one of his coworkers presented affidavits to the governor claiming that Anderson and the victim had been consensually intimate for several months before rape charges were filed. Anderson’s attorney also wrote to the governor that “There exists well founded belief . . . that William Henry Anderson and the prosecutrix were intimate since August 1944. This belief is widespread among Negroes, but white people have been heard to express opinions likewise.”2


1. Letter from Broward County Sheriff Walter Clark to John Wigginton, Executive Secretary to the Governor (Apr. 9, 1945) (on file with the Stanford Law Review).
2. Letter from L.E. Thomas to Governor Millard F. Caldwell (July 20, 1945) (on file with the Stanford Law Review). Materials on the Anderson case are located in the collection of governors’ clemency files, Florida State Archives, in the Raymond Gray Library, Tallahassee.