Willis Beard

Twenty years after Congress created the Court of the United States for the District of Arkansas and invested in with authority over the Indian Territory but before that court was divided into Eastern and Western Districts and Isaac Parker took his seat as the presiding judge over more death sentences and hangings than any federal judge in history, Willis Beard was the first man to be executed under federal authority in Arkansas.

Beard had killed John Kelley in the Cherokee Nation. He was convicted in the U.S. Court for the District of Arkansas and sentenced to death.

Willis Beard was hanged on May 29, 1857.

Arkansas Intelligencer, June 5, 1857

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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