Benjamin Theron “Ben” Roberts
Jan. 18, 1868 - Jun. 19, 1922
Funeral This Morning.
The remains of the late Ben Roberts were interred in the old family
burying ground, the
Ward Cemetery, near Pursley at 10:30 this
morning, Rev. Mr. Hellums of Dawson officiated and there was a large
attendance and numerous floral offerings.
ROBERTS DIES AS RESULT OF WOUNDS RECEIVED SATURDAY
TOM STEWART IN THE COUNTY JAIL WITH TWO CHARGES AGAINST HIM
Ben Roberts, age near 50, is dead; his son Aaron Roberts, age 26,
is in the hospital wounded and Tom Stewart, age 43, is in the county
jail charged with the double shooting as a result of an affray which
occurred at about 8:30 o’clock Saturday night near Pursley, 12 miles
southeast of here,’
Steward, in an interview with a representative of the Sun, gave his
version of the affair and outlined some of the difficulties leading
up to the fatal shooting, Steward, who is a brother-in-law of
Roberts, said that the trouble was a culmination of trouble of
fifteen years standing.
Tells of Trouble.
“My wife (Roberts’ sister)and I have been having domestic difficulty
for some time and a suit is now pending for divorce,” said Stewart.
“On occasions of trouble between Lyda and myself, Roberts would
always take a hand in the affair.
“The trouble which began Saturday night and ended in the shooting
was started when Roberts and his son, Aaron drove up before R. L.
Cunningham’s house and Roberts started talking with Cunningham about
a certain small tract of land which Cunningham had rented from
Roberts. I live only a short distance from Cunningham and am in the
habit of spending my evenings there. I went to his house just
before dark Saturday and while after dark the car came up.
“Roberts and Cunningham argued a little about the way the land was
being tended and when I spoke, he recognized by voice and started to
fire on me and I---“
Stewart halted here and did not discuss the manner in which the
actual shooting occurred. He exhibited interest when he learned
that Roberts and his son had been brought to the hospital and said
that he did not know which one of Roberts’ son had been wounded
until Sunday morning.
The two wounded men were brought to the Physicians and Surgeons
hospital Saturday night where examination proved that the older
man’s wounds would probably result in death, while hope was held out
for the recovery of the son. An operation was performed on Roberts
Sunday morning and his death came about 6:30 this morning. Eight
buckshot wounds were found about his legs, hand and side and the
middle finger of the right hand was gone. Two wounds were in the
left leg and three were in the left side.
All the principals in the affair are farmers and have long been
residents of this section. Aaron is unmarried and reports from the
hospital this morning are to the effect that he is resting fairly
well. Funeral services for the older man will be held at Ward
cemetery near Pursley at 10:00 tomorrow morning.
When Stewart first surrendered himself and was lodged in jail he was
charged with assault with intent to kill. Since the death of
Roberts the charge in this case has been changed to murder and the
first charge still stands in the case of the shooting of Aaron.
County Attorney Tarver and Sheriff Hays conducted an investigation
in the case early Sunday morning and after questioning the prisoner
went to the hospital and took the depositions of the witnesses in
The examining trial of Tom Stewart charged with the murder of Ben
Roberts which was scheduled to have been held this afternoon at 2
p.m. has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 o’clock.
The postponement was made necessary because of the inability of
witnesses for the state to be present this afternoon.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, June 19, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
EXAMINING TRIAL OF TOM STEWART NOT COMPLETED
At press hour the examining trial of Tom Stewart held in connection
with the death of Ben Roberts and the wounding of Aaron Roberts, the
shooting occurring Saturday night near Pursley, was in progress,
with about twenty witnesses to testify.
At 4:30 the testimony of four witnesses had been heard including
Susie Cunningham, the sixteen year old daughter of R. L. Cunningham
at whose house the shooting occurred; Dr. T. P. McClendon, who
dressed the wounds of the injured men at the Physicians and Surgeons
Hospital; Jailer Tom Smith, and Ross Roberts, eleven year old son
of the dead man.
Hon. Richard Mays is representing the defendant and County Attorney
W. A. Tarver assisted by Callicutt & Upchurch have been retained by
the State as special prosecutors. The hearing will probably take
Corsicana Daily Sun - Tuesday, June 20, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
WITNESSES TELL OF FATAL SHOOTING OF ROBERTS SATURDAY
YOUNG SON OF DEAD MAN IS PRINCIPAL WITNESS AT TUESDAY’S SESSION
CASE HARD FOUGHT
R. L. CUNNINGHAM, WHO WAS PRESENT, ON THE STAND THIS MORNING
Interest in the examining trial of Tom E. Stewart which has been in
progress since 3 o’clock Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning
centered around the testimony of R. L. Cunningham, at whose premises
the fatal shooting of Ben Roberts and the shooting of Aaron Roberts
took place about dark last Saturday night.
During the afternoon session Tuesday a great number of witnesses
were called and testified. Several were introduced by the defense
as character witnesses. A number of witnesses testified as to the
alleged domestic trouble existing between Tom Stewart and his wife,
in which it is claimed by Stewart that Roberts was the cause of.
Young Son Testifies.
Among the large number of deponents Tuesday was Ross Roberts, 11
years old, son of the elder Roberts who came to the Cunningham home
in the car with his father and brother on the night of the
shooting. The little fellow told in concise answers to the many
questions propounded to him by the attorneys in the case how his
father and brother had driven in the car up to the Cunningham home,
stepped in front of the gate and Cunningham was called out to the
road to talk with them. He said his father asked Mr. Cunningham
concerning the planting of some land which he had rented from him.
While this conversation was taking place he heard some one from the
porch say “move, move,” and almost immediately a shot rang out.
His brother Aaron at that time, he said, was on the ground
attempting to crank the car. the shot knocked him over. The second
shot was fired in close proximity, the boy said, and following a
brief interval he fled from the scene of the shooting and went to
the home of his uncle. He said he observed both his brother and
father lying on the ground immediately following the second shot
just before he fled from the scene. the boy testified that his
father had a rifle lying on the front seat of the car against the
rear cushion and that when he saw his father on the ground he had
his rifle in his hands indicating a half elevated position.
Mr. Cunningham in his testimony Wednesday morning, in answering
questions of the attorneys concerning the location of the gun which
figured in the shooting, said that he had borrowed Stewart’s shotgun
on Thursday for the purpose of shooting crows that had been making
ravages on his watermelons, in borrowing the gun from Stewart he
also borrowed four shells. On Saturday night when he came home for
supper Stewart was not at his house, although since the recent
separation of Stewart and his wife, he (Stewart) had been taking
most of his meals at his house. While eating supper he said some
one came and stepped on the front porch, who he found to be Stewart
when he had finished his meal and went out on the porch, Arthur
Mobley, a cousin of Cunningham, was also there, he said.
Upon further examination he said as he went onto the porch and
seeing Stewart, he remarked to him that his gun which he borrowed
was standing in the corner on one end of the porch and that the two
extra shells were on the floor just inside the door. He said
Stewart had told him previously he wanted his gun back, was why he
made that statement as he came from the dining room.
Cunningham stated further that the trio had been sitting on the edge
of the porch for a few minutes when a car passed by for a short
distance east of his house and turned around and came back and
stopped in front of the gate. He then declared that some one from
the car called for him to come out to the car.
Upon arriving at the car, the witness declared, he then fount that
the occupants were Ben T. Roberts, Aaron, and the little boy. They
shook hands and were talking for just a few minutes concerning the
planting of the land, which he had rented from Mr. Roberts, when
someone from the porch, whose voice he recognized as being that of
Stewart, called to him “Bob.”
Just at that time Mr. Roberts pulled a rifle from the rear seat of
his car and Aaron got out and was going in the direction of the
front of the car when the first shot was fired.” Mr. Cunningham
“At this time I threw up my hand to hold up the gun and yelled to
Mr. Roberts, “My God, don’t shoot in the direction of my house, my
little children are in there!” the witness went on.
“Mr. Roberts then got out of the car and was near the front when the
second shot was fired, but I had darted to the rear in excitement.
Following the second shot seeing both of the men on the ground I
then ran into the yard and called to my daughter to telephone Mr.
Payne to come down there. I went back to the car and called to my
cousin, Arthur Mobley, to come and help me put the two men back into
the car. I was so excited I hardly knew when the third shot was
fired, but Mr. Roberts was near the front of the car at the time, as
well as I could tell.
“When the shooting started I also yelled don’t shoot, Tom, and Mr.
Roberts said if I would stop Tom he would get away from there. We
put the men in the car and cranked it and Mr. Roberts went away
driving. I thought the young man had been hurt the worst, as he had
to be lifted entirely into the car. I asked Mr. Roberts if he could
make it, and he said he believed he could. The fourth shot was
fired as the car was leaving,” he said.
The witness in describing his relative position with the moving car
as the fourth shot was fired said the machine was proceeding almost
directly from him.
The court room is again crowded almost to capacity with eager
spectators who are evincing much interest in the proceedings, among
whom are relatives and friends of both the deceased and the
Corsicana Daily Sun - Wednesday, June 21, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
TOM STEWART HELD WITHOUT BAIL ON CHARGE OF MURDER
LONG PRELIMINARY HEARING RESULTS IN VICTORY FOR THE PROSECUTION
EYE WITNESSES TELL STORY OF FATAL SHOOTING OF SATURDAY NIGHT
Following an examining hearing of a day and half, Tom E. Stewart,
farmer, was ramanded to jail without bail in Justice of the Peace J.
J. Sullivan’s court late Wednesday afternoon. Stewart who had been
in jail since Saturday night, was again locked up pending action of
the grand jury on his case.
During the long proceedings the accused man sat in the courtroom
with his attorneys in rather a meditative mood, but at times
evincing considerable interest in the testimony as given by various
witnesses concerning the Pursley tragedy of last Saturday night when
Ben T. Roberts was fatally shot and the body of his son, Aaron was
sprinkled with bird shot.
Some twenty-five or thirty witnesses testified in the case. The
county courtroom was crowded to capacity throughout the hearing. At
the close of the testimony Wednesday afternoon the attorneys argued
the question of bail. Attorneys for the State, County Attorney W.
A. Tarver and John S. Callicutt, and Fred Upchurch as special
prosecutors, insisted that the defendant was not entitled to bail
upon the triple theory that the killing of Roberts by Stewart was
perpetuated upon express malice, that Stewart was the aggressor and
that his mind at the time he fired the fatal shots was capable of
Mays Plead for Client.
The defendant’s attorney, Richard Mays, pleaded that his client was
entitled to bail, relying upon the theory that inasmuch as there had
for fifteen years existed an aggravated personal enmity between the
principals of the tragedy in the light of which where figured
serious and violent threats had been made by deceased against
defendant coupled with the immediate circumstances, real of apparent
to the defendant, the latter was justified in exercising the right
Exception to the court’s ruling was taken by Mr. Mays.
The firm of Gibson & Lovett has been employed as additional defense
counsel it was made known Thursday morning.
Habeas Corpus Next.
If the present grand jury returns an indictment against Stewart the
procedure for bail will be through a writ of habeas corpus in the
In all the long testimony introduced by both sides of the case in
the preliminary hearing but little was centered about the actual
The State in presenting its case offered the testimony of Susie
Cunningham, 16-year old daughter of R. L. Cunningham, at whose house
the shooting occurred, W. T. Smith, jailor, Dr. T. P. McClendon,
Ross Roberts, 11-years old son of Ben T. Roberts, W. H. Brewster and
E. C. Carver.
Miss Cunningham testified she was in the kitchen washing the supper
dishes when she heard two shots ring out at the front of the house.
She said she then retreated into the back yard with the rest of the
children. Her father then called to her to telephone Mrs. Payne of
the shooting. In a very little while she testified to hearing two
more shots fired. On cross examination she said she heard her
father cry out, “My God, don’t shoot into my house, my little
children are in there.”
Surrendered to Smith.
W. T. Smith, jailor, testified as to Stewart’s coming to the jail in
company with Grover Chambers and Arthur Mobley Saturday night
following the shooting when Stewart gave up. He said there was a
double barreled 12-gauge shotgun with four shells in the car.
Dr. T. P. McClendon, who was called to administer to the men
described the location of the bullet wounds in their bodies. He
testified that the body of Aaron Roberts was sprinkled with bird
shot along the left side and in parts of his neck and scalp. He
said there were eight bullet wounds in the body of the elder
Roberts. Entry of the bullets were along the left side thigh, hip
bone and that one made lodgment in the spine, severing the spinal
cord. This wound he said, is what caused the death of Roberts. He
also testified there were two bullet wounds in the right wrist and
that the middle finger of the right hand had been shot off.
Ross Roberts, 11-years old son of Ben T. Roberts, who was in the car
with his father and brother at the time of the shooting began, said
his brother was shot while in the act of cranking the car. The
first shot knocked his brother over on the ground, he said. The
second shot took effect in his father’s body while he was in the act
of cranking the car. He declared he fled from the scene of the
shooting shortly following the second shot, and that his father and
brother were both listless upon the ground.
W. H. Brewster, brother-in-law to both Stewart and Roberts testified
as to certain threats alleged to have been made by Stewart against
the life of Roberts. E. C. Carver, also testified to having heard
Stewart make serious threats against the life of Roberts.
The defense offered the testimony of several witnesses to prove the
general reputation of Stewart for being a peaceful and law abiding
man in the community in which he lived, each testifying that such
reputation was good.
The defense witnesses were in addition to Deputy Sheriff Warnell, S.
L. Mann, L. S. Wright, W. S. Culverhouse, Alfred Smith, John McLean,
Dr. Stephens, of Pursley, W. A. Murray, Miss Ebbie Crawfore, Mrs.
Anna Willingham, John Tucker, E. W. O’Daniel, Will O’Daniel, R. L.
Cunningham, Arthur Mobley, Tom Hardin, Jim Dascey, J. R. Castello
and Grover Chambers.
Deputy Sheriff Warnell testified to having gone to the home of
Stewart to serve a warrant on him for an alleged aggravated assault
committed on his wife. While there he said he saw Ben Roberts on
the front porch with an automatic pistol drawn on Stewart. He
declared he prevented trouble by getting Roberts away from the
house. He said charges were afterwards filed against Roberts for
carrying a pistol.
Several witnesses testified as to various threats made by Roberts
against Stewart’s life.
Was Shot at Car.
The biggest contention over the testimony was centered about the
immediate circumstances of the shooting, R. L. Cunningham, who was
talking to Roberts in the car in front of his house, described the
shooting during Wednesday morning. He was not certain as to the
whereabouts of the deceased when the third shot was fired, but
believed he was near the front of the car. Arthur Mobley, cousin of
Cunningham, who came to the car a few minutes before the firing
began and picked up the baby and returned to the porch with it,
testified the third shot was fired after Roberts had been placed in
the car by himself and Mr. Cunningham. They both said the fourth
shot was fired as the car was moving away.
J. R. Castelow told of going out to the car when it had reached a
point nearest his house and accompanied the men home. He described
the position of the men in the car, and the elder Roberts, he said
told him, “he was shot all to pieces, but that my boy is dying;
save him, it doesn’t matter about me,” and asked me to take them
home “I did.” I brought the young man here to the hospital that
night, Castellow said.”
Corsicana Daily Sun - Thursday, June 22, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
STEWART RELEASED ON BOND ON CHARGE OF KILLING ROBERTS
BONDS COVERING BOTH MURDER AND ASSAULT CHARGES ARE QUICKLY MADE
Tom E. Stewart, charged by grand jury indictment with murder in
connection with the fatal shooting of Ben T. Roberts and with
assault with intent to kill, in connection with the shooting of
Aaron Roberts, all residents of Pursley community, was released on
bond in the amount of $7,500 in the first case and $1,000 in the
second, following in habeas corpus proceeding held before Judge
Hawkins Scarborough Saturday afternoon
Friends of Mr. Stewart prepared the bonds which were approved by the
sheriff and filed with the district clerk Monday morning.
Forty-seven names are signed to the bond as sureties. They are: W.
B. Payne, B. F. Hatton, W. R. Leitch, T. L. Swink, L. R. McAfee, M.
L. Hanks, Zeb Morris, W. F. Penn, C. M. Ellis, Chas. Bolden, O. E.
Dill, E. L. Dupuy, J. L. Ballentine, T. N. Kelly, James D. Lee,
James O. Pementer, T. M. Kay, L. W. Kideo, R. F. Johnston, W. J.
Crossland, E. B. Ellis, Grover Hall, W. A. Bates, O. O. Wells, J. F.
Tucker, Geo. Tucker, J. F. Lane, H. C. Graham, H. Pursley, W. S.
Culverhouse, O. T. Nutt, R. W. Anderson, G. B. Moore, T. M.
Copeland, J. F. McGee, Frank Cooper, A. L. Smith, J. C. Turner, J.
W. Webb, L. A. Bennett, J. B. Robinson, W. B. Coker, W. Y. Bankhead,
T. P. McLendon, A. D. Sanders, G. C. Workman and D. Molloy.
By agreement of attorneys the question of bail was submitted before
Judge Scarborough on the written testimony given at the preliminary
hearing last week by Susie Cunningham, R. L. Cunningham, Arthur
Mobley and Ross Roberts, the four eye-witnesses to the shooting.
Stewart will be at liberty until his case comes up for trial in the
Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, June 26, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
MURDER TRIAL UP IN DISTRICT COURT MONDAY MORNING
Tom E. Stewart charged by indictment with murder and assault with
intent to murder, will be brought to trial in district court Monday
Stewart shot and killed Ben C. Roberts, his brother0in-law, near
Pursley last spring and shot Aaron Roberts, who recovered from the
special venire of 75 talesmen have been summoned for jury service on
this case, in addition to the 36 men on the regular panel for the
week. Subpoaenas have been issued for more than 100 witnesses, some
of them living out of the county.
Following the tragedy Stewart was refused bail by Justice of the
Peace J. J. Sullivan following a preliminary hearing. The April
grand jury was in session at the time of the killing, and
indictments were returned against Stewart the day he was refused
Stewart was later released on bond following a habeas corpus
proceeding before Judge Scarborough. He has been at liberty ever
since living on his farm in the Pursley community.
The killing created a great deal of excitement, as the principals in
the tragedy are well known, being long-time residents in the
Stewart is represented by Richard Mays. John S. Callicutt has been
retained as special prosecutor by relatives of Roberts.
Trial of the case will probably be watched with wide-spread
Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, October 28, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
COURT HOUSE NEWS.
The Tom Stewart murder case was continued until next Monday morning
at 10 o’clock.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Oct. 30, 1922
STEWART TRIAL IS CONTINUED TO NEXT MONDAY MORNING
ATTORNEYS IN CASE MUST ATTEND GROSEBECK INJUNCTION TRIAL WEDNESDAY.
Trial of the Tom E. Stewart case was continued until next Monday
morning following a motion by defendants’ attorneys in district
court this morning.
Stewart, who has been at liberty on bond since his indictment by the
grand jury charging him with murder in connection with the fatal
shooting of Ben C. Roberts and the shooting of Aaron Roberts on the
evening of June 17, appeared in court this morning.
special venire of 75 men had been summoned for jury service in the
case, in addition to the regular panel of 36. A large number of
witness for the State and for the defense were in attendance when
court convened at 10 o’clock.
Stewart is represented by Richard Mays and the firm of Gibson &
Lovett. John S. Callicutt is retained as special prosecutor by the
relatives of Ben. C. Roberts. County Attorney W. A. Tarver
announced ready for trial.
Defendant’s attorney immediately presented a motion to quash the
venire on the grounds they had not been given the two days notice
that such venire would be drawn, and raised some points with
reference to the sheriff’s return of the venire summons.
The State was given permission to amend the return. Following
arguments bearing on the notice of the venire, attorneys agreed on
the court’s own motion that this would be waived if the case should
Attorney Gibson also pointed out to the court that Mr. Callicutt and
Mr. Mays are connected with the Mayfield conjunction suit, which is
set for hearing at Grosebeck Wednesday morning, and an opportunity
was desired to have re-setting of the case in order that attorneys
could attend the trial of that case and be back in time to proceed
with the trial here.
He stated further that the defendant was not physically able to go
to trial at this time. Mr. Stewart has recently been suffering with
Court Room Crowded.
The court room was crowded almost to capacity when the case was
called. Stewart, in neat attire, with his little 10-year-old boy
sat with his attorneys as the names of the jurors and veniremen were
called. He was apparently unconcerned. Many were present from the
Pursley community. Among them were Mrs. Roberts, and Aaron Roberts,
widow and son of the deceased. Stewart is to face trial also for
assault with intent to murder of Aaron Roberts. Other relatives of
both Stewart and Roberts were present. More than 100 witnesses are
expected to testify in the case.
Due to the prominence of the principals in the tragedy the case is
being watched with considerable interest.
The Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, October 30, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
MOTION FOR REHEARING CORSICANA CASE OVERRULED TODAY
WITNESSES AND SPECTATORS TO BE SEARCHED FOR WEAPONS WHEN ENTERING
All witnesses and spectators attending the Tom E. Stewart murder
trial will be searched for concealed weapons before being allowed
entrance to the courtroom, according to instructions given the
sheriff’s department by Judge Hawkins Scarborough Monday morning
when the case was called in district court.
Judge Scarborough asked the jurors and special veniremen to retire
from the courtroom in order that the warning might be sounded. The
judge declared from the bench that reported serious threats had been
made by certain parties interested in the trial of the case, and as
a matter of expediency in the interest of public peace and quietude,
he directed that a deputy sheriff take charge of each door and make
search of all persons entering.
The judge called special attention to the fact that the mere toting
of a pistol was a violation of the law, which became aggravated by
carrying such a weapon into a courtroom. He pointed out that
spectators had a right to attend the trial, but put emphasis in the
words “leave your pistols at home.”
The district courtroom was crowded almost to capacity all during
Monday. Thirty-six men on the regular jury panel for the week, in
addition to a special venire of 75 were present when the roll was
called. Fines of $50 were assessed against those not answering.
The court would grant no business excuse for not serving. At least
two hundred witnesses will testify in the case. Attorneys predict
trial of the case will consume an entire week.
Stewart, who is charged with indictment with murder in connection
with the fatal shooting of Ben C. Roberts, and with assault with
intent to murder, in connection with the shooting of Aaron Roberts,
sat in the courtroom with his attorneys all morning. With him sat
his little boy. His wife was in the courtroom with the numerous
spectators and witnesses. Their two daughters sat with her.
Mrs. Stewart is a sister of the deceased Ben C. Roberts.
The tragedy occurred in the Pursley community on the evening of June
Mrs. Roberts, widow of the deceased and Aaron Roberts one of the
chief witnesses for the state, were also seated among the other
At high noon court adjourned until 2 o’clock.
Attorneys for the defense made a motion to postpone the case on
account of the absence of several important witnesses but the motion
was overruled by the court and attachments issued for the
witnesses. At press hour the examination of the veniremen was in
The witnesses in the case were dismissed until 10 o’clock Tuesday
morning. This, the judge stated, was in order that they might vote
before coming to court.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, November 6, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
KLAN QUESTION INDUCTED INTO MURDER CASE NOW ON TRIAL IN DISTRICT
The Ku Klux Klan question was inducted into the Tom E. Stewart
murder case in district court Tuesday morning, when Richard Mays,
leading counsel for defendant propounded questions to various
talesmen touching on juror qualifications.
The question came when Mr. Mays was interrogating W. D. Ragsdale of
Six jurors qualified during the afternoon session Monday. They were
put under the rule, and occupied the jury quarters at the court
house last night under guard of a deputy sheriff. They are Bob
Campbell, Currie; B. Ray, Emhouse; W. L. Blackmon, Phillip’s
Chapel; W. H. McReynolds, Rodney; R. L. Swink, Richland, and O. J.
When court adjourned for noon Tuesday, three additional jurors had
been obtained, with the exhausting of the special venire summoned
for duty in the case.
The other jurors are besides Mr. Ragsdale, T. J. Adams, Currie and
W. S. McCullock, Navarro Mills.
State’s attorneys made no objection to asking the talesmen
concerning their Ku Klux Klan affiliation.
Judge Scarborough, in order to expediate the progress fo the trial
had each man to occupy the witness chair with the other excluded
from the courtroom and propounded the legal qualifying questions.
The questions put by the court ran about as follows:
“Have you any conscientious scruples against inflicting the death
penalty in any case?”
Several disqualified themselves when this question was put.
“Have you any bias or prejudice in favor of or against the suspended
“Have you formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the
State’s attorney entered no objection to the questions bearing on
klan affiliation asked by Mr. Mays and they were permitted to
answer. Each answered in the negative.
In connection with this line of questioning, Mr. Mays would propound
“Are you acquainted with W. H. Brewster, landowner and oil property
dealer of Corsicana, formerly of Barry?”
“Are you acquainted with L. Q. White of Retreat?”
“Are you acquainted with Fred White, county tax collector?”
When any of these questions were answered affirmatively he would
inquire further into the extent of that acquaintance, ending with
the following question:
“Are you a member of or affiliated in any way with an organization
known as the Ku Klux Klan?”
Noon-day adjournment was taken until 1:30 this afternoon. Up to
that time several challenges for cause had been exercised by
attorneys on both sides.
Each side is allowed 15 peremptory challenges. The state had
exercised 7, and the defense 11 when lunch time arrived.
Up to press hour two more jurors had been obtained. these were
selected from the regular week’s panel. They are J. T. English of
Frost and W. T. Stone of Rodney. The twelfth juror will be gotten
and the taking of testimony will probably be started before
adjournment for the day.
The courtroom was crowded all during the day, despite the fact it
was election day. In excusing the witnesses in the case yesterday
morning until 10 o’clock this morning Judge Scarborough stated he
was delaying court opening for one hour in order they might have an
opportunity of voting before leaving home for court.
Deputy sheriffs stand guard at each door seeing that no one enters
the courtroom with concealed weapons.
Attorneys in the care are County Attorney, W. A. Trever, J. S.
Callicutt and Fred Upchurch as special prosecutors for the State.
Defendant’s attorneys are Richard Mays, El J. Gibson, T. B. Lovett
and Wayne R. Howell.
Due to the large number of witnesses, trial of the case will consume
the entire week.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Tuesday, November 7, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
TAKING OF TESTIMONY IN STEWART CASE IS CONTINUED WITH NUMBER OF
Taking of testimony in the trial of the Stewart case continued
throughout the day yesterday, the State temporarily resting its case
about 4 o’clock. Court adjourned at 5 o’clock till 9 Thursday
morning. No night session was held.
Following the testimony of Ross and Aaron Roberts during the
morning, J. L. Castellow testified as to bringing the two wounded
men to the hospital in Corsicana where Ben Roberts died the
following Monday morning.
Dr. McLendon, who attended the men, testified as to the location and
nature of the wounds. According to his testimony eight buckshot
were found in Mr. Roberts’ body, and Aaron Roberts’ body was
sprinkled with birdshot from the waist line up and in the scalp.
Dr. McLendon operated on Mr. Roberts and found one incision in small
intestine and a post mortem examination revealed that the spinal
cord was about two-thirds severed. The latter wound was believed to
be the fatal shot.
Eva Stewart, 13 years old, daughter of defendant, testifying also
for the State, told of a separation of her father and mother, about
May 1, approximately six weeks before the tragedy. She told of
having heard her father declare he “was going to get his gun and
way-lay Ben Roberts.”
On cross examination she said she had never heard her father say why
he was going to kill Roberts.
E. C. Carver testified that he met Tom Stewart at the Blue Corner
Drug Store in Corsicana and Stewart showed him some shells of
buckshot, remarking that “these would not miss old man Ben.” The
witness said he rode out home with defendant in the car on that
occasion and that he carried a double-barrel shotgun.
W. H. Brewster of Corsicana, testified he had conversation with
Stewart in which he said to him, “I ought to have short Ben’s
G—d---- brains out. This conversation was said to have occurred
about May 15, this year.
Defense Presents Testimony.
The defense endeavoring to show that deceased was a dangerous man
and had at different times quarreled with defendant and his conduct
toward him had caused him to be in fear of his life, put a number of
witnesses on the stand during Thursday.
John Turner, of Dawson, was the first witness for defendant. He
testified that he witnessed a difficulty which took place between
Stewart and Roberts about 15 years ago. Stewart at that time lived
on Evon Roberts place. He said Roberts came to the barn and raised
a difficulty with Stewart, drawing a gun on him. He said Stewart
ran to the house. He put Roberts in his buggy and started him away
from the place.
Will Hammock then testified as to certain alleged threats claimed by
defendant’s attorneys that Roberts made against Stewart’s life.
L. J. Webb testified that about two weeks prior to Roberts’ death,
he heard him assert he would kill Tom Stewart, “the g-d----s—of a--
b, and would not be but a few days about it.” The witness said he
communicated these threats to defendant shortly afterwards. On
cross-examination by County Attorney W. A. Tarver, he said Roberts
remarks about Stewart were made concerning money matters in
connection with the sale of livestock by Stewart just after he and
his wife were divorced. He was questioned concerning reported
family troubles between the parties. He disclaimed knowledge of
In rebuttal to testimony of defense witnesses tending to show that
unfriendly relations existed between deceased and defendant, State’s
attorneys closely cross-examined, each apparently endeavoring to
show that Roberts’ enmity towards Stewart was the result of
mistreatment by defendant of his wife, deceased’s sister.
Further defense testimony was directed to an incident in which
Roberts is said to have fired on Stewart in the big road near
Pursley, when the two men came in contact. This is alleged to have
occurred along in the fall of last year. Stewart on horseback is
said to have passed Roberts’ car when fired on by Roberts as he
galloped away a few hours later Stewart came to the cotton patch
where Newburn Crawford and his brother and two sisters were picking
Miss Eva Crawford coroborrated the testimony of Newburn Crawford
regarding the shooting incident. Roberts was said to have fired
with a pistol at Stewart as the latter galloped away coming down
into the field. On cross-examination Miss Crawford said Stewart
upon reaching the field asked if they saw the shooting.
The testimony of Herman Wylie concluded the morning session.
Noon-day adjournment was taken till 2 o’clock.
The defendant will take the witness stand to testify in his own
behalf before the case is finally rested. Richard Mays, leading
counsel for Stewart announced at noon today. The defense will also
offer the testimony of at least four eye witnesses to the shooting,
Mr. Mays said.
The shooting took place on the evening of June 17 at the entrance to
the premises of Bob Cunningham’s residence, situated on the Pursley
road about 100 paces on the opposite side of the road from Stewart’s
That Tom Stewart was justified in killing Ben C. Roberts because of
an aggravated enmity existing between the two men for several
years; that the deceased was a man of violent temper, invariable
went armed, had made threats against the life of defendant to divers
persons, had attempted to carry those threats into execution on at
least one occasion, and had caused his sister (Stewart’s wife) to
separate from her husband, is the defense theory in the case.
Judge Scarborough announced today that a night session of court will
be held tonight. The judge stated he would exercise every effort at
his command to dispose of the case this week. Attorneys are eager to
get through with the testimony as early as possible.
The courtroom remains crowded almost to capacity. Many witnesses as
well as many relatives of Stewart and Roberts are in attendance
constantly during the proceedings.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Thursday, November 9, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
WITNESS TELLS OF SHOOTING OF ROBERTS AT CUNNINGHAM PLACE—EVENTS ARE
Testimony for defendant in the Tom Stewart case in district court at
Thursday night’s session centered about an alleged incident in which
Ben Roberts attempted to take the life of defendant, on February 8,
Testimony during the day largely dealt with alleged threats that
Roberts was said to have made against defendant’s life. Several
witnesses were heard on this point, as well as various other
character witnesses testifying to the general reputation of
defendant for peace and quietude. Other evidence was directed to
the general reputation of deceased for peace and quietude, and his
ability to carry out threats in the event he had made any.
Mrs. Jim W. Higgins, Mrs. Annie Dillingham and Mrs. Nannie
Eggleston, sisters of defendant, Wiley McElroy and J. R. Stewart,
brother of defendant, were each put on the witness stand and
questioned concerning the circumstance in which Roberts was said to
have come to Tom Stewart’s house, drew a pistol in an attempt to
Mrs. Higgins testified of having a short conversation with Roberts
in the Woolworth store in Corsicana shortly before in which he state
(Roberts) “thought less of Tom than any man he ever saw in the
world, and if his wife did not quit coming to him with a mess he was
going to kill him, and that she would wind up her life in some
In response to cross-examination question by State”s attorneys the
witness said she never saw Stewart strike his wife, or in any way
Mrs. Dillingham testified being at her brother’s house on Februrary
9, 1921, at the time Ben Roberts came there. According to her
testimony Roberts alighted from his car at the front and approached
the house, stepped upon the porch and drew his pistol. He was
prevented from entering the house by her mother latching the
screen. She said he asked where Tom was, and that he had come there
to kill him.
Described Incident in Detail.
The witness described the incident in detail saying that when the
automatic pistol was thrown into her mother’s face when she latched
the screen she fainted. She said Tom Stewart was in the house and
went for his gun, but that it was hidden in a closet in the back
room. The Stewart family at that time lived where Cunningham now
lives. She told of how the next morning that Ben Roberts and Aaron
Roberts passed their house in the car, that Aaron pulled up on the
top windshield while his father pointed his pistol at the house as
Warnell and McElroy were at Stewart’s place on this occasion to
serve a warrant on him for an alleged aggravated assault on Mrs.
Stewart and an appearance bond for him to make. The complaint
making the charges against Stewart had been sworn out by Ben
Roberts, the testimony showed. The officers first came to the house
served the warrant and left the blank bond form to be made out and
signed by sureties. They went then to Roberts’ house and notified
him the case was set for hearing the next morning. The officers
then returned for the bond about thirty minutes later, and Ben
Roberts accompanied them, or arrived there about the same time, it
Mrs. Eggleston corroborated the testimony of Mrs. Dillingham, who
was present at that time. She said as soon as the officers had come
and served the warrant on her brother, he came to her mother’s house
to get her to sign it as a surety, and she, her sister, and mother
accompanied him home and were there when the officers returned from
Roberts’ place. She said the officers were in the yard and that Ben
Roberts drew his pistol and attempted to enter the house saying, “he
had come to kill Tom.” This witness reiterated the incident of the
next morning with reference to Roberts’ passing her mother’s place
with a pistol pointed at the house.
Further testimony given by Bill Murray and Looney Webb was to the
effect they accompanied Tom Stewart to Corsicana the next day when
he appeared to make answer to the charge made against him by
Roberts. The complaint against him was dismissed by the county
Wiley McElroy, an officer, who accompanied Warnell to the Stewart
home to serve the papers said they went to the house and left the
bond there and then went to Roberts’ house to notify him the case
was set for the next morning and returned shortly to Tom Stewart’s
place. He said they stopped the car about 15 steps from the front
porch. He remained in the car and Warnell went into the yard. He
said he then saw Roberts on the porch.
“I stayed in the car and was fixing the storm curtain when Ben was
on the porch. He came on back towards the car and I got out and met
him at the gate.”
J. R. Stewart was questioned concerning a conversation he is said to
had with W. H. Brewster, who testified for the State to the effect
that Stewart had made serious threats against Roberts, Brewster is a
brother-in-law to both.
Stewart testified he had known Brewster for 22 years. He declared
he had a conversation with Brewster along last spring before
defendant and his wife separated, and several weeks before the
killing. He declared Brewster made the statement to him that “if
Ben Roberts did not quit fooling around Tom, Tom would have to kill
Friday Morning Session.
Defense attorneys resumed their testimony Friday morning by putting
Deputy Sheriff Warnell on the witness stand. He was questioned in
detail concerning the gun play of Ben Roberts at Stewart’s house.
The officer related his going to Stewart’s house to serve warrant
and have him fix up his bond in the aggravated assault case filed by
Roberts. Judge L. B. Cobb, assistant attorney, he said, instructed
him to summon the witnesses while out there in order to save an
Leaving the bond with Stewart, he and McElroy went to Ben Roberts’
Place. Warnell thinking Mrs. Stewart was at Roberts house made
inquiry about her. He said: “Ben Roberts told us she was at her
home and I said I had just come from there and I did not see her.
Ben said he would go back up to Tom’s house with us, if we had no
objection, and see where she was, if she was not there. We told him
we had no objection to his going. We drove back to Tom’s house. I
wanted to get the bond. I went into the yard, two or three ladies
came out of the house and met Ben Roberts behind me asking him, “Ben
Roberts, what are you coming here for? You are only here for
trouble’ I went on into the hall and Tom Stewart came out of the
room where I had left him about 30 or 40 minutes before into the
hall. Ben came on to the porch and asked ‘where is Lyda; that he
had come after her;’ that he was tired of Tom whipping her.’ The
ladies had come back through the front door and we were all in the
hall. They were all excited.
“Tom said, ‘ I have not whipped her Ben since we talked or some
certain conversation. “Ben said ‘yes you have.’ “Tom said ‘your are
a d---- liar’ and reached for his shotgun behind the door. Ben drew
his pistol. The women grabbed Tom and I turned to Ben and got him
away. We got back to the car where McElroy was. Ben said he ought
to kill him and would if it was not for me.”
Warnell filed a pistol toting charge against Roberts following this
incident. He said he did not know what disposition had been made of
Cunningham on Stand.
The morning session concluded with the testimony of Bob Cunningham,
the first witness of the defense to the tragedy. It was at his
premises that the Roberts were shot. Mr. Cunningham lives on the
Stewart homestead. With him lives Arthur Mobley, his cousin,
jointly working the crop. Mrs. Cunning died in the spring of this
year leaving four children, the oldest, Susie, is 16 years old.
Since the separation of Stewart and his wife, Stewart and his 11
years old son had been taking meals at the Cunningham home.
Cunningham and Stewart had been swapping work during the crop time,
and the three men had just finished supper that evening and were on
the porch talking crops when Ben Roberts, Aaron Roberts and Ross
Roberts drove by the house in a Ford car without head lights burning
and turned around stopping in front of the house on the pike road,
according to Cunningham’s testimony.
Answering further questions the witness said when the car stopped in
front of the house, a voice called. He answered and was asked to
come out. He went out and greeted the occupants of the car shaking
hands with Ben Roberts.
He then asked me how I was getting along, and I told him I was
pretty much in the weeds,” Cunningham said referring to the crop
Cunningham then detailed the conversation which ensued between them
which concerned twelve acres of land he had rented from Mr. Roberts
up to that time only a part of it he had been able to get planted.
According to further statements some little argument about the
working of the land took place between them. He said Roberts kept
insisting that the land be planted, and the witness insisting that
he desired to work out what cotton he had already up to a stand
before planting any more.
“Mr. Roberts then asked me if he did not see my teams plowing in Tom
Stewart’s field, and I told him I had been plowing for Tom paying
him back for what he plowed for me, and that I would plant the rest
of his land as soon as I could get to it.” Cunningham said.
Picked Up Little Girl.
Arthur Mobley came out to the car and picked up Cunningham’s little
7-year-old daughter, which had followed her father from the house,
and returned to the porch with her. A few minutes later, he said
heard Stewart call him from the porch, saying “Bob.” I turned my
head towards the house when I heard Tom call me, and Mr. Roberts was
raising his gun from the automobile seat, and in just two or three
seconds the other gun cracked down.”
Mr. Cunningham said there were a total of four shots fired. The
first one took effect in Aaron Roberts’ body, as he was leaving the
steering wheel of the car getting out or was at the front attempting
to crank it. The witness yelled at Ben Roberts saying, “My God, do
not shoot towards that house—my little children are in there.”
At the firing of the second shot, which took effect in the body of
the elder Roberts, Aaron Roberts had walked around towards the rear
of the car.
According to the witness Roberts said to ‘make Tom stop shooting and
I will get away from here.” “I yelled to Tom not to shoot. After
the second shot Mr. Roberts was down on the ground. The third shot
fired after Mobley and I put the two men into the car and Mobley
cranked the car and Mr. Roberts drive it off.”
The witness was closely cross-examined by J. S. Callicutt for the
State with reference to the position of the men when each shot was
fired. Following the firing of the first two shots, the witness
called to Arthur Mobley to come out to the car to help him place the
men in. This was practically simultaneous with his running into the
yard to the porch and calling for his daughter to telephone Mr.
Payne to com down there for Tom Stewart had killed both of the
Roberts.” He was not sure if this happened between the firing of
the second and third shoots. the car had started away at the firing
of the last shot, he said.
Questioned about Stewart’s shotgun, the witness said he had borrowed
the gun and four shells on Thursday, two days before the killing,
for the purpose of shooting crows which had been making ravages on
his watermelons. He had not fired any of the shells at the crows,
however and brought it in with the shells from the field and stood
it down on the front porch at the side of the door entering the
house. It had two shells in it, and he laid the other two shells on
the floor just inside the door. He stated he intended to take the
gun home immediately after supper.
The witness testified going into the house, eating his supper, and
when he came out on the porch Tom Stewart was there. He stated he
spoke to Stewart and pointed to the gun saying “There is your gun,
In placing the wounded men back into the car, Cunningham stated
Mobley picked Roberts gun from the ground and laid it in the seat.
He did not see Stewart of Mobley again until some little time
following the shooting when he saw them at Grover Chambers’ house.
Chambers and Mobley came with Stewart to town that night where he
surrendered to officers.
Noon day adjournment was taken until 2 o’clock.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Friday, November 10, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
TOM E. STEWART, DEFENDANT IN SENSATIONAL MURDER TRIAL ON STAND-TELLS
Tom E. Stewart, defendant in the sensational murder trial, took the
witness stand and testified in his own behalf in district court last
In response to questions put to him by Richard Mays, leading counsel
for the defense. Stewart stated he had lived in Navarro county for
the past 22 years, coming to Texas from South Carolina. All of this
time he has lived in the Pursley community. He married deceased’s
sister 17 years ago, to which union were born three children. He
gave their names and ages as follows: Audrey, Ida and Evan, aged
15, 13, and 11 years, respectively.
Stewart testified that about 15 years ago while living on the Evan
Roberts place a strained relation sprang up between himself and Ben
rovers, his brother-in-law. He told in detail that on this occasion
Roberts made a gun play at him, which was testified about early in
the trial by John Tucker. defendant said this difficulty came up
over deceased trespassing upon his premises and removing rails from
his hog pen, against which he protested with the result that Roberts
said to Tucker he was “going to fix the s—of—a—b--. He said when he
drew a pistol on him he ran to the house to get his gun, and when he
returned to the barn lot Roberts was driving off through the pasture
firing his pistol.
Some time later, according to defendant’s testimony, Roberts
endeavored to have him indicted for an alleged incident of
white-capping which he accused him of.
Barn Destroyed by Fire.
Defendant went on to relate incident when Roberts barn burned, and
that he accused him of setting fire to it. He told of having
“trouble with Roberts” when he came to his house in February, 1921,
and attempted to shoot him, but was prevented from doing so by the
officers. In giving his version of this episode, Stewart told about
the officers coming to his place and serving him with a warrant for
aggravated assault upon Mrs. Stewart, the complaint having been
filed by Ben Roberts.
When the officers returned to the house about 30 minutes later for
the bond, that Roberts came upon his porch and “said something to me
about abusing my wife,” and I told him, “whoever said that was a
“He went for his gun and I went for mine. When I found my gun and
two shells Ben had got out into the front yard.”
Told of other Trouble.
The witness said the next time he had trouble with Roberts was when
they met in the road Oct. 4, 1921, and Roberts fired his pistol at
him when he was unarmed. Another time he told of meeting Roberts in
the road was when he was riding on a load of cotton with Grove
Chambers near Ward Bridge. He said after Roberts had driven his car
about 75 yards passed he raised up in the seat and waved his hat
around his head at him.
Stewart declared that Looney Webb and Henry Jayroe each at different
times told him of threats that Roberts had made against his life.
He steadfastly denied making any threatening statements about
Roberts to C. E. Carver, who testified for the State.
with reference to the testimony C. E. Carver, who testified about
riding out with Stewart and Grover Chambers in an automobile from
the Blue Corner drug store, when he said defendant showed him some
buckshot shells and told him, “these won’t miss old man Ben” and
that he carried a shotgun, defense attorneys put three impeaching
witnesses on the stand.
Stewart also told Carver tried to trade him a 308 high powered
Savage rifle. This is the type of gun that Roberts owned and had in
the car with him the night of the killing.
Testimony shows Roberts got such a rifle from Carver.
Defendant denied steadfastly of ever mistreating or abusing his wife
at any time or in any manner. He said her health became impaired
about three years ago and that he employed various physicians to
treat her in an effort to restore her.
Tells of Shooting.
Getting down to the time and scene of the fatal shooting, the
witness told of being at the house of Bob Cunningham on the evening
of June 17 this year, when Roberts drove up in his Ford car. He
said they had been working crops together, and he with his little
boy, Evan, had been taking most of their meals at Cunningham’s
house. Sometime he would eat at Grover Chambers’ house just across
the field. He said he did not eat supper with Mr. Cunningham that
evening. He had been to Pursley and bought bread and canned goods
and he and Evan ate it at home before going to Cunningham’s house.
When they got there Mobley and Cunningham were in the kitchen at
supper. He announced his presence from the front and took a seat on
the porch and waited for his host to come out.
When they had finished the meal both came out and all sit on the
porch swinging their feet off smoking cigarettes. In a few minutes
Roberts car drove past the house and turned about and stopped in
front of the gate and someone called. He said he recognized it as
Roberts voice. The car was unlighted.
Mr. Cunningham went out and began talking with Roberts. He declared
he did not know if any one else was in the car with Roberts.
Closely questioned concerning the incident when he called “Bob” just
before the fires shot fired, the witness said he was calling Mr.
Cunningham for the purpose of asking his permission for his little
boy, Raymond to go home with his little boy to spend the night.
According to his story the two boys were discussing his going home
with him, and he was endeavoring to ask his father’s permission when
Continuing with his story he said as he uttered “Bob” in calling Mr.
Cunningham, without getting and answer he heard him cry out “My God,
don’t shoot into that house—my little children are in there.” He
then became excited and ran back onto the porch and grabbed his
shotgun, walked back into the yard, and saw a man jump out in front
of the car and turn around, thinking it was Ben Roberts he fired and
the bulk in the dark apparently disappeared. In the next instant
another bulk appeared in front of the car, still under the
impression that was only one man in the car and that was Ben
Roberts, he fired again. He said after firing three shots
Cunningham yelled at him to stop shooting and he did. This fourth
shot he claimed went off accidently, and was after he lowered his
gun and was not shooting at anybody.
Thought Life in Danger.
Defendant said he opened fire on Roberts when he heard Cunningham
exclaim not to shoot towards the house. Believing his own life was
then in danger he fired.
J. S. Callicutt for the state, for thirty minutes put the witness to
a severe cross-examination and when court adjourned at 11 o’clock he
had not finished. Adjournment was taken till 9 Saturday morning
when the State took up its examination.
During Friday afternoon Arthur Mobley, and eye-witness to the
tragedy testified. Evan Stewart also testified, as well as Raymond
and Susie Cunningham.
Considerable significance is centered about the occurrence of the
four shots. the State insists that the first two shots fired by
Stewart were in close proximity, and an interval of some length
intervened before the last two, with the reference that a man would
have to just about sufficient time to re-load his gun between the
pairs of shots.
Defense attorneys insist the first three shots were in close
proximity, and the defendant ceased to fire when called to stop.
Judge Scarborough expects to complete the testimony today, he
announced last night.
Cross-examination of Stewart was resumed at 9 o’clock Saturday
morning. His testimony was finished in a short while.
Defense then offered the testimony of several witnessed in support
of contention that Roberts had made serious threats against the life
of defendant, and these threats had been communicated. Additional
witnesses were also introduced in impeaching the testimony of C. E.
Court adjourned from 11 o’clock till 1:30 in observance of the
Armistice Day ceremonies.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, November 11, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
STEWART CASE IN HANDS OF JURY-ARGUMENTS WERE COMPLETED THIS MORNING
At press hour the jury in the Tom Stewart case had not returned a
The case of Tom Stewart, charged with the murder of Ben Roberts went
to the jury shortly after 12 o’clock Wednesday noon.
Arguments of counsel which began at 2:20 o’clock Tuesday afternoon,
were closed this morning.
In adjourning court for noon-day, Judge Scarborough suggested that
they go to dinner, and upon return to the jury rooms they would
begin deliberations for a verdict.
The court gave the necessary instructions to the jury, telling them
he would hear the verdict at any hour of the day or night they
wished to return it.
Judge Scarborough particularly cautioned the jurymen with reference
to secrecy of their deliberations, telling them not even the sheriff
or himself had a right to know anything about what transpired in the
jury room with reference to the case.
Arguments in the Stewart murder case continued in district court
Tuesday night with Fred Upchurch speaking in the behalf of the State
followed by Wayne R. Howell, associate defense counsel.
County attorney Tarver, in the opening argument for the prosecution,
and El J. Gibson for the defendant finished their oral arguments to
the jury in the afternoon.
Richard Mays made the final argument for the defense Wednesday
morning with J. S. Callicutt closing for the State.
Each attorney spoke for an hour, consuming the entire six hours
equally divided between both sides of the case.
In presenting the case with powerful eloquence the prosecution
relied on its testimony bearing about the immediate circumstances of
the shooting, and the causes of personal enmity between the
principals, which they urged Stewart was responsible.
The defensive arguments featured the alleged intermeddling of the
deceased in defendant’s family affairs, and for fifteen years had
hounded him by imposition and by making serious threats of bodily
injury, and that the fatal shot was fired on the defensive.
Making reference to the long years standing of bitter feeling.
State’s attorneys urged that Stewart had been guilty of cruel and
unwarranted inhuman treatment of his wife, and that it was to
protect here that Roberts intervened, and that the immediate
circumstances of the tragedy showed that deceased lost his life
while on a lawful mission in which Stewart had to concern. It was
argued also the fatal shooting was done on the offensive.
Each attorney reviewed the mass of evidence produced from the stand
for the last seven days in the long drawn out trial.
Court Room Packed.
The courtroom was packed during Wednesday morning while the
concluding arguments were made by Mr. Mays and Mr. Callicutt. Each
lawyer was given an extension of time in which to present both sides
of the sensational case.
Seated just inside the railing during the hours filled with the
dramatic analysis of the case were the widow of the deceased Ben
Roberts. At her left side say Josie Roberts, her daughter, 20 years
old and pretty, and on the other sat Ben Roberts’ sister, Mrs. W. H.
Brewster, Ross, Aaron and Arthur Roberts, sons of Ben Roberts. Near
them were seated Mrs. Stewart, Iva and Audrey, her and defendant’s
two daughters. Evan Roberts, brother of Ben Roberts sat near the
counsel table and at time whispered to attorneys of the prosecution.
On the other side of the court scene sat Stewart lounging carelessly
in his chair. By his side was Evan, his 11 years old son, and
nearby sat three of Stewart’s sisters, Mrs. J. W. Higgins, Mrs.
Nannie Eggleston and Mrs. Annie Dillingham. Other relatives as well
as a number of close friends to both families were present.
Mr. Mays, in presenting defendant’s version of the case, made a
masterful argument. He stressed the contention that for more than
15 years deceased had been the aggressor in the enmity that had
maintained between them. That Stewart had never been the aggressor
in any of the difficulties, with the exception of the time when
deceased attempted to attack him in his own home in the presence of
That deceased not only intermeddled in defendant’s domestic affairs,
but had gone so far as to interfere with his property rights, by
making of certain declarations with regards to the sale of some
cattle by Stewart. In referring to Roberts’ going to the home of
Cunningham on the fatal night, he challenged the reason of his going
there, when he could have telephoned, and that had the trip been
necessary, the taking of his two sons and a high powered rifle with
him was unwarranted, had his mission been a peaceable one. The
whole trouble, he declared, grew from the efforts of Stewart to be
the head of his own family, which he had the God and man given right
to do, and to dictate the policies of his household, and that
Roberts tread upon dangerous ground the minute he put his hand into
the affairs of another’s family.
Callicutt Closed For the State.
Mr. Callicutt, in closing for the State, very ably presented his
side of the case. He ridiculed the arguments of the lawyers of the
defense saying they had hedged about and steered clear of the actual
killing in an effort to lose the jury on collateral issues.
Referring to Roberts’ alleged interferences of defendant’s domestic
affairs, Mr. Callicutt very forcefully pleaded it was time for him
to do so, when he had been abusing, whipping and threatening his
sister. At length he went into the testimony given from the stand
criticizing the evidence of Mobley, Cunningham and of Stewart
himself. He took up the tell-tale evidence of the bullet holes in
the car door and steering wheel, and said that according to
Stewart’s own testimony he had fired three times on a man who was
offering no resistance. He contended that Tom Stewart sought
protection in the friendly darkness under the big shade trees as he
fired. That Roberts raised his gun after his son had been shot down
but it was tenderness in the heart of a brave man that caused him to
lower it when Cunningham at the car cried out; “My God don’t shoot
into that house—my little children are in there.”
“Roberts lowered his gun when Cunningham yelled that, although his
son had been mercilessly shot to the ground, and told Cunningham to
make Tom quit shooting and he would leave there.” Mr. Callicutt
said in pleading that Stewart was the aggressor.
Mr. Callicutt in urging against the suspended sentence pleaded that
the evidence and circumstances showed “malice aforethought” on the
part of defendant, and was the aggressor, and at the time he fired
the shots that besprinkled the left side of Aaron Roberts’ body, and
two discharges of buckshot that took effect in Ben Robert’ body
which caused his death, his mind was capable of cool reflection.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Wednesday, November 15, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
JURY RETURNS VERDICT OF NOT GUILTY IN STEWART CASE AFTER BEING OUT
After being out for twenty hours, the jury in the case of State of
Texas vs. Tom E. Stewart returned a verdict of not guilty in
district court at 10 o’clock Thursday morning. Stewart was charged
with murder in connection with the fatal shooting of his
brother-in-law, Ben T. Roberts.
The case has been on trial for the last ten days. More than one
hundred witnesses testified.
Judge Scarborough had convened court at 9:30 o’clock, and was
engaged in the hearing of a civil action when notified that a
verdict in the sensational case had been reached.
Seated in the jury box, which they had occupied for more than a
week, Judge Hawkins Scarborough asked:
“Gentlemen of the Jury, have you arrived at a verdict?
“Yes, sir,” the jurors answered in a chorus.”
Forman W. T. Stone handed the court copy of the verdict, which
read; “We the jury, find the defendant not guilty, as charged in
Judge Scarborough warned spectators against demonstration saying the
verdict was the opinion of the jurymen formed from the evidence
submitted before them in the trial of the case.
Stewart, and his little boy were seated near the counsel table and
received the verdict with calmness. Among Stewart’s relatives
present were Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Higgins, Mrs. Frank Reed of Dallas,
Mr. and Mrs. Grover B. Chambers, of Pursley. Mrs. Stewart, her two
daughters, Mrs. Ben Roberts, Aaron Roberts and other relatives of
the deceased appeared in the court room about five minutes after the
verdict was received, and the jury had been excused.
Judge Thanks Jury.
Judge Scarborough in discharging the jury expressed his appreciation
of their services in the case, saying it had been the hardest murder
case tried in Navarro county from the standpoint of hard work and
tedium for court and jury, because of the fact so many witnesses
were heard and so many collateral issues brought up, which
necessitated so much time.
As the jurymen filed out of the courtroom Stewart and his sisters
and his brothers-in-law, J. W. Higgins and Grover Chambers stood at
the door and shook hands with each as he passed.
In expressing his gratitude to each when shaking hands Stewart for
the first time since the fatal shooting showed signs of emotion.
His face brightened. In his eyes glistened tear drops of
“I was not at any time uneasy about the verdict of twelve honest
men,” he told them, “and I want to say that I am at peace with the
world and happy.”
Members of Jury.
The following composed the jury; Bob Campbell, Currie, farmer; D.
Ray, Emhouse, farmer; W. L. Blackmon, Phillips Chapel, stationary
engineer; W. H. McReynolds, Rodney, farmer; R. L. Swink, Richland,
farmer; O. J. Barryman, Frost, farmer; T. J. Adams, Currie,
farmer; W. S. McCullock, Navarro Mills, farmer; J. T. English,
Frost, farmer; W. T. Stone, Rodney, merchant; W. D. Ragsdale,
Barry, carpenter; W. B. Jackson, Kerens, blacksmith.
Stewart is also charged by indictment with assault with intent to
murder in connection with the shooting of Aaron Roberts, son of
deceased Ben T. Roberts.
This is a companion case of the one of which he has just been
acquitted. In his testimony given in the trial he stated Aaron
Roberts was shot by him through mistaken identity.
All parties to the tragedy were well known citizens of the Pursley
community. Much interest was shown in the case.
Shooting Occurred June 17.
The shooting occurred on the evening of June 17 at the premised of
R. L. Cunningham, the Stewart homestead.
Stewart came to Corsicana following the shooting and surrendered to
officers. He was lodged in jail for the night and gave bond the
next morning on a charge of assault with intent to murder in both
Ben T. Roberts succumbed to the wounds received, dying about 6
o’clock Monday morning.
Stewart was re-arrested and charged with murder. Stewart appeared
before Justice of the Peace J. J. Sullivan June 20, and following
several days hearing was remanded without bail.
The grand jury was in session at that time and the two indictments
were returned against him shortly afterwards. He was allowed bail
in the sum of $7,500 in one case and $2,200 in the other by Judge
Scarborough in a habeas corpus proceeding. Bail was granted upon
the transcribed testimony of witnesses given in the preliminary
trial. His bond was signed by about 50 citizens of Corsicana and
Pursley, as sureties.
During the ten days of the trial the court room has been crowded to
capacity by relatives and friends of defendant and deceased, as well
as many disinterested spectators.
Two days were required in which to get the jury. The regular petit
jury panel of 36 men, and a special venire of 75 men were exhausted
in obtaining the jury.
When the trial opened Nov. 6, Judge Scarborough issued an order that
the doors to the court room be guarded by a deputy sheriff to search
all persons for concealed weapons before permitting them to enter.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Thursday, November 16, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
COURT HOUSE NEWS
The divorce case of Mrs. Tom E. Stewart vs. Tom Stewart was set for
trial in the district court today. Attorneys and interested parties
to the suit are negotiating a settlement out of court.
Both Mr. Stewart and Mrs. Stewart, together with their attorneys and
relatives of the Stewarts and Roberts were at the court house
practically all day negotiating a settlement of the case. This case
figured to a considerable extent in the recent killing of Ben T.
Roberts by Tom E. Stewart, for which the latter was acquitted by a
jury recently following a sensational trial lasting ten days.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Friday, December 22, 1922
Submitted by Diane Richards
h/o Nancy Teresa Alice (Scogin) Roberts; s/o Evan Roberts &
Mary Lucinda (Ross) Roberts