The Life and Senseless Murder of Joseph Edward Quisenberry
“He was a nice old fellow. Everybody liked him and I’m sure he’s never done anybody any harm.” This was a quote from Roy Powell, reported by Ron Singleton in the November 4, 1974 issue of The New Commercial Appeal. The man being described was Joseph E. Quisenberry, and the reason for the article was Joe’s brutal murder just five days earlier.
Joseph Edward Quisenberry, who would later live much of his life in the North Danville area, was born on November 1, 1894 in Carroll County, VA. His parents were Amon Quisenberry and Florida Quisenberry, distant cousins who married in 1892. Joe was the second of eight children of this couple.
In 1917, Joe became a participant in “The Great War”. He enlisted for duty in Hillsville, VA on October 10th of that year. During World War I, he served in a field artillery unit in France. He was honorably discharged from the United States Army on May 24, 1919 at Camp Dix, NJ.
While he was serving his country overseas, the Spanish flu pandemic decimated his family. He suffered the loss of his father, Amon, his brother, Edward, and his baby daughter, Delphe.
After his emotional return from war, in the 1920’s, Joseph and his wife, Palmetta Simpkins Quisenberry, who he’d married in Floyd County on December 19, 1916, moved to an area of Pittsylvania County that would later become part of the City of Danville.
Joe later went to work for Dan River Mills, where he walked to and from nearly every workday for many years. “He loved to walk…He was a very active person”, said his friend and neighbor Roy Powell in the aforementioned newspaper article. Sadly, it was his healthy enjoyment of walking that would contribute to his tragic demise.
On the evening of Wednesday, October 30, 1974, Joe was walking, as he routinely did, to the Kwik Pik store on North Main Street in Danville. As he was passing by the home of Clarence Bradley, he was attacked, the likely motive being robbery. The perpetrator(s) violently assaulted him with a brick, which was found covered in blood at the crime scene. After the discovery of his body by Mr. Bradley, Joseph was rushed to Danville Memorial Hospital, and then transferred to the hospital in Chapel Hill where he died the next day as a result of the severe head injuries sustained in the assault.
Police investigating the crime appealed to the community for help in gathering information and identifying any witnesses who may have been in the area at the time. Friends and neighbors also offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Three suspects believed to be responsible for the crime were questioned, but without a witness, the evidence was not sufficient to charge the men.
Although no justice was to be had for Joe in our courts of law, the Bible tells us in the Book of Psalms that, “The Lord is known by his justice.” We know, by this, that the person(s) who committed these crimes will not ultimately escape judgment.
Despite the tragic end, Joseph Edward Quisenberry lived a good and fruitful life. He and Palmetta were the parents of five children: Delphe, Elmer Lee, Mevelene Dove, Mary Magalene, and Judy JoAnn. Many of his descendants still live and work in the Pittsylvania County area today.
The New Commercial Appeal, November 4, 1974
The Danville Register, November 1, 1974
Family Birth, Marriage, & Death Records
Judy Quisenberry Haynes
The Holy Bible, NIV version