BY MOLLIE S. WATERS
The Greenville Standard
The summer of 1897 was an interesting one in Greenville.
Six men had been arrested and locked up in the Butler County Jail on the charge of murder. The six had been accused of killing three men: Hunter (first name unknown), Mack Blackburn, and Francis Bartow Lloyd.
Of the three deceased men, Francis Bartow Lloyd was the most well-known in Greenville, and really, throughout the state.
Lloyd had grown up in the surrounding areas of Butler County, but he had risen to prominence in Alabama’s political scene and as a writer of some repute.
Lloyd was gunned down on the afternoon of August 25, 1897, by John A. Gafford, a former friend, who accused Lloyd, a married man with a family, of carrying on an adulterous affair with Gafford’s sister, a Mrs. Miller.
After killing Lloyd, Gafford’s trail gained notoriety because of how the defendant’s and the deceased’s followers tried the case through public opinion in newspaper accounts.
In the weeks to come, an account of the murder, the trial, and Lloyd’s writings will follow, but first, a closer look at who Francis Bartow Lloyd was is warranted.
Lloyd was born in 1861. He was named after Confederate Civil War hero Francis Bartow of Georgia. Bartow was killed in the First Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas as it was called by the Confederate forces.
Lloyd’s father was a Confederate soldier himself. Dr. C. C. Lloyd had served in the Confederate Army as a both a doctor and as a minister. The Lloyd family had a long history in ministry.
In fact, C. C. Lloyd’s own father was the renowned Benjamin Lloyd, a Primitive Baptist minister who compiled a book of Primitive Baptist hymns that are still used in churches today. Benjamin Lloyd is buried in a small family plot off the side of Alabama Highway 185 North just a mile outside of Greenville.
Lloyd’s mother was Sue Lee Lloyd, whose father David Lee from Mt. Willing was also a Baptist minister who was well-regarded in the area.
Lloyd did not receive much in the way of a formal education due to growing up on a farm and having to help work it during much of the year. Each winter, he would have attended local schools, but other than that and one year at the Greenville Academy in town (not the same as the one that closed in the early 2000s), Lloyd did not go to school.
At the age of 20, Lloyd did, however, study law under J. C. Richardson of Greenville for one year.
Apparently, working as a lawyer did not much appeal to Lloyd, who quickly shifted his focus to a career as a newspaperman.
Lloyd’s first job in the news industry was as a reporter for the “The Morning Times” in Selma. This newspaper is now “The Selma-Times Journal.” Lloyd began his work as a reporter in 1882. He later became the paper’s editor.
While living and working in Selma, Lloyd gave a memorable speech at an annual conference for the Medical Association for the State of Alabama. Lloyd’s speech was given in response to a toast for the press. Later, his friends would remark that this speech and the response it received may have been the catalyst for Lloyd entering the political arena.
Lloyd left the Selma paper in order to become a reporter for “The Montgomery Advertiser” in 1886. He would become the editor for that paper as well.
During his time working for “The Advertiser,” Lloyd wrote his first humor sketch for the character that would become Rufus Sanders. It would take some time, but the column would become syndicated and published throughout the South, including as far away as Texas, where Lloyd would travel in the years to come in order to support his writing.
Lloyd became a state representative for Montgomery County in 1890. He would also be tapped for the same role for Butler County when he settled in the area for good in the mid-1890s.
In 1894, he also ran for the job of Alabama’s Secretary of State, but he lost that election.
Lloyd married in 1886 to Sarah Lillian Carter from the Butler Springs community. Lloyd and Lily had four children together.
Lloyd’s writings and his political work enabled him to purchase a 122-acre farm outside of Greenville, approximately one-half mile from where Antioch East Baptist Church stands today.
Lloyd had left his job as editor at “The Advertiser” when he purchased his farm, but because of the popularity of his Rufus Sanders articles, he was still writing them and mailing them in each week to the paper.
It was on a return journey from Greenville to mail his column that he was accosted by John A. Gafford on the afternoon of August 25, 1897. During that encounter, Gafford killed Lloyd.
Why Gafford killed Lloyd, his run from the law, and the near lynching that followed will be the subject of next week’s installment of “Francis Bartow Lloyd: Writer, politician, victim.”