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Copied From Southern Standard: August 24, 1933


Clifton Cotten, 30, Warren County ex school teacher, born of poor but honest par
entage, who worked hard for an education and then held responsible positions in
Warren County Schools for 12 years, only to turn to perjury, car stealing, build
ing defenses and then to robbing banks and murdering an innocent man who sought
to defend his bank against a raid, heard Judge R. W. Smartt sentence him to a t
otal of 134 years in the state penitentiary here this morning. His accomplice wh
o has been termed "Kingfish." J. Rains, Warren County "bad boy" who has had the
blood of three men on his hands and who has been implicated in counterfeiting,
car stealing and what not, was sentenced to a total of 119 years for his part in
the killing of Dr. J. A. Clark of Morrison and the robbery of the Citizens Stat
e Bank of Morrison on Tuesday, July 25. Taft Fuller, 23, of Cannon County, who w
as termed by his attorneys as being a "poor and ignorant country boy," was also
sentenced to 119 years in the state prison. The state contended that Fuller was
the "Trigger Man" in the shooting to death of Dr. Clark. In reporting its verdi
ct, after deliberating from 6:30 last evening to 9:30 this morning, the jury rec
ommended that the three defendants be not allowed a pardon from the prison. It w
as reliably reported this morning that the jury stood 11 to 1 for sentencing th
e three defendants to the electric chair. One member of the jury, the report sai
d, was against capital punishment. In addition to his sentence for participation
in the Morrison murder and robbery, Cotten must also, according to a statement
made in court by Judge R. W. Smartt, first serve a sentence of 15 years for his
part in the Braswell torture robbery perjury trials which were held in Smithvill
e a few weeks ago, in which eight other defendants received sentences. The three
defendants were taken to Nashville this afternoon by Sheriff J. B. McAfee under
guard and were taken to the state prison to start their sentences. On the morni
ng of Tuesday, July 25, a Chevrolet roadster circled the village of Morrison, 10
miles southwest of here, followed by another car carring two men. In the two ca
rs were J. Rains, Clifton Cotten and Taft Fuller. A few of the towns people who
had been forewarned on July 19 that the Morrison bank was scheduled to be robbe
d saw these men circle around town. The word was quietly spread around to be on
the guard. Exactly at 12:45 on the same day the Chevrolet car returned carrying
all three of the men. It stopped in front of the Citizens State Bank. Two men, R
ains and Cotten, got out of the car and walked into the bank. Fuller remained in
the car with its motor running and with the right front door open. Cashier H. A
. Cunningham and assistant Cashier J. D. Jarrell looked up from their work only
to find a revolver in the hands of J. Rains staring them in the face. "I'm J. R
ains, stick 'em up," Rains commanded, as Cotten slipped around the office raili
ng. Then came the command from Rains to the bank officials,"Get in the vault and
lay down," The officials complied. Rains attempted to lock the vault door, but
the tumblers had been tripped by Jarrell against such a move. Rains was furious
and threatened to kill them both. Meanwhile Cotten was scooping up the ready ca
sh. Outside a grim tragedy was in the making. DR. J. A. Clark, a prominent phys
ician and highly respected citizen of the little town, was approaching the bandi
t car. Dr. Clark was a dead shot and fearless. Within 40 feet of the car, Dr. C
lark said to Fuller "stick 'em up." He explained that he did not want to shoot a
n innocent man. The twin barrels of a sawed off shot gun was nosed up over the
front seat of the bandit car. Two shots blazed forth, both taking effect in Dr.
Clark's body. The stricken physician slumped to the ground and then calmly raise
d his gun and fired twice at the bandit. Within the bank as the shots were fired
, Rains fired twice at the bank officials, but without effect. The two robbers t
ook flight carrying with them $450 of the bank's funds. As they reached the outs
ide, Rains fire
d four times at Dr. Clark and others nearby. Then the two bandits jumped into th
e car as it sped away with a jerk. Quickly a posse of enraged Morrison Citizens
fully armed commandeered a truck and took out in pursuit. their chase led them t
oward Jacksboro, a few miles distant from J. Rains' home. Various people along t
he route saw the car weaving to and fro down the road as it sped from the scene.
Fuller was badly wounded. He was losing strength as the crimson fluid gushed fr
om the wounds inflicted by Dr. Clark's gunfire. Drivers were changed. Fuller was
put in the rear seat and Cotten took the wheel, and their flight continued. Nea
r Rains' home he left the car and took the loot with him. Cotten continued on to
wards Woodbury. Sheriff Hollandsworth of Woodbury, with three deputies had been
warned that J. Rains and two others had robbed the Morrison bank. He and his dep
uties, heavily armed, started out the Woodbury Manchester pike. About 12 miles f
rom Woodbury the bandit car passed the officers. Turning their car around the of
ficers chased them for four miles before they were within gun range. As shots f
rom the officers' guns rained on the fleeing bandits, the driver lost control an
d the car ran into the road bank. Cotten was bleeding from wounds inflicted by t
he Woodbury officers' guns. Fuller was lying in a pool of blood in the rear seat
. The two bandits were rushed to the Woodbury Hospital, Cotten later being taken
to the Cannon County jail after his wounds were dressed. A short time later,
J. Rains, his father, Newt Rains and brother in law, Mayne Lorance, came to th
e Cannon County jail and notified Sheriff Hollandsworth that they were with draw
ing from J. Rains' bond posted in the Gassaway bank robbery. Rains thought he mi
ght be able to establish an alibi and sidestep the more serious charge of murder
. Threats of reprisal were heard around the Cannon County jail. Judge Richardson
of Murfreesboro who was called to Woodbury, instructed Sheriff McAfee of McMinn
ville to carry the prisoners, Rains and Cotten to the Davidson County jail for s
afe keeping, fearing that the men might be taken from the frail Warren County ja
il and hanged by enraged citizens. The desperadoes attempted to establish and al
ibi that they were near Rains' home at a whisky still, and that Fuller was shot
by Rains in the belief that he was "the law" when he approached the still throug
h the woods. Their alibi was punctured by an array of legal talent, including At
torney General C. D. Lamb, his assistant, Wm. McCowan and L. R. Turner and Clar
ence Haston, aided by 35 witnesses. The curtain fell on the career of the three
desperadoes when Judge Smartt sentenced them to a combined total of 372 years in
the state prison more than six times the span of life of the average man.