Index to Pardons and Paroles, 1904-1925

This index refers to files housed at the State Library and Archives. Known as Record Group 261, the Pardons and Paroles records are extensive. The 2,339 files for this period of the early 20th century typically contain the letter or petition submitted by the inmate, along with a copy of their discharge papers and the certificate of pardon or parole.

Files may contain only a few pages, or dozens. These may include letters from prison officials, elected officials and family members. Often a petition from members of the inmate’s community was submitted to help the prisoner obtain early release. Trial records within the files give a summary of the crime committed and the reasoning behind the conviction and sentence. In many files are newspaper clippings concerning that inmate’s particular case.

The type of information in an applicant’s file depends on the prison where the inmate was being held. Most files for inmates held at Brushy Mountain prison, for instance, include a chaplain’s report giving the inmate’s native state and family information such as parents’ names and ages.

These records can be viewed at the State Library & Archives. They have also been microfilmed and copies can be provided by mail (link to fee schedule).

Documents from the parole file of Abby Adams of Shelby County, convicted of forging withdrawal slips on someone else’s bank account in 1923. A.J. Whalen, a Memphis grocer, offered to give Addie a job as a cook if she were released. Governor Austin Peay signed her parole in 1924.