Monday, January 23, 2012

The Shooting of Deputy Dave Ham - Part Two

Deputy Dave Ham
Last week I posted an excerpt on the fatal shooting in 1934 from Deputy Dave Ham from my new book, The Claude Neal Lynching (Please click here to read The Shooting of Deputy Dave Ham - Part One).

A young father with a growing family, Ham was shot in an escape attempt by two convicted bankrobbers on the evening of the same night that murder suspect Claude Neal was taken from a jail in Brewton, Alabama. The deputy was rushed to a hospital in Chipley and by late night was in surgery. He would live only two more days.

The following is a second excerpt from The Claude Neal Lynching about the night that Deputy Ham was shot:

The shooting of a law enforcement officer always creates chaos and this incident was no different. Besides worrying about his wounded employee and a wounded prisoner as well, Sheriff Chambliss had to get Buford Mears to a secure location while also trying to find out how he had managed to get his hands on a pistol.

That information soon came out and deputies arrested Horace Johns on charges that he had slipped Mears the gun during the trial. The bank robber had managed to keep it concealed until he pulled it out and started shooting inside the sheriff’s car.[i]

While the sheriff and his deputies tried to deal with this situation, the caravan of cars driven by the lynch mob slowly made its way along the back roads along the line dividing Florida from Alabama. When Mears opened fire that evening, he created such chaos that Chambliss was unable to give due attention to the situation in the northeastern part of the county. In fact, the sheriff spent much of the night dealing with the chaos caused by the failed escape attempt and in worrying about his severely wounded deputy.

Events now began to take on a life of their own. With the sheriff in Chipley waiting to learn the results of the surgery on Ham and the people of Marianna electrified by news of the shooting, the lynch mob slowly closed in on Brewton, Alabama. They had picked their route well and avoided all contact with law enforcement as they moved west. When they reached their destination later that night, their arrival would come as a total surprise.

The gunfire between Cottondale and Chipley on the evening of October 25th played a significant but often underestimated or even ignored role in the events of the next two days. The attention of the sheriff and his deputies was necessarily distracted at a critical moment.

 The calmness that he likely felt was finally settling on the county was shattered when Buford Mears pulled a .32 caliber pistol and shot Deputy Dave Ham. The evening of the 25th turned chaotic and the chaos would continue for days to come. Literally before the sheriff had time to even consider what was happening, events began to overwhelm him.


The new book is available at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna (same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) for $19.95. 

It can also be ordered online as either a book or a Kindle download at by following these links:

Book ($19.95)  The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady

Kindle ($6.96)  The Claude Neal Lynching

[i] St. Petersburg Times, October 28, 1934.


Anonymous said...

Great article. Thank you to tell us more useful information. I am looking forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

a mom of many said...

Thank you for sharing this article. Dave Ham was my great, great uncle & I've only heard bits of the events from my father. I appreciate hearing the event in context & hearing more information.
Warm Regards,
Traci Peyton

Dale said...

Traci, Thank you very much for the nice note. Dave Ham was a very brave man and I came to admire him greatly as I was writing the book.


Ervin Fowler said...

Hi Dale,info interersting. DH was my grandfather; many other GC around. would like yo hear from grand niece abt lineage. widow lived until '95.
Ervin Fowler