Captain John Olin Sanders

Captain John Olin Sanders

South Carolina Department of Corrections, South Carolina

End of Watch Sunday, December 12, 1937

Add to My Heroes

John Olin Sanders

Captain John Sanders was stabbed to death by six inmates during an escape attempt from the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia, South Carolina.

The escape attempt started when one of the six inmates entered Captain Sanders office to discuss a personal matter that he had made up. As the two spoke a second inmate entered the office without permission. The two inmates tied up Captain Sanders and demanded he have a car brought to the door so they could escape. When Captain Sanders refused the demand one of the inmates stabbed him. The other four inmates then entered the office.

Captain Sanders summoned his assistant and apprised him of the situation and of the inmates' demands. The assistant called for reinforcements and more than 200 law enforcement officers responded to the penitentiary.

After a 3-hour standoff tear gas was fired into the office. As officers stormed the office an inmate stabbed Captain Sanders in the chest, just below the heart. All six inmates were taken into custody. They were all convicted of murdering Captain Sanders and executed in the electric chair on March 24, 1939.

Captain Sanders had served with the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 7 years and had served in law enforcement for 37 years. He had previously served with the Anderson Police Department, Anderson County Magistrate's Office, Anderson County Sheriff's Office, and the South Carolina State Constabulary.


  • Age 61
  • Tour 37 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Stabbed
  • Weapon Edged weapon
  • Offender Executed in 1939

Most Recent Reflection

View all 8 Reflections

Thank you all for remembering my grandfather. My father loved and worshipped his father and was with him in the ambulance when he died. Having just become a doctor, because of his father’s wishes, he felt hopeless to save his loving father. He attended the execution of all six inmates and never forgot his father’s heroic deeds. Years later I worked for SCDC for 28 years always thoughtful of my grandfather and father, who worded as a CO while in college to help pay for school. Ironically I worked in PI where all six inmates worked that killed my grandfather. To my knowledge his is the only person to lose his life in the line of duty at SCDC. He is honored at the Criminal Justice Hame Of Fame in Columbia SC. May his name and deeds always be respected by those who protect us today. No matter what race, creed or background.

Bob Sanders
Grandson and former employee of SCDC

July 12, 2018

Want even more control of your Reflection? Create a free ODMP account now for these benefits:

  • Quick access to your heroes
  • Reflections published quicker
  • Save a Reflection signature
  • View, edit or delete any Reflection you've left in the past

Create an account for more options, or use this form to leave a Reflection now.