William Drew Starr (1834-1876) was the jailer of Lawrence County.

In 1875, Samuel Helms was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged. On December 7, ten days before the execution, Helms made a desperate bid for freedom.  According to the Arkansas Gazette, Helms was locked in one of the jail's cells with a chain fastened to his leg. Somehow he managed to break the chain and when Starr opened the cell door to give him breakfast, he hit him on the head with a bottle, then ran. Starr fired a shot, missed,then chased Helms outside and fired again, hitting him in the left thigh. He collapsed and was recaptured.

The execution proceeded as scheduled on December 17. Starr died in 1876, but it's unknown if it was brought about because of injuries he sustained in the scuffle with Helms.


Arkansas Gazette, 12-12-1875

Arkansas Gazette, 12-19-1875

William Starr Probate, NEARA, Box 27, folder 55

Oral histories from descendants of William Starr*