A Whitewashed Lynching in 1922

March 12, 2022 • Phil Bremen

A century after a 19-year-old Black man was found lynched in Riverside Park, his unmarked grave got a headstone and he got an official apology.

George Tompkins also was finally granted the recognition that his death was not a suicide.

After extensive research, the Indiana Remembrance Coalition petitioned the Marion County Coroner's Office to take a fresh look at the case.

On March 12, 2022, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie McGinty unveiled a corrected death certificate. Now it says "homicide."

"The Marion County Coroner's Office is honored to participate in correcting this injustice," McGinty said to a gathering at Floral Park Cemetery in Indianapolis, where Tompkins is buried.

The 1922 death certificate said the young laborer had taken his own life, even though the coroner had visited the crime scene and declared, "The man could not have hanged himself."

A century later, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett apologized on behalf of the city of Indianapolis.

"In 1922, teenager George Tompkins did not receive justice from his city - neither in life, nor in death. Today, by remembering and preserving our full history, we commit ourselves to a more just and humane future for all residents of Indianapolis," the mayor said.

"We have to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations," said Karrah Herring, Gov. Eric Holcomb's newly appointed chief officer of equity, inclusion and opportunity for the State of Indiana.

"Even today," Herring added, "the truth is that it has taken 100 years plus for the Unitec States Congress to pass legislation on anti-lynching."

The March 16, 1922, death was front-page news for two days. But then someone scrawled the word "suicide" on the death certificate and the story disappeared. No one was ever brought to justice.

Phil Bremen