Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Hangin' Times in Fort Smith: A History of Executions in Judge Parker's Court

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Hangin' Times in Fort Smith: A History of Executions in Judge Parker's Court

Article excerpt

Hangin' Times in Fort Smith: A History of Executions in Judge Parker's Court. By Jerry Akins. (Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2012. Pp. xix, 268. Foreword by Jon Derek Wright, acknowledgments, illustrations, references, index. $22.50, paper.)

Isaac C. Parker, the federal judge who presided over the Western District of Arkansas between 1875 and 1896 and whose jurisdiction extended into Indian Territory, holds the distinction of being the most written about individual associated with law enforcement and capital punishment in what is now Oklahoma. The earliest work, S. W. Harmon's Hell on the Border (1898), appeared shortly after Parker's death, and remains an indispensable resource for anyone researching the "hanging judge" or capital punishment. Many writers have since attempted to cash in on Parker's notoriety by writing for the popular market, such as Homer Croy with He Hanged Them High (1952), and Gladston Emery with Court of the Damned (1959). Glenn Shirley published a number of works that described the law and lawlessness of early Oklahoma, including Law West of Fort Smith (1957), which concentrated on the Parker court. Numerous academics have done more serious studies. "Politician, Populist, Reformer: A Reexamination of 'Hanging Judge' Isaac C. Parker," an article by Mary Stolberg in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Spring 1988), found that Parker used his political and administrative skills not only to gain partial control over the nation's most unwieldy court district but also to win the support of the people of Fort Smith for his many populist reforms. In "Let No Guilty Man Escape" (2001), Roger H. Tuller provided a scholarly examination of Parker's life and career, and concluded that he died a tragic figure who had failed to keep abreast of legal developments during his tenure as a federal judge but who nevertheless enjoyed solid accomplishments as the honest, if not always fair, administrator of the busiest criminal court in the federal system. …

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