Four Lynchings in Tuscaloosa Being Probed

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The New Journal and Guide
Place of publication: Norfolk, Virginia
Date of publication: 1933-11-11


4 Southerners, Three Women in Group; To Return to Md.

New York, New York—

A delegation representing the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, 156 Fifth Avenue, New York City, left Thursday, November 2, for Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the recent scene of four Negro lynchings, where the committee will conduct an investigation.

It is the stated purpose of the delegation, according to Alfred H. Hirsch, secretary of the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, “not only to investigate, but to make clear the causes of the lynchings and to fix the true responsibility for them.”

Upon its return from Alabama the Committee will stop in Maryland to investigate the lynching of George Armwood in Princess Ann, Md., on October 18.

The committee, in order to make this investigation a thorough one, needs additional funds, which should be sent to 156 Fifth Avenue, Room 534, New York City.

Seek to Indict Sheriff

The National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners’ investigating delegation will question Sheriff R. L. Shamblin, Judge Foster of Tuscaloosa and other citizens. Steps have already been taken to indict and convict Sheriff Shamblin for the lynchings under a Federal Statute.

“It is our aim,” Mr. Hirsch said, “to surround our findings on this lynching with the broadest and most searching publicity. We want to bring these crimes before the court of world opinion so clearly and sharply that extra-legal lynchings—which are becoming a recognized short cut to terrorization as the fight for Negro legal rights grow, may become impossible.”

No Useless Report Planned

“Above all, we will avoid a library shelf report which leads to no immediate and pressing action.”

Of the seven National Committee Investigators, four are Southerners and three are women. The four Southerners are: Bruce Crawford, editor of Crawford’s Weekly, Norton, Va.; Howard Kester, southern secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation of Nashville, Tenn.; Grace Lumpkin, South Carolina novelist; and Vann Woodward, former professor at the Georgia School of Technology. Other members of the committee are Hollace Ransdell, Jessica Henderson, and Alfred H. Hirsch. All are white.

The composition of the investigating group is considered significant for two reasons. The predominance of Southerners is an answer to the “northern interference” red herring. The unusual number of women in considered equally an answer to the sex-crimes explanation commonly offered for lynchings which investigation shows were of economic origin.

Frame-up Shown

At least one of the Tuscaloosa lynchings was of this type. Dennis Cross 50 years old, a paralytic, so helpless that his wife had to dress and undress him, was accused by police of having attempted to attack a white woman and was lynched by men posing as deputies. It is known that he was the single remaining witness of the murder of a Negro in a store owned by a Mr. Denton. The other witnesses have been sentenced to long prison terms on robbery charges.

The other Tuscaloosa lynchings were Dan Pippen, Jr., A. T. Harden, and James Pruitt: Pippen and Harden were killed while in the custody of Sheriff R. L. Shamblin on a lonely road to which they had been taken in an automobile. They were at the time being transported from the Tuscaloosa jail to the Birmingham jail for “safe-keeping.”

A third prisoner, Elmore Clark, escaped with bullet wounds. All three were defendants in an alleged “sex crime.” International Labor Defense attorneys in charge of their case had earlier been run out of town by an armed mob.