Killing of Henry Mathews in Alabama in 1942


Case summary

Henry Matthews, 37, a chauffeur and butler for a private family, was killed in 1942 by officer C.W. Hopkins in Birmingham, Alabama. Matthews was on a day off from his job when he was accosted by Hopkins as he crossed a street in the downtown area. Accounts were to the effect that Hopkins pushed Matthews to his knees, then shot and killed him. There were several witnesses on the scene. An autopsy arranged by Matthews’ white employer established that the victim was shot several times in the back. A coroner returned a finding of justifiable homicide. Widespread protests, including a large mass meeting, led to the promise of grand jury review. However the grand jury declined to indict Hopkins.


Alleged perpetrators/other named individuals:
Perpetrator group type: police

Date of incident: 1942-04-08
Location: Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama
Location type: public space - urban
Allegation against victim: exhibiting drunkenness; assaulting a police officer

Coroner process
Coroner/inquest: yes
Finding of no legal responsibility: yes

Criminal process
Arrest: [ ]
Charge/indictment/information: no
Grand jury: yes
Trial: [ ]
Conviction: [ ]
Sentence: [ ]

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police reports
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