The year was 1948.
John Wallace of Meriwether County was charged with the murder of William Turner, who was using the alias Wilson Turner. Sheriff Lamar Potts’ office was located in the courthouse.
Coweta County, at this time, had the lowest crime rate in Georgia. Sheriff Potts was assisted by his only deputy, his brother J.H. Potts. Sgt. J. C. Otwell of the Georgia State Patrol would help when needed on a case.
The Coweta County Jail was located a block from the courthouse on East Broad Street, now a parking lot.
My Dad, Earl Strickland, owned and operated a grocery store at 17 East Broad St., and Strickland Market would deliver grocery orders to the jail. John Wallace could see Strickland Market from the window in his jail cell, and my Dad sent many orders to Wallace and others in lockup.
At this time, I was a young boy. The trial was going on. The day I met John Wallace after a day in court, he was moved back to the jail. With other prisoners, Wallace ordered some items from our store, and I helped Mr. Storey, an employee at Strickland Market, deliver the orders to the jail.
In the old jail, the jailer and his family lived in the building. So we carried the orders to the kitchen where there was a small opening, a window in the back wall to receive and pay for the grocery orders and serve meals.
My Dad had the orders in bags with names on each one so the trusty (run around boy) in the kitchen called through the opening in the wall for the prisoners to pick up their orders.
John Wallace came to the window to get his order and pay. He saw me and said, “Hello, little Earl.”
I stepped up to the window and said, “My name is Joe Strickland, not little Earl.” Wallace laughed as he paid for his order. He said, “Thank your Mom and Dad.”
While he was in jail, he wrote a letter to Strickland Market dated Aug. 28, 1948: “Please accept these little gifts as a token of appreciation for the kind attributes and sympathetic acts shown me since I’ve been at the jail. Sincerely, John Wallace.”
He bought socks for the men at Strickland Market and a nice handkerchief for Mrs. Sara Strickland, mother to me and to Earlene Strickland Scott.
John Wallace was sent to the state prison in Reidsville for electrocution.
Next – Mrs. Josephine Wallace.
After the electrocution, my family went to the Wallace farm in Meriwether County for a visit with Mrs. Wallace on a Sunday afternoon.
Mrs. Wallace served us teacakes and lemonade and then played the piano, She said, “John took care of the farm, and I kept the house.” Before we left, Mrs. Wallace went to the garden for a bouquet of flowers for my mother.
As we drove from the farm, Mrs. Wallace waved.
Now, Mayhayley Lancaster – that’s another story for another day.
Joe W. Strickland is a retired pastor and substitute teacher.