• Dennis McCaslin

The Deadly Truth: Executions in Arkansas - Amos Henry Ratliff - October 14, 1921



(Editors note: Since 1820, a total of 505 individuals have been executed in the state of Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Department of Correction, as of April 11, 2021, a total of 30 men were under a sentence of death in the state.


Fifteen of those are white, fourteen others are African American and one is Hispanic. The longest stay on Death Row currently has been just over 30 years, while the latest person sentenced to death in the state has been at Varner Unit's Supermax since August of 2018.


Our new, exclusive series of stories, will take a look at those whose lifestyle choices led them to being put to or sentenced to death in Arkansas over the past 120 years.


This is The Deadly Truth: Executions in Arkansas.)


In 1918, Amos Henry Ratliff and his wife Bealuh along with their daughter Viola lived in Eureka Springs. Amos, in a short-sighted effort to to provide for his family, got involved with a scheme selling mortgaged properties and wound up going to jail.


Ratliff was convicted of his crimes served a two year sentence, which sent his life spiraling out of control.


Ratliff was born in Lawrence County, Ohio, the son of John H. Ratliff and Christina Webb.


His parents divorced before 1900 and by 1901 his father had remarried and remained in Ohio. His mother Christina Webb Ratliff had moved to Carroll County, Arkansas and remarried to George Washington Evans.


On June 18, 1916, the 20-year-old Ratliff married 15-year-old Beulah Jones, daughter of Henry and Effie Jones, in Carroll County, Arkansas. Together they had one child, daughter Viola Ratliff, in 1917.


Ratliff was convicted of selling mortgaged properties served a two year sentence. During that time, his young wife filed for divorce.


After his release, Ratliff returned home to Eureka Springs.


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In September 1920, he observed his wife driving out in a buggy with John Barry, a well-known farmer. In a jealous rage, Ratliff shot and killed John Barry.


While out on bail, Amos killed Winifred Frazier of Eureka Springs on June 4, 1921, during a botched robbery attempt.


Some news reports of the day indicated that motivation for the robbery was money that Amos intended to use for gifts to win back his estranged wife.


However, in his written confession published in The Jacksonian (Cimarron, Kansas) on July 14, 1921 Amos stated that the money was to be put toward notes coming due on another penitentiary charge.


Ratliff said when he attempted to rob Frazier, she pulled a pistol on him, at which point he discharged his shotgun.


Ratliff was convicted of the murders of both Barry and Frazier, received the death penalty and was sentenced to death on September 30, 1921.


Petitions were circulated and presented, requesting that the judge reconsider the harsh sentence. After a brief stay of execution, the judgement was carried out on October 14, 1921.


Ratliff was electrocuted in Little Rock at the age of 25. The Star Progress reported that he walked to his the death chamber unaided and that his remains were returned to Eureka Springs for burial.


After his death, Amos's ex-wife married Walter Newton Dowell in Carroll County in 1922 and that union produced eight children.


Ratliff was buried in an unmarked grave in the IOOF Cemetery in Eureka Springs.


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