On August 7th, 1920 James Cameron and two friends Abe Smith and Tommy Shipp decided to rob a white couple at a Lovers Lane. In the midst of the robbery, James Cameron had a change of heart and ran home once he recognized the white man Claude Deeter. During the incident, Claude Deeter was shot. He died a day later.
Shortly after, the three teenagers were charged with the murder by the Grand County Sheriff. News of the incident spread around the town, including rumors the white lady was raped during the ordeal. Following the news, the Ku Klux Klan and a white mob stormed the jail in search of the three teenagers.
James Cameron watched as the mob lynched the his two friends, one by one. Somehow Cameron’s life was spared that night.
In 1931, Cameron was convicted as an accessory to the crime. Despite having no previous criminal record he was given a 21 year sentence. After serving 4 years, he was released on parole in 1935.
Years later, the white lady admitted she was not raped.
James Cameron went on to found NAACP chapters in Madison, Wisconsin, Munchie and South Bend, Indiana. In 1998, Cameron founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum to showcase the history of lynching.
In 1991, James Cameron was pardoned by the state of Indiana.
James Cameron: History Makers
James Cameron, 92; Lynching Surviver Founded Black Holocaust Museum: Los Angelos Times