Jailer John Asberry Gillespie

Jailer John Asberry Gillespie

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Tennessee

End of Watch Tuesday, November 10, 1942

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John Asberry Gillespie

Jailer John Gillespie died after being assaulted by four federal prisoners during an escape attempt from the county jail in the 600 block of Walnut Street.

He and several trustees were taking a mattress into the cell when the inmates attacked him with iron piping that had been ripped out of the newly installed plumbing system. One of the trustees was also seriously injured as they attempted to stop the assault on Jailer Gillespie and keep the prisoners from escaping. Responding officers from the Chattanooga Police Department prevented the prisoners from making their escape. Jailer Gillespie died of a fractured skull the next day.

The four federal prisoners, 17, 19, 20, and 23, were charged with Jailer Gillespie's murder, convicted and sentenced to life. The youngest was paroled in 1954. On December 16, 1960, he was sentenced to 15 years for his part with three others in the armed robbery of a man and his wife in their grocery store in Chattanooga. Both victims were shot in their legs with buckshot from a sawed-off shotgun. The 20-year-old was paroled on April 29, 1959. Two months later he stole a car in Indiana, was apprehended, and sentenced to five years in a Federal prison. Weeks later he was transferred back to the Tennessee Penitentiary to finish his life sentence for violating his parole. He died in prison on February 16, 1964. The 23-year-old had a parole hearing on November 24, 1957. Result is unknown.


  • Age 66
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Incident Date Monday, November 9, 1942
  • Weapon Blunt object; Iron pipe
  • Offender Sentenced to life

escape attempt, prisoner custody

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"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

Chris Di Gerolamo
Federal Air Marshal Service

March 18, 2020

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