Myrtle Gardner

SUMMARY: Myrtle Gardner, age 20, died on December 26, 1932 after an abortion perpetrated in Durham, North Carolina by Dr. Mike Roberson.

In late December of 1932, 20-year-old schoolteacher Myrtle Gardner of Four Oaks, North Carolina checked into a Raleigh motel room with her brother-in-law, George D. Clifton. The two presented themselves as a married couple.The following day, the two went to the home of Mrs. Carrie C. Forsythe, where they were to meet 45-year-old Dr. Mike Roberson, of Durham, for an abortion.

After the abortion, Mrytle took ill. Clifton took her to a hospital, where she was admitted under the name Mrs. George Clifton. She died from septic infection caused by an incomplete abortion on the evening of December 26. Dr. P. G. Fox reported her death to the police after Mrytle gave a deathbed statement at the hospital to him, another doctor, and a nurse.

Mrs. Forsythe, age 63 and described as “a gray-haired, middle-aged Raleigh woman,” was also charged with murder in Myrtle’s death. She was convicted and sentenced to 2 to 3 years for counseling and procuring the abortion. She collapsed and had to be carried to her cell after hearing the sentence. She spent the night “in a highly hysterical condition. Mrs. Forsythe had been charged previously as an accessory to abortion. Clifton was charged as an accessory in Myrtle’s death as well.

Roberson was originally charged with first degree murder for Myrtle’s death, but the charge was reduced to second-degree murder. Roberson’s wife provided his alibi, saying that he was at home sick the night Myrtle’s abortion was perpetrated. His defense also asserted that the prosecution had not proved that Myrtle had actually been pregnant.

Roberson pleaded nolo contendere and was given a 3 to five year prison sentence. The medical board revoked his license, but successfully convinced the court to suspend his prison sentence with the stipulation that he never practice medicine again, both on the grounds that he’d no longer be a danger if he stopped doing abortions and on the grounds that he was suffering a heart ailment and thus would not fare well in prison.

This was Roberson’s fourth arrest on abortion charges. He had been convicted in the 1928 abortion death of Irma Robinson, but won a new trial on appeal.

  • “Dr. Robertson [sic] Will Try to Secure Bond,” Greensboro (NC) Daily News, Dec. 30, 1932
  • “Dr. Mike Roberson Allowed Bail of $10,000 by Brogden,” Greensboro (NC) Daily News, Dec. 31, 1932
  • “Dr. Mike Roberson Jointly Accused in Criminal Operation,” Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Dec. 30, 1932.
  • “Mrs. Forsythe Is Given Sentence To State Prison,”Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Apr. 25, 1933
  • “License Revoked,”Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Jan. 1, 1933
  • “Couple Are Indicted For Teacher’s Death, Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Jan. 13, 1933
  • “Dr Mike Roberson Is Allowed Bail,Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Jan. 3, 1933
  • “Dr. Robertson [sic] Is Still in Prison,” Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Dec. 30, 1932
  • “Justice Outraged,” Statesville (NC) Record-Landmark, Apr. 28, 1933
  • Death certificate


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