MURDER IN CLINTWOOD

Holly Banks
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Robert Lee Johnson was born October 2, 1895 in Clinchport, Virgina to Dock J. Johnson and Elizabeth Hensley, a woman believed to have been married to Dock, although no documentation has been found. Robert was the middle child with 2 sisters. Family oral history relates that Robert may have had a brother, Charlie.

Growing up in the hills of Scott County, Virginia provided little opportunity for economic advancement. With little education, Robert found working in the coal mines his only means of livlihood.

Robert married Eura Estelle Sproles June 2, 1917 in Wise County, Virginia. Together they had seven children and growing up poor was a way of life. As related by Robert's son, Donnie, "My dad was not a nice man and liked to tell stories." "I don't remember anything good about him and I hardly ever saw him." "I only remember him beating my mother and moving another woman into our house and having a baby with her at the same time my mother was having a baby."

Robert spent much of his time away from home working in the coal mines and binge drinking on the weekends. Much of the money made was drank away in moonshine. He managed to afford a brand new car and a gun collection. His family was left to fend for themselves and often went hungry.

The crime is said to have happened in Clintwood about 1936. Robert, while out with a couple of drinking buddies was assisted into the back seat of his new car. He was about to be driven home in a drunken state. Reaching for his favorite gun he kept under the driver's seat, it went off and shot and killed the passenger. He was struck through the seat and into the back killing him instantly.

It is said to have been an accident while under the influence. Another story relates that possibly Robert, while lying in his back seat about to be driven home, thought his new car was about to be stolen when coming to. Reaching for his gun, shot his passenger, killing him instantly. Whichever story is correct, Robert was sentenced to what was then known as "The Virginia State Farm", in Richmond, Virginia, for a term of ten years.

While serving his time, Robert became ill. It is believed that he suffered from stomach cancer from all the rot gut whiskey he drank. It is said that he was released early due to his illness. Eura was at his side when he died one day after his fiftieth birthday. Robert left a wife and six children along with possibly two or more illegitamate children.

Robert Lee Johnson is buried in Holston View Cemetery, Webber City, Scott County, Virginia and is next to his father, Dock J. Johnson with wife, Myrtle.

I must follow up for particulars and research Clintwood newspapers and court proceedings to find evidence of this crime. I would also like to research "The Virginia State Farm", and possibly prison records. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Submitted By Holly Banks, granddaughter to Robert Lee Johnson

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