Lena Baker was born on June 18, 1900 in Cotton Hill, Georgia. Lena came from an poor black family of sharecroppers. In her youth her family included Lena parents, a brother and two sisters moved to Cuthbert, Georgia in hope for better Opportunity.
By the 1940s Lena had three children, Lena clean houses and did laundry to support herself and three children. In 1944 Ernest B. Knight, a white local gristmill owner hired Lena to care for him while he recovered from a broken leg. The two apparently came romantically involved, and soon Knight became over bearing even locking Lena in the gristmill days at a time.
On the evening of April 29, 1944 Knight force Lena from her home and taken her to his gristmill and locked her in, while he went to church and singing. When Knight returned home he unlocked the door and give her something to eat, but when Lena tried to leave her fused to let her leave. Lena tried pushing through Knight, but Knight began threating her with a iron bar, the same iron bar that was used to keep Lena locked inside the gristmill. Knight then pulled a gun on Lena. The two began tussling, Lena ended up with the gun and without thought she shot Knight in the head killing him instantly. Lena immediately ran to the nearest house and reported the incident to a man named J. A. Cox.
Lena was charged with capital murder and was given a court-appointed counsel W. L. Ferguson and was to stand trial on August 14, 1944. The trial was presided over by Judge William “Two Gun” Worrill, who kept two pistols on his judicial bench in plain View.
Lena testified in her own behave and told how Knight would lock her in his gristmill days at a time and how she was in fear the night of the incident that Knight was going to kill her. The trial lasted less then a day. The all-white male jury convicted Lena by the end of the afternoon. Judge Worrill then sentence Lena to be executed. Lena was not going to go down without a fight, so she appealed her case, after Lena appealed her attorney dropped her as a client.
Governor Ellis Arnall granted Lena Baker a 60-day reprieve so that the Board of Pardons and Parole can review the case, but the board denied Lena Baker clemency in January of 1945. Lena was transferred to Reidsville State Prison to await electrocution.
On February 13, 1945 Lena went to her death calmly and she proclaimed of innocence one last time. As she was strap down to the electric chair, Lena said her final peace, her words were:
“What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself. Where I was I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I have nothing against anyone. I picked cotton for Mr. Pritchett, and he has been good to me. I am ready to go. I am one in the number. I am ready to meet my God. I have a very strong conscience.”
Lena was pronounced dead at 11:26 a.m., after six minutes and several shocks. Lena was the only woman executed by electrocution in the State of Georgia.
Lena Baker was buried in an unmarked grave behind Mount Vernon Baptist Church. In 1998 members of the congregation arranged a head stone.
In August of 2005 Lena baker was pardoned posthumously by the State Board for Pardons and Paroles. The board knowledge that the 1945 decision to deny Lena Baker clemency was “a grievous error” and that Lena Baker should have been charged with the lesser crime of Voluntary Manslaughter, which would have carried a maximum 15-year sentence. This Pardon came 70 years too late.