Jail Gathering Will be Probed by Grand Jury

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The Tuscaloosa News
Place of publication: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Date of publication: 06-22-1933

Jail Gathering Will be Probed by Grand Jury

Federal Court also Probably Will Investigate Group That Sought Negroes

Harden, Pippen Taken Away to Another City

Transfer Delays Case Nearing Solution; Judge, Sheriff Disperse Crowd

Prompt investigation and possible prosecution appeared certain today for persons responsible for the gathering of a group at Tuscaloosa County jail last night just before midnight, seeking two negroes held as suspects for the murder of Vaudine Maddox near Big Sandy creek on June 12.

The group, including several hundred boys and young men with only a few older persons, was peacefully dispersed by Circuit Judge Henry B. Foster and Sheriff R. L. Shamblin who met them at the jail steps. Sheriff Shamblin took two members of the group through the jail to satisfy their curiosity and convince them that the negroes, A. T. Harden, 15, and Dan Pippen, 18, had been transferred from this county to a jail in another city.

Barred from City Jail

After the gathering at the county jail, approximately two score of the youths went to the city hall and asked to go through the city jail. Desk Sergeant Zack Ryan refused admittance to headquarters and Chief Hardin D. Billingsley. Judge Foster and several officers arrived shortly afterward and quickly cleared the building. The officers were armed with modern billies equipped with tear gas which renders all in range temporarily blind, but it was unnecessary to use these weapons.

“It appeared less like a mob than any group I have ever seen gathered for a similar occasion,” Judge Foster said today. “It was not in inflamed spirit and was easily and peacefully dispersed after the curiosity of the boys had been satisfied.” Judge Foster has on many instances met groups of this kind, both as circuit judge and formerly as a colonel in the state militia.

However, the court indicated that the grand jury would be requested to launch a comprehensive investigation of the gathering and determine persons responsible for it. The group appeared quite disorganized, having no spokesman, but a number of Tuscaloosa youths are known to have been prominent in it. The gathering was almost solely of Tuscaloosa persons, there being few county residents and almost no one from Hale County. All appeared to be unarmed.

Many Spectators Present

Prior to the converging on the courthouse, a group of approximately one hundred with 25 or 30 automobiles congregated on Greensboro road near the viaduct three miles from town. The motorcade came to the city about 11:30 o’clock, and this group was joined by a large number of spectators and curiosity seekers already downtown.

Several of the crowd spoke very disrespectfully to Judge Foster and Sheriff Shamblin. There was little show of violence however with only a few individuals expressing threats against the two negroes. There was no general race feeling in evidence. The gathering served only to lay the investigation of the Maddox case, which is now nearing solution, officials pointed out. It had been planned to question more witnesses and the suspects last night but this became impossible due to the crowd making it advisable for officers to spirit the Negroes away to an unannounced jail.

The grand jury will be organized as soon as the case develops to the point where the investigators believe that indictments are warranted. That grand jury will also be delegated the task of investigating last night’s gathering. Charges of “inciting a mob,” a serious crime in both state and federal statutes, may be lodged against some individuals in connection with the group. The federal grand jury will also probably look into the case.