Willis Jackson was a 17 year old African American boy who was accused of assaulting a young girl in a field in Honea Path, South Carolina. After a long and arduous process of the authorities deciding what to do with Jackson, the public decided to take matters into their own hands. On October 11th, 1911, Willis Jackson was lynched by a mob of 5000 people in Anderson (Victim – Willis Jackson, Honea Path, 1911). This atrocity went largely unnoticed and forgotten until now. People in the local Anderson area have been calling attention to many different social issues that happened in the past.

Dr. John F. Vines’ most impactful and well-renowned sermon at First Baptist Church in Anderson, SC caused quite the commotion in 1911 about the lynching of Willis Jackson in Anderson, SC. In his lecture, Vines denounced the tolerance and outright approval of the lynching from much of the community in Anderson, as the Sumter newspaper records him stating that “the people who mainly compose lynching mobs talk much of defending virtue, but are not themselves distinguished for virtue”. Reverend Vines also spoke harshly of the role of Joshua Whitner Ashley, a legislator in Anderson, in the lynching of Willis Jackson, as Ashley and his family were very involved in stirring the mob to commit such a horrendous act.

John Vines’ direct and unequivocal sermon on the ethical horrors of Willis Jackson’s lynching started opening the eyes of many individuals, helping them see how atrocious the incident was and shedding light on the indecency of Joshua Ashley’s involvement in it. This inspiring revelation was especially needed in the culture of his time, seeing how skewed the public’s view was on lynching in the early 1910s. The spark from this sermon ultimately ignited a flame for justice that has continued to burn throughout Anderson today.

On top of being a president, a minister, and an advocate for morality, Dr. John F. Vines was a wandering soul, moving frequently and sporadically to wherever he felt led. While he was in Anderson, Vines’ main role was pastor of First Baptist Church from 1908 to 1915. He was known as a vigorous and forceful man, warm-hearted and friendly with all people. As such, his ministry at the church was quite popular. Vines consistently got requested to attend special campaigns and revival meetings. Alongside his leadership in the First Baptist Church, John F. Vines was also president of Anderson College 1913-1914.


Finding Dr. Vines Documentary Story – Team Members:
Joshua Acree: Producer/Editor
Talon Bolme: Producer
Zoe Dubiski-Pitts: Producer
Samuel Nadal: Videographer/Editor

Shining The Light: The Willis Jackson Story – Team Members:
Isaiah Custodio – Videographer, Writer, Producer
Micah Tassy – Videographer, Producer
McKenzie Upton – Writer, Editor
Caitlyn Wilde – Producer, Editor

This documentary was a product of Anderson University’s COM 451 Class: Documentary Storytelling. This project was created in the Spring of 2024.

Bobby Rettew, MA / COM 451 Instructor
Assistant Professor
Anderson University
Department of Communications