Jimmy Wilson (handyman)

Jimmy Wilson, born in 1903 or 1904, was an African-American handyman who was convicted of robbery and sentenced to death by an all-White jury in an Alabama court in 1958 for stealing $1.95 from a White American woman, Esteele Barker. According to the Des Moines Resgister, "a court official suggested that the jury had been influenced by the fact that Mrs. Barker told the jury that Wilson had spoken to her in a disrespectful tone".

The case received international coverage, with critical articles appearing in newspapers in Liberia, Canada, Ghana, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Norway and other countries, and protest groups and petitions from Denmark, Uruguay, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Jamaica and elsewhere demanding that the death sentence be overturned. The US embassy in London received approximately 600 protest letters a day, and the US embassy in Dublin 400 a day. The Governor of Alabama received "an average of 1,000 letters a day from all over the world" urging clemency for Wilson. The British Labour Party and the International Commission of Jurists likewise sent letters urging clemency.

The sentence "was overturned only after intense international attention and the interference of an embarrassed John Foster Dulles". It was commuted to a life sentence. Wilson was eventually paroled in 1973.


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