George Ray was an African American man living in Washington County, Kentucky in 1895. Nothing else is known about his personal life. According to the Courier-Journal, sometime prior to late April 1895 Ray was “…taken from his home and given a sound thrashing and given orders to leave the county. He paid no attention to this and began making threats against several citizens who, he claimed, had a hand in whipping him.” The Courier-Journal did not provide details explaining why Ray was whipped and ordered to leave. The newspaper also claimed without proof that Ray had had “illicit relations” with white women in the neighborhood. Two newspapers blamed Ray for his lynching, implying that he was at fault for his generally surly behavior and “cussedness.”
On Thursday, April 25, 1895, Ray was arrested for misdemeanors. While newspaper accounts do not clearly give the charges against him, these were likely only the doings outlined above. The Courier-Journal states that he was then “put under guard” (rather than in a jail) near Jensenton, Kentucky. That evening, Ray was taken by a mob of “unknown” men and hanged. The mob that lynched him was referred to as “White Caps,” a term synonymous with the Ku Klux Klan.
The Courier-Journal states that prior to his death, “Ray had never been convicted of any crime.” This was still true when he died. Ray had had a trial scheduled for the following day, Friday, April 26. In the following week, The Owensboro Messenger, meaning to defend the mob’s actions, stated, “…while it would have been better to allow the law to take its course, it is doubtful whether [Ray] would have gotten his just deserts…” The editorial incriminates the mob members rather than defends them, conveying the message that if Ray had been given the chance of a trial he probably would have been found not guilty. Thus, the Courier-Journal played a role in justifying the lynching of George Ray.
Four days following Ray’s death, The Semi-Weekly Interior Journal (a white newspaper in Stanford, Kentucky), commented, “Every one of the men engaged in the cowardly business is a murderer and the courts should use all their power to bring them to the same death they gave their victim.” No known actions were taken against the mob.