Board grants historic posthumous pardon for man convicted in rape that sparked Duluth lynchings

The Minnesota Board of Pardons granted the first posthumous pardon in state history to Max Mason, a black man convicted of rape in 1920 in a case that lacked evidence. Three other black men arrested for the same crime were pulled from a jail and lynched by a white mob in Duluth.

The lynchings took place 100 years ago on Monday. 

The three-person pardon board, which includes Attorney General Keith Ellison and Gov. Tim Walz, voted unanimously Friday to pardon Mason. 

Mason was one of six black circus workers arrested for the alleged rape of a white woman in Duluth. On June 15, 1920, a mob stormed the jail, dragged three of the men from their jail cell and lynched them in the streets in front of a crowd of 10,000 people. Elmer Jackson, Isaac McGhie and Elias Clayton were killed in the incident. No one was ever convicted for those killings.

Mason was tried and convicted for the alleged rape and was sentenced to 30 years in jail, although key legal officials later said there was little evidence linking him to the crime. 

Mason was granted parole in 1925. He moved to Alabama where he raised a family and died at age 46, according to Ellison. 

In December, the pardon board voted unanimously to reconsider Mason’s 1924 pardon denial