Max Mason gains pardon '100 years overdue' in rape case that led to lynchings

The bronze figures of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, three black circus workers who were lynched the night of June 15, 1920.

(CNN)The Minnesota Board of Pardons posthumously pardoned Max Mason by unanimous vote Friday, 100 years after he was accused in a rape case that led to three other black men being lynched.

Mason was accused of raping a white woman, Irene Tusken, in 1920. There was no evidence to support the allegations, and the Minnesota Historical Society said that a family doctor who examined her found no signs of rape or assault.
In the pardon hearing, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said, "This particular application is critical to the name of Max Mason, but also critical to our state."
The pardon has been decades in the making, according to Gov. Tim Walz. It was added to the agenda more than six months ago.
     Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz
    "I don't believe anything happens by chance," Walz told the board. "I believe we've been given this opportunity, and I would ask my fellow members of the pardon board to think deeply on this and understand the implications involved with clearing Max Mason's name.
    "This is 100 years overdue. The timing was for a reason. It was decades in the making."
    In a letter to Walz in January, several pardon board members pleaded for posthumous pardon. The application was supported by Mike Tusken, a family member of Irene Tusken and the Chief of Police in Duluth, where the alleged rape and the arrest occurred.
    During the hearing, Tusken said, "Not only is the conviction unjust, but the facts lack the basis for an arrest in the first place."
    His aunt spent her last years in a nursing home after a stroke, unable to "reconcile the facts or atone for her role in the lynching or wrongful conviction of Max Mason," he said.
      Three men arrested with Mason were beaten and lynched the night of their arrests by an angry crowd on June 15, 1920. Mason was convicted with scant evidence and sentenced to about 30 years in prison. He was paroled in 1925, less than five years after his sentence began, on the condition he leave the state.
      Mason lived the rest of his life in Alabama.