A Remembrance of Pearl Bryan


In his 1970 memoir, Murder Is My Business, Cincinnati attorney William Foster Hopkins had this to say about the time his father, known as “The Governor,” took him and his brother on a 1910 expedition to Fort Thomas.  Here's his recollection:  “Other days I remember?  One that played a large part in my decision to become a lawyer was the Saturday the Governor came in, hot and sweaty, from his [train] run and said, 'Boys, I've been thinking about it all the way from the train yard.  Get ready.  As soon as I've had a bath, we are going to take the trolley to Fort Thomas.  There's something there I've been meaning to show you…'  Off to Fort Thomas on the little green streetcar we went: me, Rob, and the Governor.  At the end of the line we got off.  He led Rob and me straight into a dark and dusty but cool little store that sold just about everything.  He fed pennies into the kaleidoscope for us, told us to look in, and there, flickering before our very eyes, unfolded quick segments of the Pearl Bryant [sic] drama.  She was the country girl who had come to visit two c0ollege students in Cincinnati, the last trip she would make on the face of the earth.  Her body, minus its head, had been discovered later in the vicinity of the store in which we stood.  The two students later accused of doing her in were convicted, and subsequently hanged in the courtyard on the Newport Courthouse.  After looking at the pictures, we went out back to where they found her body.  Later, on another day, the Governor took us to the courthouse basement, where was displayed the noose which had yanked her two convicted murderers from this world straight into the next.  And, several times after that, Rob and I rode bikes to the end of the trolley line where, with shovels, we dug, looking for the lady's head.  We never found it. 

There was nothing ghoulish about the Governor's motive for taking us there.  He was passing bits and pieces of his dream of the law along to his sons.  I never forgot it…”