New opera tells story of youngest American executed after being wrongfully accused


GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) – Glow Lyric Theatre’s production of “Stinney: An American Execution” focuses on the end of George Stinney, Jr.’s short life. The 14-year-old black boy was executed by electric chair in 1944, about three months after a jury convicted him of killing two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina.

Glow Lyric Theatre's production of "Stinney: An American Execution" marks the opera's Southern...
Glow Lyric Theatre’s production of “Stinney: An American Execution” marks the opera’s Southern premiere(WHNS)

“It’s a tragic story and a beautiful and heartbreaking opera and expertly composed by one of our own,” Christian Elser, co-founder of Glow, told FOX Carolina. “It was composed by Frances Pollack who actually did her undergraduate at Furman University.

When 10-year-old Gavin Rector was cast for the title role, his mother, Cassandra Rector, had reservations.

“We were really concerned,” Rector told FOX Carolina. “But once we explained everything, he was, like, ‘I really want to do this. I want to be a part of telling this story.’”

The young actor said he was shocked to know what the 14-year-old Stinney endured after being wrongly accused in the bludgeoning deaths of 11-year-old Betty June Binnicker and 7-year-old Mary Emma Thames. Within three months, Stinney was convicted and sentenced to die.

“The justice system wasn’t right back then,” Gavin Rector told FOX Carolina. “It was not good.”

In 2014, a judge exonerated Stinney after reviewing the case and deciding that he was not given a fair trial or adequately represented by his defense attorney. Also, new evidence suggested that not only was Stinney with family when investigators believed the homicides occurred, but that he most likely would not have been able to carry out the crime due to his diminutive physique.

Glow’s performances of this show run through July 31 at the Kroc Center. Click here for information on times and tickets.


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