(source, source, source, photos by Perry Ryan, author of The Last Public Execution in America)
Rainey Bethea’s public execution on Aug. 15, 1936, in Owensboro, Kentucky. The era of public executions in the United States sputtered to a halt after 20,000 turned out for the hanging of Bethea, a black man convicted of raping and killing a elderly white woman. It was also the first first hanging supervised by a woman.
Because the original warrant specified that the hanging would take place in the courthouse yard, where the county, at significant expense, had recently planted new shrubs and flowers, a second death warrant moved the location of the hanging from the courthouse yard to an empty lot near the county garage. The executioner was drunk.
Timothy McVeigh requested in 2001 that his execution be televised, but this was denied. An internet company also sued for the rights to broadcast it.