Henry Edwards

Henry Edwards and Clarence Stephens were on the streets of the South Side at 10:30pm on July 7, 1924, when Pittsburgh Police Officer Joseph Jovanovic and his partner, John P. Abbott, encountered them. Believing the two men to be acting suspiciously, the officers stopped and searched them. As they did, Edwards drew a gun and shot both officers. Edwards and Stephens then fled the scene.

East Carson St., 1921

Jovanovic, new to the force and only 22 years old, died en route to the hospital. Abbott, who was shot in the arm, was not seriously injured.



Edwards, North Carolina-born, 34-years old, single laborer at the nearby Jones & Laughlin steel mill, had recently been searched by police, who viewed him as a suspect in the robbery of a South Side bar.

Within a day of Jovanovic’s murder as many as thirty Black men, including Edwards and Stephens, had been arrested as suspects.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 9, 1924

Abbott was unable to identify either of his assailants, though Edwards was picked out of a lineup by Mildred Trobovich, a white teenaged girl who saw the killing from inside her home.

Under intense questioning by police, Edwards confessed.

After a brief trial at which he acknowledged the shooting but denied any intent to kill, Edwards was found guilty of first-degree murder on November 25, 1924. It was “one of the quickest murder verdicts on record” (Pittsburgh Daily Post, November 26, 1924). Edwards was the only defense witness. Multiple eyewitnesses testified against him.

Stephens was acquitted at the direction of the trial judge, who contended he had no prior knowledge of Edwards’ intentions.

Edwards, a North Carolina native, was sentenced to death on March 18, 1925.

Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1925

After his clemency request was rejected, Henry Edwards was executed on June 29, 1925. In a move that was unusual at the time, Jovanovic’s father and brother were granted special permission to witness Edwards’ execution.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

One thought on “Henry Edwards”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: