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As It Was: Killer’s Death Bed Confession Frees Convicted Black Man

In 1932, Ted Jordan Jr. was a young black man on the way up, so he took a competitive examination for a better-paying Southern Pacific Railroad job.  He got a higher score than a young white man, but a special agent for the SP decided no black man should triumph over a white.

After months of harassment, Jordan was accused of murdering a dining car steward, held 50 days in the city jail, and beaten until he “confessed.”  He repudiated the confession in court, saying he was not provided legal counsel. 

Prosecutors brought in the murder weapon, a bloody length of pipe they claimed had Jordan’s fingerprints on it.  Jordan asked Oregon State Police to inspect it, but his request was denied.

After Jordan was sentenced to hang, a public outcry got his sentence commuted to life. 

He was released 22 years later when a woman said her husband confessed to the murder on his deathbed.  However, Jordan ended up in prison 10 years later as a parole violator.  In 1965, Jordan experienced freedom again after his public defender demanded a retrial.  Jordan died four years later at the age of 63.
 

Source: Gage, Judith A., H.W. Bill Hawley, Editors, and Linda McCarthy, author. A History of the Oregon Sheriffs 1841 - 1991. Portland Oregon, The Oregon State Sheriff's Association, 1992, pp. 123-24.

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Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.