A newspaper account from the time in 1954 when Eddie Noel, pictured below, of Mississippi, murdered three white men after confronting one of them about an alleged affair with his wife. Noel is the uncle of B. Noel, a resident of the Maywood Garden House apartments. | Newspaper article taken from “The Real ‘Django Unchained’: The Time of Eddie Noel’/YouTube/WeAllBeTV2
Sunday, December 18, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
When I walked into the senior living facility Garden House of Maywood, 515 S. 2nd Ave., to interview some senior citizens about the free meal they enjoyed on Dec. 15, courtesy of Maywood’s firefighters, I didn’t know that I would walk out of the place with Eddie Noel on my mind.
He popped up during a conversation I was having with Hazel Haney, Augusta Murphy, Ruth Kelley and B. Noel about everything from the meal to the recent news that Aldi, Maywood’s only full-service grocery store, would be leaving at the end of the month.
Somewhere in between all of this, moments after I’d asked how they each ended up in Maywood, I discovered that all four of the women were from the South, most of them Mississippi, where, once upon a time, it was prohibited for black women to wear skirts or shorts because you didn’t want to attract the attention of white men, who could do with you whatever they desired.
“The thing of it was, the white men could do anything to the black women and the men were not supposed to say anything,” said B. Noel, which is perhaps one of the reasons the story of her Uncle Eddie captured national attention.
“That was your uncle that did that?” asked one of the women in bemusement. The story had captivated a 10-year-old Hazel Haney, who recalled that she had heard about it while growing up in Mississippi.
Eddie, the women all agreed, was the rarest of species — he was a black man who had killed three white men and survived.
Eddie Noel, according to the Desoto Times-Tribune, was a “sharp-shooting 28-year-old black World War II veteran” who had received a mental discharge from the Army nine years before confronting a white store-owner named Willie Ramon Dickard one day in 1954 about an alleged affair with Noel’s wife, Lu Ethel.
Dickard, according to newspaper accounts, beat Noel outside of the store, leaving the smallish, fair-skinned black veteran — said to be a descendent, and namesake, of one of Mississippi’s white governors — to go to his car and reach for his gun.
“I used to see him shoot bobby pins out of his wife’s hair,” said B. Noel, recalling her uncle’s marksmanship, during my conversation with her on Thursday. “I’m not lying. This is the truth. That’s how good a shot he was.”
After killing Dickard, Noel retreated back to the farmhouse where he lived, B. Noel said, and waited for the ambush.
“They surrounded the farmhouse,” the Maywood resident recalled. “It must have been eight policemen and the sheriff. His name was Pat Malone and he was a bad sheriff, okay. I mean, you just didn’t do [what my uncle did]. But when they surrounded my uncle, he picked [Malone] off.”
__ More after the photos __
Maywood Garden House residents Hazel Haney, Augusta Murphy and Ruth Kelley recalled their days growing up in Mississippi. B. Noel, pictured right with resident James Parker. | Michael Romain/VFP
Malone, according to the Times-Tribune, was actually a 69-year-old deputy sheriff who along with another white man had, indeed, been killed by one of the bullets from Noel’s .22 rifle. Three more men were wounded in the shootout.
Noel’s sharpshooting was apparently enough to temporarily fend off that small ambush, but it only precipitated a much larger manhunt comprising a “400-man posse of armed white men, many soused with moonshine whiskey.”
For 18 days, the Times-Tribune reports, the men “combed the rural countryside in western Holmes County with bloodhounds and airplanes, but failed to catch the short, light-skinned Noel. If they had, Noel, with his .22 cal. rifle and long hollow point cartridges close at hand certainly would have been lynched by the mob. Only when the soft-spoken Negro voluntarily surrendered to a uniformed state livestock inspector was he put behind bars in Jackson. But the story still had more twists.”
While jailed in Jackson, Noel confessed to the murders and was assigned a young attorney named David Williams.
“Certain that a Holmes County jury of 12 white men would waste little time sending Noel to the electric chair, Williams decided to petition Judge Arthur Jordan for a mental evaluation of his client. To Williams’ amazement, Jordan granted the order, even without a hearing. At Whitfield, Dr. W. L. Jaquith put a team of psychiatrists on the case and they soon declared Noel mentally incompetent to stand trial.
“Through some unknown outside influence, Povall points out that Jaquith bypassed normal procedure to give the criminally insane a lobotomy and confinement in the brutal building 43 at Whitfield. When Robert Clark in 1968 became the state’s first black legislator since Reconstruction, he visited Noel and in 1970 interceded for his release. By this time, the Holmes County Court had sent the Noel case to an inactive file.”
“He stayed at that mental institution in Whitfield for [almost] 20 years,” B. Noel said. “When they let him go, he went to my uncle’s house in Fort Wayne, Indiana and that’s where he stayed ’til he died.” VFP