08 February 2023

Card Game Gone Bad, Pt II: Will Smith Murders Two on the Covington Square in 1882


The Piedmont Chronicles
Your Source for the REAL Story

By: MB McCart, Editor

This publication just a few weeks ago published a piece about the infamous Pitts Hotel murder that took place on the Covington Square in 1888. As mentioned, there was another murder resulting from gambling that had happened six years prior - in 1882. 

This time it was on the southwest corner of The Square, and this time two persons lost their lives, not just one.  

Here's the true story of Will Smith & the deaths of James Banks & Alex Hendrick

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Again, as written about numerous times in this space over the years, by the 1880s Covington was very much considered to be a Wild, Wild West Boomtown w/ over a dozen places to get hard liquor & to gamble. It is also widely considered that the home city had at least one House of Ill Repute during this time. 

Will Smith was a Jasper Countian & was known for his fondness of gambling & whiskey. On December 23rd, 1882, he had come up to Covington to drink & play cards.  

He found his way to Charlie Jarboe's Bar & Restaurant located on the southwest block of the Square where Southern Heartland Art Gallery (and for years previously Cohen's Clothing Store) now stands. 

According to an article from The Covington Star at the time, Smith had been reportedly "drinking quite freely" even before lunchtime & was presumably quite drunk by the time he arrived at Jarboe's. 

He had run into an acquaintance of his - one James Banks, son of Newton Co. Commissioner P.E. Banks - and had "bantered [him] for a game of cards." 

At some point, a shouting match ensued in which Smith purportedly accused Banks of cheating & then slapped him. Banks, none too impressed most likely, proceeded to throw Smith through the establishment's front window & then a full-on brawl ensued. 

That's when Smith broke out his "Navy 6" & shot Banks through the chest & then fled south. 

James Banks would die shortly thereafter. 

After the shooting, several citizens gave chase to Smith including Alex Hendrick - "a noted colored man of [the] city" - who eventually caught up w/ Smith. 

Then, allegedly, Smith yelled - "Don't crowd me!" 

That's when Hendrick picked up a huge rock to throw at Smith & reportedly yelled to him - "I ain't afraid of [no] goddamn white man!

At that moment Smith fired another shot from his pistol striking Hendrick in the stomach; Hendrick would "expire" w/in a half hour. 

Smith ran a further ways to hide on the Conyers family farm; however, he was soon spotted & Newton Co. Sheriff Anderson was able to arrest him w/out incident. 

Will Smith would be tried for the murder of James Banks the following fall but the jury only convicted him of involuntary manslaughter; apparently there were no charges ever brought for the murder of Hendrick. 


This incident would have major repercussions
, however. As author & historian Peggy Lamberson wrote - this heinous crime would give "the temperance advocates material for a cause célèbre" & sure enough - w/in just a few years, Newton Co. would enact its own prohibition approx 20 years before the State of Georgia & over three decades before the United States. 

Well, folks, there you have it. More 19th century murder & mayhem in the home city. 

As always, thanks for reading. 

- MB McCart 

*Souces: _Main Street, Covington_ - Peggy Lamberson; 1882 Covington Star article
**all quotes from The Covington Star piece except for the one expressly credited to Lamberson