INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly a century later, an Indianapolis man has a new headstone and a new cause of death.
George Tompkins, 19, was found hanging in Riverside Park with his hands tied behind his back on March 16, 1922. The Indiana Remembrance Coalition, who organized the event, says Tompkins was never accused of a crime.
At the time, the coroner said "the man could not have hanged himself," but someone wrote suicide on the death certificate.
"Some 100 years ago, someone in the coroner's office made a decision that put history behind us in such a negative way," Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie McGinty said. “We will remember, we will bring justice to something that was unconscionable to me that 100 years ago something like this could have happened.”
A new death certificate was unveiled. Now, Tompkins' death has been ruled a homicide.
Mayor Joe Hogsett also spoke at the program and said for both Tompkins and the city of Indianapolis, the recognition came 100 years too late.
"It should not have come to pass that Indianapolis officials labeled this clear murder as instead an unlikely and physically impossible act of suicide," Hogsett said. "I invoke the City of Indianapolis to remind us that though we may answer to God's holy authority in the next world, it is a human authority that determines who gets justice in the here and in the now. It is up to public officials like myself and others to preserve and promote equal justice for all residents of our city ... Indianapolis can and must acknowledge a more complete story of its own history."
Terry L. Ward's great grandfather was lynched on September 23, 1901 in Terre Haute. He traveled to Indianapolis to attend the event.
"I think the #1 thing is that you need solidarity in all things that you do that are right and just," Ward said.
Karrah Herring, Gov. Eric Holcomb's chief officer of equity, said the day was a "true moment of justice."
"I'm going to challenge us today that now is the time for all Americans ... to lay aside silly and divisive rhetoric so that we can move forward to a place where we reignite a passion for true conversation that is laced with civility and compassion," Herring said. "We have to acknowledge the truth of who we were as a nation and who we are as a nation."
A headstone was also dedicated at Tompkins' previously unmarked grave site as part of the event.