The city of Owensboro is known for a lot: bluegrass music, barbecue, and its downtown riverfront.
It’s also known for holding the last public execution in America.
Eighty years ago, tens of thousands of people from all over the country crowded Owensboro’s downtown and newspapers all over the country carried the front page story of the hanging of a black man convicted of raping a white woman.
The echoes of that event are still being felt in Owensboro eight decades later, especially for one woman who witnessed the event as a young girl.
It was still dark early that morning of August 14th, 1936.
Rachel Abbott, who was five at the time, was still asleep when her older sister tiptoed across the room to her bed and woke her up. “I didn’t know what was going on,” Abbott recently told WKU Public Radio. “My sister was eight so she probably knew more about it than I did.”
What was going, just two blocks away, was the hanging of Rainey Bethea.