Facing Controversy: Struggling with Capital Punishment in North Carolina

17 May 1945: Paul Green to Governor R. Gregg Cherry.

In May 1945, Green wrote to North Carolina Governor R. Gregg Cherry supporting Cherry's decision to commute the sentence of condemned inmate William Dunheen from death to life in prison. Dunheen, eighteen at the time, was given a medical discharge from the army in 1944. Soon thereafter, Dunheen shot and killed his girlfriend. In a statement following the commutation, Governor Cherry stated that he believed that the murder was brought on by a mental illness caused by Dunheen's epilepsy. Green writes, "I will not live to see it, but perhaps my children will -- the relegation of such instruments as the electric chair, the gas chamber (the pellet and the bowl) relegated to the museum as an inspiration to a new age and a warning to our young people as to the blindness in which a former generation walked." In August 2000, as Green had predicted, the gas chamber was removed from Central Prison and the execution chairs were later given to the North Carolina Museum of History, where they are housed today.

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(Image from Paul Green Papers, #3693, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

17 May 1945: Paul Green to Governor R. Gregg Cherry - Page 2

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