“Nance Insanity Trial” from the Oct. 16, 1919, issue of the Rockingham Post-Dispatch
A Review of the Famous George S.
Nance Insanity Case Tried in 1913 in Rockingham. Nance Now a Raving Maniac.
In connection with the Foster Parsons case tried here at Rockingham last
week, and as a result of which Parsons was committed to the criminal insane
department of the penitentiary a brief review of the famous Nance case might be
of interest to the Post-Dispatch readers.
In the summer of 1913 a man named George S. Nance of Tennessee killed his
wife with a beer bottle in the Seaboard hotel at Hamlet and then set fire to
the room with the intention of thereby covering up the crime. The smoke was
observed, however, and the fire extinguished. Nance was placed in jail, and
when his trial came up his attorneys entered the plea of mental incapacity to
answer the bill of indictment. His attorneys were L.D. Robinson, W.S. Thomas,
John P. Cameron and T.L. Caudle. The foreman of the grand jury that found a
true bill against him was J. LeGrand Everett.
Few people in Rockingham believed him to be insane. It was generally thought
he killed his wife in order to get possession of a lot of money that was in
various banks in their joint name. When court convened in September, 1913, with
Judge W.J. Adams presiding and A.M. Stack prosecuting, it was decided to have
him examined by a commission of 12 doctors. On this commission was Dr. James M.
Taylor of Morganton and Dr. Albert Anderson of Raleigh (these two alienists
testified in the Parsons trial last week), Dr. McCampbell of Morganton, Dr.
Faison of Goldsboro, and other doctors. They examined Nance for an entire day,
and then submitted a written report to the Court stating that it was the
unanimous opinion of the 12 doctors that the man was insane.
This report was given as evidence to the jury; there was no speech-making or
examination of witnesses by the jury, they simply accepting the report of this
expert commission, and they rendered their verdict that he was insane. The jury
was composed of John Monroe, Jim McDonald, G.J. Green, Joe Smith, Jim Lowe,
John Dobbins, J.P. Maurice, J.B. Melton, J.A. Sullivan, Jim Reilly Covington,
E.C. Caudle, J.O. Huggins.
And so Nance, whom public sentiment in Richmond county, thought was sane
regardless of the expert commission, was placed in the State Asylum.
Last fall Mr. Stack was in Raleigh and taking occasion to visit the Asylum
inquired as to the condition of a man named Nance. He was informed that the man
was a raving maniac, one of the craziest men in that institution. And so time
had vindicated the expert judgment of this commission.