4 Teens Charged in Death of WWII Veteran, Hot Tamale King

Eric Scheiner | October 25, 2013 | 8:50am EDT
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The king is dead.

Four teenagers are being charged with capital murder in the fatal mugging of 87-year-old Lawrence E. 'Shine' Thornton of Greenville, Mississippi.

‘Shine’ was a World War II veteran and a famous personality in the Delta region for his hot tamales. They were known as ‘Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales’, named after his wife Mary. He was crowned king of the 2012 Delta Hot Tamale Festival.

According to Greenville police, Thornton was killed after being accosted in his own driveway on Oct. 18.He was pushed down and his wallet stolen.


WABG-TV Screenshot

He passed away from his injuries two days later at the University Of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Assistant police chief Andrew Kaho tells the Delta Democrat Times Terrance Morgan and Edward Johnson, both 19; and Leslie Litt and Geblonski Murray, both 18, were arrested in connection with the incident. Each of the four is charged with capital murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

I didn’t know ‘Shine’ Thornton, but his story was well known and documented in the Delta region.


'Shine' Thornton (Southern Foodways Photo)

It’s a story of hard work, overcoming adversity, belief in God and finding some success in doing something you love.

A veteran who served on a minesweeper in the Pacific theater during World War II, he returned home to work for a local electric company and eventually opened a liquor store.

According to a Southern Foodways documentary, a 59-year-old Thornton was worried about making ends meet at the liquor store and was considering getting into the hot tamale business.

A serious head injury helped to finalize any plans of going from the liquor store to the kitchen.

“I got hit in the head, I had to go out of the whiskey business. It was about six months before I could do anything,” Thornton said.

“Doctor Farmingham operated on my head for me and he told me, 'I’m going to have to operate on your head and I don’t know whether you can come out of this alive or not'.”

“But if you do come out of this alive it’ll be through God’s help that you live through it,” Thornton continued, “But I can’t guarantee you nothing. But I did, I come out of it alive and I got to where I could go back to making hot tamales.”

Thornton made the hot tamales that made him a local legend for 20 years.

In 2012, he was crowned king of the inaugural Delta Hot Tamale Festival.

In 2013, Thornton was accosted and killed for his wallet, allegedly by four teens wanting the money his passion and labor had put in its folds.

The king is dead.

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