Knight Refuses to Cooperate in Lynching Quiz

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The New Journal and Guide
Place of publication: Norfolk, Virginia
Date of publication: 1933-11-18

Knight Refuses to Cooperate in Lynching Quiz

Jury Records Denied Probers; Veiled Threat Made

Montgomery, Ala., —

“I do not know how you will be treated, and no one can tell what will happen.”

This was the thinly veiled threat of Attorney General Thomas E. Knight, Jr., of Alabama to a delegation of five Southerners and three northern liberals which called on him last week on their way to Tuscaloosa to investigate the lynching in that city of A. T. Harden and Dan Pippen, Jr., on August 13. The delegation, organizer by the National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners, is headed by Alfred Hirsch, secretary of the committee.

“I wish you would mind your own business,” Knight told the delegates who called on him to demand protection in Tuscaloosa. “If you go to Tuscaloosa you will be treated the same as any other of those outside citizens who are responsible for these deplorable lynchings. You will be treated as would anybody else.”

Passes the Bunk

“It was the obnoxious, unethical interference of Allen Taub, Irving Schwab, and Frank Irwin which roused disrespect for the law in Tuscaloosa.”

Taub, Schwab, and Irwin, International Labor Defense lawyers retained by the Tuscaloosa defendants, were driven out of town by a lynch-incited mob and the National Guard, when they appeared in court. Two weeks later, Pippen and Harden were lynched while under guard of county deputies. Elmore Clarke, third victim, accidentally escaped, though badly wounded.

“I am very much interested in lynching and in the good name of our state,” said Knight, who is preparing for the third Scottsboro trials opening in Decatur November 27. “I don’t care what outsiders think. We know we are doing our duty.”

Believes Victims Guilty

“I am thoroughly convinced the Tuscaloosa defendants were guilty. I have investigated the facts. Clarke is still alive, so I cannot express an opinion of his guilt or innocence.” The Southern Commission on the Study of Lynching, after an investigation, reported a fortnight ago it found no evidence clearly indicating the guilt of any of the lynch victims, the fourth of which was Dennis Cross.

Knight expressed hostility to the delegation throughout the entire interview, constantly attempting to cast doubt on their sincerity. He refused to grant them permission to examine the grand jury records either in regard to the original indictments against the Tuscaloosa boys, or of the investigation of their lynching. The latter grand jury announced that there was “no evidence” on the basis of which to hand down any indictments.

Ignored I. L. D. Evidence

The International Labor Defense at the time presented the grand jury, Knight, and Governor B. M. Miller, as well as President Roosevelt and U. S. Attorney General Cummings with direct charges of Murder against Henry B. Foster, Sheriff R. L. Shamblin, and the three deputies in the lynching of Pippen and Harden.

The delegates announced they would visit Clarke in Kilby Prison here before leaving for Tuscaloosa.

The members of the delegation are Bruce Crawford, editor of Norton, Va., Howard Keater, of Nashville, Tenn., southern secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; Vann Woodard, former professor of Georgia School of Technology,  Grace Lumpkin, of South Carolina, well known writer; Barbara Alexander, of Georgia; Jessica Henderson, of Boston and Hollace Randall and Alfred H. Hirsch of New York.