Brooke Hart Kidnapping & Public Lynching
On Nov 9, 1933, 22-year old Brooke Hart, of Hart Department Store fame, was kidnapped and held for $40,000 ransom. Brooke and his family were very popular in San Jose, which would not bode well for his kidnappers.
A massive manhunt, and some good breaks, led conclusively to Thomas Harold Thurmond. Thomas was rounded up and, after six hours of interrogation, named his accomplice, John M. Holmes. They fessed up to murdering Brooke with a piece of concrete, and indicated where they had dropped the body into the San Francisco Bay. The body was found seventeen days later.
The public, still outraged at the kidnap-murder of Charles Lindberg's baby a few months earlier, was crying for blood. On the evening of the 26th, a lynch mob broke into the Santa Clara County Jail behind the Courthouse, and dragged Holmes and Thurmond from their cells. They were hauled into St. James Park where 3000 onlookers from San Jose, and points beyond, chanted "String them up."
Clyde Arbuckle relates, in his great tome, History of San Jose,
"Thurmond was hung from the limb of a venerable mulberry tree, and, the limb of a great elm a few feet away served as Holmes' gallow a second or two later." Souvenir hunters so damaged the trees that they were cut down. Not a trace remains of them.
During this long day, Governor "Sunny Jim" Rolf publicized his refusal to call out the National Guard to protect the kidnappers, referring to the lynching as a "lesson."San Joseans were not terribly distraught over the lynching, the feeling was that Holmes and Thurmond got what they deserved.