Investigator Tells a Lynching Story, Forced to Resign

An African-American man was being interviewed about the death of his mother when the Department of Health employee shared a horrifying tale.


Last summer, Tennessee native Shun Mullins filed a report with the state Department of Health demanding an investigation into his mother’s death.

According to Mullins, the Algood Fire Department hadn’t done its job. Mullins alleges that the deputy fire chief refused to perform CPR on Mullins’ mother because she was black, and then lied on medical records to cover it up, News Channel 5 reports.

While being interviewed about his mother’s case by Department of Health investigator William Sewell, Mullins said he was subjected to insults, threat and a horrifying story about the lynching of a black man.

Sewell was forced to resign last month after more than four decades with the department. The state called his behavior a “form of intimidation.”

“His very first question was, ‘Mr. Mullins, have you ever been to the penitentiary?’ ” Mullins remembered. “That was more than insulting to me.”

“When he asked that question, Mr. Mullins said ‘no’ and [Sewell] said ‘OK, my source is wrong,’ ” said Sheryl Allen, an NAACP executive board member, who attended the interview with Mullins. Judy Mainord, an acquaintance of Mullins, was also at the interview.

At the end of the meeting, Sewell began his lynching story, affidavits allege.

“Mr. Sewell goes into a story about a hanging, that he had been told, about the hanging of a black man,” Mullins said. The hanging had occurred in Mullins’ hometown of Baxter a long time ago.

“They hung him, and they started carving his skin out of his back. It was like he got excited telling this story,” Allen remembered.

“They lowered the body, and all the white men standing around took turns removing the skin from the black man’s back,” Mainord told the news channel.