Martin: Ed Johnson said, 'I have a changed heart,' the day before his lynching in Chattanooga on 1906

The tombstone of Ed Johnson, an African-American lynched from the Walnut Street Bridge in 1906 lies in Pleasant Garden Cemetery atop Missionary Ridge.

There is a tragic, yet redemptive story, in Chattanooga's history that must never be forgotten. It involves the lynching of Ed Johnson on the Walnut Street Bridge on the evening of March 19, 1906.

Johnson, a 24-year-old black man, was accused of raping Nevada Taylor, a white woman, on Jan. 23 while she walked home from a streetcar stop to a cottage at Forest Hills Cemetery that she shared with her father, the cemetery caretaker. Taylor lost consciousness during the attack and remembered little beyond that her assailant was black and wrapped a strap around her neck.

The next day Johnson was arrested on reports that he had been seen the night before near the streetcar stop with a strap.

Ed Johnson was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 26. To avoid a mob of angry citizens, Sheriff Joseph Shipp evacuated the accused to a Nashville jail.