Henry F. Hays

Henry Francis Hays

Henry Francis Hays (November 10, 1954-June 6, 1997) was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1981 lynching-style murder of 19-year old African-American Michael Donald.

The lynching was ordered by KKK leaders, reportedly to "show Klan strength in Alabama." Donald was abducted at random from a Mobile street by two men, beaten with a tree limb, strangled, and his throat cut to make sure he was dead. His body was strung up in a tree across the street from his home.

A brief investigation took place and the local police claimed that Donald had been murdered as a result of a disagreement over a drug deal (Donald was, in fact, not involved with drugs). Federal attorneys, as well as public pressure, led the FBI to examine case. Hays and fellow KKK member, James Knowles— the two men who lynched Donald— were arrested, tried, and convicted. Knowles, who appeared as the chief prosecution witness, was convicted of violating Donald's civil rights and sentenced to life in prison. Hays was tried six months later and received a death sentence.

While on death row, Hays was incarcerated at the Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama. Hays, Alabama Institutional Serial #Z443, entered death row on February 2, 1984. He was put to death on June 6, 1997.

Donald's mother, Beulah Mae Donald, in assistance of the Southern Poverty Law Center, sued United Klans of America in a civil suit. An all-white jury found the Klan responsible for the lynching of Michael Donald and ordered a seven million dollar judgment. This resulted in the Klan handing over all its assets including its national headquarters in Tuscaloosa. Despite earlier KKK leader's plans, the Donald murder conviction ruined the Klan in Alabama.

Hays was executed in Alabama electric chair Yellow Mama after Governor Fob James refused to commute his sentence. He was the first white person executed for murder of a black citizen in Alabama since 1913. Hays was 42 years old at the time of his execution.



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