The Moore's Ford Lynching InfoCenter

A Visual Chronology of the Moore's Ford Lynching

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  • March, 1946 - In the aftermath of World War II, there was considerable social unrest in the United States, especially in the South. African-American men returning from service in the armed forces were treated with scorn and contempt by whites who feared they might inspire revolt and uprising within black communities. The number of lynchings of black people rose after the war, with twelve lynched in the Deep South in 1945 alone. The exclusion of most black people from the political system had been maintained since the turn of the century despite several court challenges. In April 1946, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that white primaries were unconstitutional, making way for at least some African-Americans to vote in Democratic Party primaries. In Georgia, some black people prepared to vote in the summer's primary against the resistance of most whites.
  • On July 17, WWII veteran Macio Snipes cast his vote in the Georgia Democratic Primary. He was the only African-American to vote in his district in Taylor County, about 90 miles south of Atlanta. The next day, July 18, 1946, four members of the Ku Klux Klan chapter went to Snipes’ farmhouse and shot him in the back. Although he made it to the hospital with the help of his mother, he was informed by doctors that the hospital had no “black blood” for transfusions. He lingered for two days then died on July 20.
  • March, 1946 - Gubernatorial candidate and white supremacist Eugene Talmadge launches a racially divisive campaign for Governor of Georgia. There is an incendiary political climate throughout the state. He is re-elected on July 17, 1946.
  • In Monroe, African-American couple Roger and Dorothy Malcolm got into a dispute with local white farmer Barnett Hester on July 14, 1946. This happened in an area known as Hester Town (near Madison, GA), widely regarded as a center of Klan activity in the mid-1940s. The argument between Roger and Dorothy escalated into a full-scale shouting match when the young couple was interrupted by property owner Barnett Hester; angry words were exchanged and a heated argument followed. Hester told the Malcolms they would have to leave his property by 6 pm that evening. Upon hearing this, Roger Malcolm stabbed Hester in the stomach with what witnesses described as an ice pick, delivering an injury that would plague him for the rest of his life. Hester family members grabbed and held Roger Malcolm until Walton County Sheriff’s deputies Lewis Howard and C.J. “Doc” Sorrells, the future sheriff, came to make an arrest.
  • Sitting in the Walton County Jail since Sunday, July 14, Roger Malcolm was not anxious to be released for fear of mob reprisal. But a judge dropped his bond from $600 to $500, making it possible for him to get out of jail while he awaited trial for the stabbing. Local farmer J. Loy Harrison agreed to post Malcolm's bond and bring him back to his farm. As Malcolm walked out of jail, Hester remained in the hospital. Harrison went to the Walton County Jail that afternoon with Malcolm’s wife Dorothy and another African-American couple, George and Mae Murray Dorsey. Dorothy Malcolm was said to be anxious to see her husband. The Dorseys accepted the ride to do some shopping in town. Harrison posted the bond and told the Malcolms and the Dorseys he would bring them back to his farm where the two couples were sharecroppers and farmhands.
  • Harrison didn’t take the most direct route back to his farm, but instead took the two couples toward the Moore’s Ford Bridge linking Walton and Oconee counties. He later told investigators how, as he approached the Oconee County side of the bridge over the Apalachee River, between 10 and 12 cars and 20 to 25 people blocked his way in either direction. The two African-American couples were taken at gunpoint from Harrison's car, led down to the river near the Moore's Ford Bridge in Walton County, GA, and executed in a hail of gunfire. The coroner's estimate counted sixty shots fired at close range. The victims were George W. Dorsey (a decorated WWII veteran), his wife Mae Murray, and Roger Malcom and his wife Dorothy.
  • VICTIMS: Roger Malcolm was a farm laborer who worked for the Hester family in Walton County. He was tall, thin and had bad feet – part of the reason he was ineligible for the armed services. At the tine of his death, he was the common-law husband of Dorothy Malcolm. His stabbing of Barnett Hester during an argument on the Hester farm is generally regarded as one of the primary causes of the lynching. Dorothy Malcolm was also known as Doris or Millie Kate, the common-law wife of Roger Malcolm. She was a laborer who also worked in the homes of white farmers.
  • VICTIMS: George Dorsey was Dorothy Malcolm’s brother. He was a field hand and worked on the farms of local property owners. A World War II Army veteran, he was discharged in September, 1945. He was a private first class in an engineer battalion and received the American Defense Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal and a good conduct medal. He had a son, but he and the mother never married. His son, Lucious Dorsey was said to be living in Atlanta. At the time of his death, he was the common-law husband of Mae Murray Dorsey. The common-law wife of George Dorsey, Mae was considered by many to be very attractive and a stylish dresser. Some of her friends nicknamed her Mae West. She was a field hand and a domestic.
  • By most accounts, a crowd of considerable size was present, yet no one came forward to identify members of the mob or the men who actually fired the weapons. Georgia governor Ellis Arnall requested assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in finding the members of the lynch mob, and a few days after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked U.S. president Harry S. Truman to investigate, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) entered the case.
  • Near the bridge, the FBI recovered bullets from shotguns and pistols of various calibers. The lynching took place in broad daylight and the gunmen were not masked yet no one came forward to help law enforcement agents. "The best people in town won't talk," said Georgia State Patrol Maj. William Spence of the case in a 1946 quote.
  • On July 26, 1946, the Walton County Sheriff told a reporter that he had no clues or suspects and nothing could be done.
  • President Truman ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the murders. In order to gain jurisdiction over the case, however, the FBI would have to prove that a conspiracy existed between the killers and local or state officials.
  • On December 3, 1946, District Court Judge T. Hoyt Davis convened a grand jury. The grand jury met for 16 days. According to one account, the FBI interviewed 2,790 people and the grand jury subpoenaed 106 witnesses. Four months after the massacre, however, none of the participants were identified and no indictments were returned for the murders.
  • After dissolution of the grand jury, the lead investigator wrote to government officials saying that "he understood the transcripts were being sent to Washington, D.C." But a letter found decades later in Atlanta later revealed that all information about the Moore's Ford Lynching had been destroyed.
  • New publicity about the Moore's Ford Lynching led to a new investigation by the FBI and the State of Georgia but - to date - the murderers have neither been identified nor prosecuted.
  • In 2001, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes reopened the case with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. At that time, some of the 55 suspects were still alive. In 2006 and 2008, the FBI joined in the investigations and began collecting forensic evidence from farms in the area.
  • In April 2006 the FBI announced that it would review its 1946 investigation of the crime. (Source: New Georgia Encyclopedia, )
  • The State of Georgia officially reopened the case and FBI investigators excavated certain properties in Walton County in 2008. Once again, none of their leads yielded any direct evidence or pointed them to any viable suspect.
  • At about this same time, author/historian Anthony S. Pitch began work on his book about the Moore's Ford Lynching, "The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town." He reviewed more than 10,000 documents from the FBI and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. What he really wanted, however, was access to the 1946 grand jury records.
  • On February 3, 2014, Anthony S. Pitch petitioned the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia for an order unsealing the grand jury transcripts. Acting as counsel for Mr. Pitch was attorney Joseph J. Bell, Jr., (Bell & Shivas, P. C.) of Rockaway, NJ. Pitch realized that he would have to mount a strong legal challenge against the strict rules of grand jury secrecy (Rule 6(e)).
  • On August 19, 2014, U. S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell dismissed Mr. Bell's original petition without prejudice because there was no evidence that any records existed.
  • Anthony S. Pitch finally discovered key documents about the case in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. There were about six (6) boxes containing 4,800 pages of transcripts and related materials.
  • On January 17, 2017, Pitch renewed his motion, claiming that his research had revealed the records in question were at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. That same day, the Court ordered the Department of Justice to produce the records for inspection in camera. The Government then confirmed that the transcripts - but no other records - had been found and filed copies under seal. Relying on Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e), the Government maintained that the records must remain sealed.
  • U. S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell entertained arguments as to why the 1946 Moore's Ford mass lynching grand jury transcripts (recently located in College Park, Maryland in the National Archives) should be released. Working on behalf of the petitioner, author/historian Anthony S. Pitch, attorney Joseph J. Bell, Jr. renewed his petition to have the grand jury transcripts unsealed. The issue for the Court was whether or not the petitioner (A. S. Pitch) had met his burden of showing that the Moore's Ford Lynching was of sufficient historical significance to justify allowing the district court to use its "inherent authority" to release the grand jury transcripts.
  • U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell, in Macon, GA, today agreed to release grand jury transcripts from the 1946 Moore's Ford Lynching Case. “Nothing favors continued secrecy other than the bare principle that grand jury proceedings should be secret, and while that is important, it is outweighed by the historical significance of the grand jury transcripts and the critical role they can play in enhancing the historical record of the tragic event that occurred at Moore’s Ford,” Treadwell wrote in his 15-page decision.
  • Judge Treadwell's decision closed with the following statement: "The Court notes that the Government has presented only a blanket objection to the release of the grand jury transcripts. The Court therefore affords the Government 21 days to provide objections to specific portions of the transcripts, if it so chooses. Otherwise, and absent appeal, the transcripts will be disclosed in their entirety."
  • In accordance with Judge Treadwell's August 18, 2017 decision, the Government was permitted leave to challenge the ruling within 21 days (which it did). Government attorneys then filed the necessary papers to present their challenge to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Their claim was that, despite the historical significance of the Moore's Ford grand jury records, that fact alone did not trump the need for tight preservation of grand jury secrecy (Rule 6(e)).
  • Joe Bell delivered oral arguments in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals arguing for affirmation of Judge Treadwell’s 8/18/2017 decision (i.e., the release of the 1946 grand jury records on behalf of petitioner Anthony S. Pitch). Department of Justice attorney Brad Hinshelwood argued that rules governing grand jury secrecy allowed for exceptions but that Pitch's request didn't meet any of them. Those rules could be changed, he said, but that would need to be done by policymaking bodies rather than the courts. Joe Bell argued that the historical significance of the case and the possibility that real answers might come out were of paramount public interest. He also noted that all of the suspects and witnesses in this case were now dead.
  • On Monday, February 11, 2019, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold the District Court's order (i.e., granting Pitch access to the 1946 Moore's Ford Grand Jury testimony). "I think it's just enormous," Pitch said by phone after the 11th Circuit ruling was published. Joe Bell, in an interview with The New York Times said he was "absolutely delighted."
  • The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, after polling, decides that Pitch v. USA will be re-heard en banc later this year. Case: 17-15016 Date Filed: 06/04/2019 "A member of this Court in active service having requested a poll on whether this case should be reheard en banc and a majority of the judges of this Court in active service having voted in favor of granting rehearing en banc, IT IS ORDERED that this case will be reheard en banc. The panel’s opinion is VACATED."
  • It is with great sadness that the law firm of Bell & Shivas announces the death of our good friend and client Anthony S. Pitch. We've represented Anthony since late 2013 as he sought access to the 1946 Moore's Ford Lynching grand jury records. Photograph by Johnathon Kelso.
  • The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals requires motions from Joe Bell (on behalf of the Estate of Anthony S. Pitch) and from the Government in preparation for the October 22, 2019 oral arguments (en banc).
  • Joe Bell (on behalf of Anthony S. Pitch) delivers oral arguments addressing the prolonged time period to get justice for the victims of the Moore's Ford massacre (73 years). He cites cases in sister circuits (2nd and 7th) in which courts have declared they have inherent supervisory authority to dislose grand jury records from historically significant events. The Government still opposes such disclosure citing the strict language of Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that bars courts from such disclosures.
  • Grand jury records from the unsolved 74-year-old Moore's Ford lynching case must remain sealed according to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. On March 27, 2020, the Court announced it has reversed its 2019 ruling granting release of grand jury records to petitioner Anthony S. Pitch and Laura Wexler. The Court ruled 8-4 that federal judges do not have authority to disclose grand jury records for reasons not specifically cited in the federal rules governing grand jury secrecy. “This decision knocks us down, but it doesn’t knock us out,” commented Attorney Joseph J. Bell.
  • The law firm of Bell & Shivas, P. C. filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U. S. Supreme Court on August 21, 2020. The petition was officially docketed on August 27, 2020. The Government has 30 days to respond to this petition or it may waive its right to respond (unless the Court requires it to do so).