Tag Archives: Terrorism

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

January 23, 1957

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Willie Edwards was 25. His wife Sarah was pregnant with their third child. Winn-Dixie had hired him as a driver just two months earlier, a job he needed not just to support his growing family, but two sisters as well.

His boss asked him if he could substitute on a route. He quickly accepted the offer, happy for the extra income.

On his way back from his evening run to Sylacauga, AL he stopped for a soda.  He turned on the truck’s dome light to read his log.

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Klansmen plan

It was around 11:30 PM. Henry Alexander, Raymond Britt, Sonny Kyle Livingston Jr,  and James York sat nearby about to execute their latest terrorist act: kidnap a black man who they’d heard had said “something” to a white woman.

They walked up to Edwards’s truck, pointed a gun at him, and ordered him into their vehicle.

The men shoved and slapped him as they drove. One man pointed his gun at Mr. Edwards and threatened to castrate him. Sobbing and begging the men not to harm him, Edwards repeatedly denied having said anything to any white woman.

When the men reached the Tyler-Goodwyn Bridge, they ordered Edwards out of the car and gave a choice to him: jump or they’d shoot him.  Edwards climbed the railing of the bridge and fell 125 feet to his death.

The next morning, Edwards’s truck was found in the store parking lot, the dome light still on.  Others assumed him simply missing.  Perhaps he’d gone to California, a place he’d always wanted to go.

Fishermen found Edwards’s decomposed body in April and Sarah officially became a widow. The police closed their missing persons case.

Sarah left Montgomery in 1961 and never returned.

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Attorney General Bill Baxley

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Bill Baxley had become Alabama’s Attorney General in 1971. He considered it part of his job to try to uncover evidence of Alabama’s murderous racist past.

In 1976  Edward R. Fields— founder of the “National States’ Rights Party” and “Grand Dragon” of the New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — sent Baxley a threatening letter regarding Baxley’s policy. Baxley famously wrote back, telling Fields, “Kiss my ass.”

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Raymond Britt

In a conversation with Raymond Britt, Britt told Baxley that he, Britt, had left the Klan after he and the others had killed Edwards.

On February 20, 1976 Baxley gave Britt immunity for his testimony and filed first-degree murder charges against Livingston, Alexander, and York.

Because the cause of Edwards’s death was difficult to determine,  the court twice denied the indictments.

“Merely forcing a person to jump from a bridge does not naturally and probably lead to the death of such a person,” Judge Frank Embry ruled.

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

FBI intervenes

The intervention that ended the investigation came from the FBI. It informed Baxley that Henry Alexander was their primary Klan informant in the area and asked Baxley to give him “some consideration.”

“Consideration” was something Alexander had enjoyed many times. Alabama had previously indicted Alexander for four church bombings, the bombings of two homes, and the assault of a black woman riding on a bus, He was never prosecuted.

At that point, unable to proceed with any confidence in a conviction, Baxley abandoned the case against the men and dropped all charges.

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

Henry Alexander’s conscience

Jimmy York died in 1979.

Henry Alexander died  in 1993, but before he did he confessed and told the whole story to his wife Diane. One of the things he said was, “That man never hurt anybody. I was just running my mouth. I caused it.”

She was sickened by the story. Ashamed. “Henry lived a lie all his life, and he made me live it, too,” she said. Alexander’s family refused to believe the confession and wanted nothing to do with the revelation Diane wanted.

After Henry’s death, Diane wrote to Sarah Jean Salter who lived in Buffalo, NY.  “I hope maybe one day I can meet you to tell you face to face how sorry I am,” the letter said. “May God bless you and your family and I pray that this letter helps you somehow.”

Later she met in person with Melinda O’Neill, Edwards’s daughter, who was three at the time of her father’s murder.

In 1997, as a result of requests by Willie Edwards’ daughter Malinda Edwards, the Alabama Department of Vital Statistics changed her father’s cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide.” (Northeastern University School of Law entry)

A 1999 Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict any of the surviving suspects for the murder of Willie Edwards Jr. (see Feb 14)

Raymond C. Britt died in December 2004

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

FBI re-investigation

In September 1993, the FBI began an investigation into its own possible part in preventing a prosecution of the murder. (NYT article)

On July 9, 2013, the US Justice Department officially closed its investigation with the following statement. It is assumed that the redacted name is that of Sonny Livingston.

The State of Alabama has declined to authorize a third prosecution of XXXX, the only living subject, under Alabama law.  It should be noted that additional witnesses and subjects have died since the second grand jury declined to indict based upon insufficient evidence, and all individuals other than XXXXXX alleged to have had direct knowledge of this incident are now deceased.  Accordingly, this matter should be closed.  The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama concurs in this recommendation.  (justice.gov site)

Other Sources:

New York Times article

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr

KKK Murders Willie Edwards Jr
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Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

What’s an Iran?

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Like Vietnam the decade before, Americans may have heard of  Iran in 1978, but where exactly it was and what was happening there were likely unknown.

Oh, you mean Persia?

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

In our World History classes we’d heard about the ancient country and civilization of Persia and we might have even recognized the name of Cyrus the Great, one of Persia’s great leaders. Our Sunday School teachers may have pointed out that Cyrus liberated the Jews.

Whatever our level of knowledge was, in late 1978 Americans media reported that in Iran…

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Revolution begins

On November 26, 1978 Muslim religious leaders and politicians seeking to topple the Shah of Iran called a general strike that virtually paralyzed the country and by December anti-Shah protesters poured through Tehran chanting “Allah is great.”

December 11, 1978: massive demonstrations took place in Tehran against the Shah. In Isfahan, Iran, 40 people were killed and 60 wounded during riots against the Shah.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

January 16, 1979:  Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran fled Iran with his family, relocating to Egypt.

Reza Khan, the Shah’s father, had come to power in 1921 and Pahlavi had succeeded him in 1941.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

February 1, 1979: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Tehran, Iran after 14 years in exile due to his opposition to the Shah’s dynasty. Within nine days his followers seized power in Iran.

Kidnappings

February 14, 1979: In Kabul,Afghanistan, Muslim extremists kidnapped the American ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, who was later killed during a gunfight between his kidnappers and police. (NYT article)

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

By April 1, 1979, Iran had been a monarchy ruled by an emperor almost without interruption from 1501, officially became an Islamic republic.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

US intervention

October 20, 1979: the U.S. government allowed the deposed Shah of Iran to travel to New York for medical treatment.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Americans taken hostage 

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

November 4, 1979: Iran hostage crisis begins. 3,000 Iranian radicals, mostly students, invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 90 hostages (53 of whom are American). They demanded that the United States send the former Shah of Iran back to stand trial. (1981 NYT article about events that led up to hostage taking)

November 12, 1979: in response to the hostage situation in Tehran, U.S. President Jimmy Carter ordered a halt to all oil imports into the United States from Iran. Two days later, Carter issued Executive Order 12170, freezing all Iranian assets in the United States and U.S. banks in response to the hostage crisis.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Some hostages freed

November 17, 1979: Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the release of 13 female and African American hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. (NYT article)

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Some escape

January 28, 1980: six United States diplomats, posing as Canadians, managed to escaped from Tehran, Iran as they boarded a flight to Zürich, Switzerland. (NYT article)

April 7, 1980: the US severs diplomatic relations with Iran and imposes economic sanctions.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Failed rescue attempt

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

April 24, 1980: an American military aborted rescue mission in Iran after mechanical problems ground the helicopters. Eight United States troops are killed in a mid-air collision during the failed operation. (NYT article)

July 27, 1980: Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, deposed Shah of Iran, died in Cairo. (NYT article)

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Ronald Reagan

November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

December 24, 1980: Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds — one second for each day of captivity

. Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Agreement

January 19, 1981: the United States and Iran signed an agreement paving the way for the release of 52 Americans held hostage for more than 14 months.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

January 20, 1981: Iran released the 52 Americans held for 444 days within minutes of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration ending the Iran hostage crisis.

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

January 30, 1981: an estimated 2 million New Yorkers turned out for a ticker-tape parade honoring the freed American hostages from Iran.

June 3, 1989: Ayatollah Khomeini died in Tehran. (NYT article)

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

Iran Hostages Ayatollah Khomeini

 

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Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party casts a long shadow in American history. While today’s GOP does not emphasize inclusion in its platform, for decades after the Civil War Lincoln’s party tried to give actual freedom to the legally freed Black population in the southern States. The Democratic party in those states gradually regained control, created Black Codes, and became an increasingly important piece of the national Democratic party’s evolving success.

On the face of it, introducing a bill in the early 20th century that made lynching a federal crime seems a sure thing.

It was not.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Leonidas C. Dyer

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Missouri’s Leonidas C. Dyer served 11 terms in the U.S. Congress as a from 1911 to 1933.  He had served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 entering as a private and rising to the rank of colonel.

Dyer was both a Republican and a progressive, terms that today seem antithetical. The 1917 race riots in Missouri as well as the continual reports of lynchings in the south brought him to the point of introducing the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in April 1918 .

It called for the prosecution of lynchers in federal court and that State officials who failed to protect lynching victims or prosecute lynchers could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The victim’s heirs could recover up to $10,000 from the county where the crime occurred.

In 1920 the Republican Party supported such legislation in its platform from the National Convention.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

No official record

Here is a look at the long and frustrating path the bill took. Keep in mind that according to the site, Chestnutt Archieve, there had been thousands of lynchings that had taken place in the United States since 1882! Like police shootings today, there was no official record kept of such killings. More than 70% of the lynchings were done by Whites against Blacks. Those Whites lynched (also by Whites) were done typically when the White person was perceived as having aided a Black person in some way.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

House Judiciary Committee

October 20, 1921: the House Judiciary Committee supported the bill. 

October 26, 1921: President Warren G. Harding spoke at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the founding of Birmingham, Alabama. Before a crowd of about 100,000 whites and African-Americans, he gave a strong civil rights message: “Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.” Reportedly his statement was greeted with complete silence.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill
Representative Finis Garrett of Tennessee

December 20, 1921: although outnumbered in the House membership by more than two to one, Democrats under the leadership of Representative Finis Garrett of Tennessee filibustered successfully against consideration of the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. Republican floor leader, Rep Franklin Mondell, gave in to the filibuster and agreed to postpone debate on the the bill until after the Christmas holidays.

January 4, 1922: debate on the Dyer anti-lynching bill got under way in the House. Democratic House leader, Representative Garrett of Tennessee, spent three hours demanding roll calls in an attempt to postpone debate.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

January 26, 1922: after more than three weeks, the House passed the Dyer Bill by a vote of 230 to 119.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Senate Committee on the Judiciary


May 23, 1922: the Senate Committee on the Judiciary concluded that the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill was unconstitutional and for that reason should not be reported to the Senate.

June 14, 1922: Blacks from Washington, DC staged a silent parade to protest continued lynchings and in an effort to promote action by Congress on the Dyer anti-lynching bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

June 23, 1922: at its thirteen annual conference in Newark, the NAACCP pledged the Association membership to “punish” those who oppose the Dyer bill. “The Republican Party has always received the bulk of the negro vote; the Republican Party is in power; the Republican Party has promised by its platform and its President to pass the Dyer bill. Unless the pledge is kept we solemnly pledge ourselves to use every avenue of influence to punish the persons who defeat it. We will regard no man as our friend who opposes this bill.”

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

June 30, 1922: the Senate Judiciary Committee, to the surprise of the Senate, voted 8 to 6 to favorably report the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill, which would permit the Federal Government to assume prosecution of lynchings when States fall or neglect to prosecute. It was fully understood that the Senate would allow this bill to die because it stirred up so much feeling during its progress in the House.

August 14, 1922: a delegation of Black women met with President Harding to urge final Congressional action on the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. He expressed doubt about the bill’s passage.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

National Equal Rights League

September 24, 1922: the National Equal Rights League sent a telegram to President Harding calling for a special session of Congress to act on the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. Congress had adjourned without completing consideration of the bill.

November 4, 1922: the National Equal Rights League presented a petition signed by thousands of people from fifteen States calling for Congress to consider the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Democrat filibuster

November 28, 1922: a Democrat filibuster completely deadlocked the US Senate as a result of the Republican attempt to have the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill made the unfinished business of the Senate. Senator Oscar Underwood, the Democratic leader, stated that the minority wold filibuster to the end of the session if necessary, adding that so long as the majority persisted in trying to bring the bill before the Senate the opponents of the bill would refuse to permit the consideration of any other legislation. 

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Bill lynched

December 2, 1922: the Republican caucus voted to drop the Dyer Anti-Lynching bill. Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts stated, “The conference was in session nearly three hours and discussed the question very thoroughly. Of course the Republicans feel very strongly, as I do, that the bill ought to become a law. The situation before us was this: Under the rules of the Senate the Democrats, who are filibustering, could keep up that filibuster indefinitely, and there is no doubt they can do so.

An attempt to change the rules wold only shift the filibuster to another subject. We cannot pass the bill in this Congress and, therefore, we had to choose between giving up the whole session to a protracted filibuster or going ahead with regular business of the session….The conference decided very reluctantly that it was our duty to set aside the Dyer bill and go on with the business of the session.”

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Lynchings continue

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

July 13 1923: US House representative Leonidas Dyer of St Louis stated that he was not surprised at the acquittal of a George Barkwell at Columbia, Missouri on the charge of murder in connection with the lynching of James Scott, a Black. Dyer referred to statistics which, he said, showed that 3,824 lynchings had been recorded during the last thirty-five years and that in all those cases there had scarcely been a conviction.

August 24, 1923: a 34-year-old black farmhand Ben Hart was killed based on suspicion that he was a “Peeping Tom” who had that morning peered into a young white girl’s bedroom window near Jacksonville, Florida. According to witnesses, approximately ten unmasked men came to Hart’s home around 9:30 p.m. claiming to be deputy sheriffs and informing Hart he was accused of looking into the girl’s window. Hart professed his innocence and readily agreed to go to the county jail with the men, but did not live to complete the journey.

Shortly after midnight the next day, Hart’s handcuffed and bullet-riddled body was found in a ditch about three miles from the city. Hart had been shot six times and witnesses reported seeing him earlier that night fleeing several white men on foot who were shooting at him as several more automobiles filled with white men followed.

Police investigating Hart’s murder soon determined he was innocent of the accusation against him; he was at his home 12 miles away when the alleged peeping incident occurred.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill

Legacy

Other legislators proposed anti-lynching bills, but the powerful southern Democratic coalition in the Senate continued to bloc each bill.


On June 13, 2005, in a resolution the US Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact this and other anti-lynching bills “when action was most needed.

The resolution is the first time that members of Congress, who had apologized to Japanese-Americans for their internment in World War II and to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom, had apologized to African-Americans for any reason.

Dyer Anti-Lynching bill
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