Convict guard Dock M. Garrett killed during road work gang escape in the 1920s

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dock M. Garrett, at age 54, was killed by a heavy hit over the head with a shovel in the hands of a prisoner during an escape from his road work gang near Pack’s Mountain on the morning of September 19, 1929.
Garrett was standing and looking away from the chain gang group with his hands in his pockets when inmate Norman Blakely silently slipped up behind him and hit him with the shovel. He fell forward on his face in the hard dirt, and was knocked unconscious immediately.
Blakely took Garrett’s pistol from its holster, and six of the prisoners made a break for freedom, carrying with them axes and hammers to a point only about 75 feet from the scene to remove their leg shackles.
Two of the remaining five prisoners who did not try toescape walked over a mile in double leg chains to get help for Garrett. Co-workers arrived to take charge of the remaining prisoners and to take Garrett to the hospital in Greenville. He arrived there about eleven o’clock in the morning, but died shortly before five o’clock in the afternoon.
After removing their chains, the six escapees split into two groups going in opposite directions. One escapee, 14-year-old Henry Townsend, who was serving a 300-day term for train hoboing, returned to the work gang camp and surrendered. He claimed he had not wanted to run off but was forced to do so by the 16-year-old killer, Blakely, but was later allowed to return.
Blakely and Henry Moon were captured shortly after the escape some eight miles away, near Wade Barton’s store in the Terry Creek section. Barton recognized upon their entering the store that they were escapees even though they had discarded their convict stripes and had obtained overalls and blue denim shirts .
When captured near the store by officers, Blakely was taken to Greenville County Jail and Moon was returned to the chain gang camp.
The other three escapees—Charlie Enlow, Jess White and Jim Fleming—were pursued in a manhunt of sheriff deputies, camp guards, a posse of local concerned citizens and bloodhounds from Pickens County. Enlow spent the night on the side of Hogback Mountain but was captured the next day.
The search continued for five days, but it was finally apparent that White and Fleming had escaped from the state over the mountains behind Hogback.
At a coroner’s inquest held at the courthouse on September 21, Townsend testified that he saw Blakely strike Garrett on the back o f the head with a shovel and then reach over Garrett’s body and take his gun.
The autopsy report indicated that the guard’s head “was shattered by a heavy blow from the rear causing a laceration of the right side of the brain, cerebral hemorrhage, fracture of the skull occipital and orbital plates.” The coroner’s jury ruled that Blakely was responsible for Garrett’s death.
Blakely was convicted of murder at a trial in October and sentenced to death but the original indictment was thrown out on the grounds that “it was drawn faultily and the grand jury which returned a true bill was not legally constituted.”
The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Blakely a new trial on October 30, 1930. The Greenville County grand jury returned a new indictment against Blakely and a second trial,which lasted only one day, ended on November 3 when the trial jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder with no recommendation to mercy. Judge E.C. Dennis sentenced Blakely to death on December 19, but an appeal delayed the execution. The appeal was denied on January 19, 1931 and a new execution date was set forMarch 27.

Blakely, then 18 years of age, was executed at the statepenitentiary in Columbia on May 26, 1931. In his last statement, headmitted that he had killed Garrett and declared his faith


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