INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The body of George Tompkins, hands tied behind his back, was found hanging from a tree on March 16, 1922, in the City Garden area of Riverside Park.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old black man’s case was officially ruled a murder.
Riverside Park, founded in 1898, still exists west of downtown Indianapolis. Just last summer, an amphitheater opened in the park in honor of a mayor who served as Indianapolis entered the 20th century.
But what was the death of Tompkins long ago Indiana Memorial Coalition was described in a news release as a “hidden chapter of Indianapolis history.”
The union is based at the United Methodist Church of St. Luke held a ceremony Saturday for Tompkins at Floral Park Cemetery, just off Holt Road south of West Michigan Street.
The death, which appeared on the front pages of Indianapolis newspapers 100 years ago, was initially believed to be a suicide on the death certificate.
At the event, Alfie McGinty, Marion County’s deputy superintendent of investigations, revealed a modified death certificate that now reads “murder.”
“I’m surprised that this happened in 1922 – that the circumstances of this death were not properly examined,” McGinty said at the event, according to a news release. “But, I’m not entirely surprised, given the time it took for this to happen.”
Mayor Joe Hogsett told the gathering, according to the news release, “In 1922, young George Tompkins received no justice from his city – both in life and in death. Today, by remembering and preserving our entire history, we are committed to a more humane and just future for all residents of Indianapolis. ”
After the show, the union revealed a stele they had placed for Tompkins’ unmarked grave.
The coalition bulletin also said, “Contrary to many of the more than 4,000 of the more than 4,000 after Reconstruction and before the civil rights era, George Tompkins has never been charged. His motive for murder has never been determined.”