John Gilbert Graham – 1955

By | November 12, 2016

“I wrapped about three or four feet of binding cord around the sack of dynamite”


On the first day of November 1955 United Airlines Flight 629 took off from Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado bound for Alaska. Ten minutes later it exploded killing everyone — five crew and 39 passengers including an 18-month-old boy — on board. It quickly became apparent that the aircraft had been sabotaged. The wreckage was spread over 3 km (2 mi) and soldiers from the 168th Field Artillery of the National Guard were called in to protect the scene. Explosive material was found in the luggage of a passenger who had boarded when the plane refuelled at Denver.

Daisy King had been visiting her son and daughter-in-law before flying north. Just before she left, her son John “Jack” Gilbert Graham had insured her life for $37,500 although the policy was worthless because his mother hadn’t countersigned it. When questioned by the police, he confessed to wrapping 6.3 kg (14 lb) of dynamite in a Christmas present for his mother.

“I then wrapped about three or four feet of binding cord around the sack of dynamite to hold the dynamite sticks in place around the caps,” he said. “The purpose of the two caps was in case one of the caps failed to function and ignite the dynamite… I placed the suitcase in the trunk of my car with another smaller suitcase…which my mother had packed to take with her on the trip.” He seemed not to care that 44 innocent people were dead a month before Christmas, only that the world should know what a tough time he had had of it as a child. He was born on 23 January 1932, his father died when Graham was three and his mother was unable to cope and put the toddler into an orphanage. She later tried to make it up to him but he was having none of it and had become a juvenile delinquent. On 14 November 1955 Graham was arrested and charged with 44 counts of murder


Airspace over Denver, Colorado, USA


7.03pm Tuesday 1 November 1955


At his trial – the first to be televised that began at 9.30am on 21 April 1956, Graham recanted his confession but he was found guilty after the jury deliberated for one hour and 12 minutes. He was sentenced to death. Prior to his execution, he was made to strip naked and given a pair of shorts because clothes retain the cyanide fumes. Graham was taken tonthe gas chamber of the Colorado State Penitentiary at Cation City, Colorado on 11 January 1957.

The cyanide tablets were dropped intonthe bucket of hydrochloric acid and a fog rose from it. At first Graham heldmhis breath but he eventually had to breathe and he immediately gagged and his head shook from side to side. He let out an ear-piercing scream and his chest pushed against the leather straps. He became unconscious and was pronounced dead at 8.08pm.

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