The Quiet Death of the Man Who Built America’s Electric Chairs
When a soft-spoken 73-year-old from Arkansas succumbed to cancer, the country’s outdated mode of execution may have finally met its end.
Illustration by James Heimer
On September 21, 2016, Jay Allen Wiechert, 73, passed away in his Fort Smith, Arkansas home after battling cancer. To the public, Wiechert identified himself as a professional engineer and member of Mensa. Upon the death of this mild-mannered, middle-America everyman, there was no memorial service; any tributes – written messages only – were instructed to be left on the website of the funeral chapel in charge of his cremation. What the general public doesn’t know, however, is that Wiechert oversaw the production and maintenance of electric chairs used for execution over his final forty years. For at least the past quarter-century, he has been the only person in America doing this work.
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