Remembering James T. Scott: A Black Employee of the University of Missouri Who Was Lynched in 1923

On April 20, 1923, James T. Scott, an African-American veteran of World War I and a janitor at the University of Missouri at Columbia, was lynched at Stewart Bridge. He was accused of raping a 14-year-old white girl in a wooded area near the bridge. There was no evidence linking him to the crime except that the victim identified him from a distance. Scott maintained he was working at the university’s medical school when the attack occurred.

After Scott was arrested, a mob of at least 500 people broke into the jail, took Scott to the bridge, and hanged him. No one was ever convicted of any crime relating to the mob action or lynching. Scott’s body was buried in a racially segregated cemetery.

Now an effort is under way in Columbia to raise money to place a headstone on Scott’s grave. Doug Hunt, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, has published an account of the incident in the Missouri Review.