Was she guilty? In January 1865, just six months before her execution as John Wilkes Booth’s accomplice, Widow Mary Surratt could not have imagined her fate, and neither could anyone else. Her reputation was that of an unusually devout Christian who would never have contemplated, let alone condoned, murder. The public knew Mary Surratt as a kind Maryland tavern keeper who served both Union and Confederate soldiers impartially. However, crushing debt forced her to move to Washington and within weeks, meet famous actor John Wilkes Booth. Found guilty as an accomplice, she was hanged with three other conspirators just three months after Lincoln’s assassination.
Dr. Brent M. Jones is assistant dean for recruitment and admissions (admissions director) for the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) and the Honors College. His longstanding fascination with Mary Surratt began as a child after discovering that the Booth conspirators were all young men – except for 45-year old Mary Surratt, a seemingly unlikely conspirator. Was she guilty, or was the government’s condemnation misplaced?