"The mob surged forward, some pummeling the jail with sledgehammers while others forced their way through the garage. When they breached the ground-floor walls, they snatched Tommy Shipp first from his cell. Mary Ball’s sister purportedly watched from atop a car, encouraging the mob to wrap a rope around his neck and lynch him. He was already bruised and beaten when they strung him up on the maple tree at the corner of Third and Adams streets outside of the courthouse, diagonal from the jail. Shipp struggled to free the rope from his neck. The mob lowered him, broke both his arms, and pulled.
Cameron surveyed the gruesome scene from his cell. “I could see the bloodthirsty crowd come to life the moment Tommy’s body was dragged into view,” he recounted in his memoir. “In a matter of seconds, Tommy was a bloody mass and bore no resemblance to any human being. The mob kept beating him just the same. Even after the long, thick rope had been placed around his neck, fists and clubs still mauled him, and sticks and stones continued to pummel his body.”
After the throng returned for Smith, they beat him with crude weapons, and a man impaled him with a pipe. Smith was dead before they tied the noose around his neck. Cameron heard the gleeful cries once the deed was done. Nauseous and drenched in cold sweat, he knew what was next.
“We want Cameron! We want Cameron!” he heard them chant. When a group of white men forced their way onto the second floor, the black men in his cell block made a fruitless attempt to hide and protect him. “Impulsively, I acted like I was going to give myself up when Big John and another Black man grabbed ahold of me and held me back,” he wrote. “They had become too angry to remember their own fear — if they had any. But they were helpless and powerless to offer any kind of resistance to the mob. They stood with me.”
When the mob threatened to lynch another boy, in jail with his father for hitching trains from the South to look for work, the father pointed to Cameron. “The nightmare I had often heard about happening to other victims of a mob now became my reality,” Cameron wrote. “Brutally faced with death, I understood, fully, what it meant to be a black person in the United States of America.”How To Survive A Lynching