MYSELF and two or three other cell boys, we had to go up to the death chamber after executions and tote out the dead. Also clean out the death chamber. We heaved the bodies onto a truck or wagon, whatever they were going to haul them off in. If the dead man's people claimed him, an undertaker came for him, but very seldom his people took him away.
This was the first time I ever got to see the chair itself. It was fun to sit in it and realize how fortunate I was to miss it. Another Scottsboro boy, Clarence Norris, he once went back and sat in the chair too. The chair had already claimed forty to fifty lives in all the years I had spent at Kilby--before Atmore, and now being back.
I remember moving out the body of an eighteen-year-old Negro boy, Peter Paul. I talked with him before he went to the chair. He wasn't very bright. He was off. But they killed him. He was terribly burned out. You could see the burns and scorchings all over his face. His mouth was wide open, his eyes open; a bad-looking sight. No hair was on him.
The barber comes up to the death row about five or ten hours before an electrocution. He shaves your head as clean as your hand. They have a sponged cap they put on your head before you sit in the chair. The cap is soaked in salt water. That is supposed to help conduct the electricity through you. The dining-room sergeant, he has charge of sponging the cap in salt water. That helps cook your brains. I never witnessed an execution, but from taking out so many bodies I knew just what went on. After each execution the doctor stuck a needle through the man's heart to make sure he was dead.
One morning after an electrocution one of the guards said, "Let's see if the sonofabitch is still in the box. He can be done escaped overnight." He pulled the box open and let us see the fellow in there.