Legally-appointed GI representative, Walter Ellis, became the first person arrested by Mansfield’s goons, after he protested ‘irregularities’ observed in the courthouse precinct. Several others soon followed — all arrested without just cause.
But one of the worst incidents occurred when an elderly black farmer, Tom Gillespie, attempted to cast his vote. One of Cantrell’s badged thugs sneered at the old man, “Nigger, you can’t vote here,” and proceeded to punch him with brass knuckles. When Gillespie dropped his ballot and moved for the door, the goon shot him in the back.
Hearing the gunshot, crowds swarmed into the streets, and Mansfield responded by shutting down the precinct and positioning armed guards to prevent access.