…to the official page for Last Words of the Executed, a book by Robert K. Elder, with a foreword by Studs Terkel.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, has praised the project and called it, “A dangerous book…” This is a nonpolitical work, simply asking, “If these are the most reviled, outcast members of society—why does it remain a cultural value to record what they say?”

This is the history of capital punishment in America, told from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.

Last Words of the Executed author Robert K. Elder was on NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” recently. Fast forward to 2:02 to see the exact segment.

Each day, we are posting excerpts from the book, plus outtakes, by date of execution. See below:


This week in 1920

“God bless you, boys. I got the old smile on my face.”

— Charles McLaughlin, convicted of murder, electric chair, New York.
Executed December 9, 1920

While the warden made his last rounds, McLaughlin reached through the bars, extended his hand, and said, laughing, “Shake, put it there, shake.”


This week in 1997

“A lot of people view what is happening here as evil, but I want you to know that I found love and compassion here. The people who work here, I thank them for the kindness they have shown me and I deeply appreciate all that has been done for me by the people who work here. That’s all, warden, I’m ready.”

— Michael Lockhart, convicted of murder, lethal injenction, Texas.
Executed December 9, 1997

Ohio native Michael Lockhart had ties to robberies and thefts nationwide but faced capital murder charges in Florida and Indiana. He had served one year of a robbery sentence in a Wyoming state prison before the governor commuted it. Three years later, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of Paul Douglas Hulsey Jr., a Texas police officer who had attempted to arrest him for driving a stolen vehicle.


This week in 1920

“If I’ve got to leave this good old Earth, I want to make a statement before I go. I’m feeling all right, but it’s over others I’m worrying.”

— Howard Baker, convicted of murder and robbery, electric chair, New York.
Executed December 9, 1920

Baker left his wife and three children to join a gang headed by his own forty-five-year-old mother and her twenty-three-year-old lover. The gang robbed the Buckminster and Graves clothing store, and Baker shot a night watchman during the getaway attempt.“Good-bye, boys,” he said to his fellow death-row inmates as he left the cellblock. He told Dr. Squire, the head prison physician, “I appreciate everything you have done.”


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