GIBSON, HENRY [MONK]
GIBSON, HENRY [MONK] (ca.1889–1908). Henry "Monk" Gibson, born around 1889, was the convicted murderer of members of the Conditt family of Edna, Texas, on September 28, 1905. Gibson, a black teenager, was employed by J. F. Conditt to plow his field when Conditt's wife, Lora, their twelve-year-old daughter, Mildred, and sons Herschell, Jesse, and Joseph were found bludgeoned and stabbed to death at their home. The youngest Conditt child, ten-month-old Lloyd, survived. Lora and Mildred had been sexually assaulted. J. F. Conditt had been working in a rice field several miles away.
Suspicions soon centered on Gibson, who was the person that initially reported the murders. Gibson was taken into custody that evening by Jackson county Sheriff Albert C. Egg. He subsequently escaped while being transferred to a jail in nearby Hallettsville, largely to protect him from possible lynching, and remained at large for nearly two weeks, sparking a massive manhunt that drew national attention. In the meantime his family was arrested and jailed, possibly due to suspicions that they had aided his escape and possibly also due to rumors that local mobs were planning to burn them to death. Governor S. W. T. Lanham called out the troops—elements of the Houston Light Guards and another contingent of cavalrymen from Austin—to protect Gibson and his family from lynching. A contingent of Texas Rangersqv under Captain William Jesse McDonald arrived to coordinate the search for Gibson and, later, to protect him from angry citizens.
Gibson was eventually discovered on October 9, hiding in a nearby barn. He was promptly indicted by a local grand jury. His attorneys won a change of venue to Bexar County where a jury was unable to reach a verdict, at least in part because it was thought that the slightly built Gibson could not have acted alone to commit the killings. Indeed, after the mistrial a black man named Felix Powell was tried, convicted, and hung in connection with the Conditt murders.
The second trial of Monk Gibson was held in DeWitt County, adjoining the county in which the crime took place. Here a jury selected from a panel of 190 white men convicted Gibson of murder on evidence that included testimony that Gibson was seen near the murder scene at the time of the killings and that he was found to have spots of blood on his clothes and skin after the bodies of the Conditts were discovered. Gibson's appeal of the conviction raised the issues of racial prejudice in selection of the jury; Gibson's youth (he was either sixteen or seventeen at the time of the murders); the state's introduction into evidence of photographs taken several months after the crime took place; and Gibson's unsuccessful request for a second change of venue in the case. The appeal failed, and Gibson was hanged in Cuero on June 27, 1908, before a large crowd of onlookers.
A subject of massive statewide interest, if not hysteria, at the time, the Monk Gibson case is perhaps most notable now for the fact that a trial was held at all—lynchingqv was not uncommon in the era, especially when a black man was alleged to have committed violence against a white woman—and for the way that the trial prefigured legal issues relating to race and age that still trouble Texas criminal courts.
Austin Statesman, September 29, October 3, 1905. Gibson v. State, Southwestern Reporter (St. Paul, Minnesota: West, 1908). Houston Daily Post, June 28, 1908. Powell v. State, Southwestern Reporter (St. Paul, Minnesota: West, 1907). San Antonio Daily Express, October 10, 1905. William Warren Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Bruce McCandless III, "GIBSON, HENRY [MONK]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgi56), accessed March 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.