Governor's role in lynching cited

AP / File
Eugene Talmadge: Three-term governor will be portrayed in the annual re-enactment of a 1946 lynching at Moore's Ford Bridge.

ATLANTA - The late Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge will have a starring role in the re-enactment of a notorious lynching, following the recent disclosure that the FBI investigated his involvement in the case.


Organizers of Wednesday's reenactment in Monroe, Ga., said a volunteer depicting Mr. Talmadge will deliver a race-baiting stump speech, much like the one the Democrat is believed to have made in the area around the time that two black couples were lynched. It's the first time the three-term governor will appear in what's become a ritual on the anniversary of the murder of two black couples.

Civil rights leader and state Rep. Tyrone Brooks said Monday that Mr. Talmadge's fiery, racist rhetoric inspired the violence that led to the brutal 1946 attack on Moore's Ford Bridge.

"Gov. Eugene Talmadge played a very prominent role in inciting violence and inciting the Ku Klux Klan," Mr. Brooks said at a news conference Monday in front of Mr. Talmadge's towering statue at the state Capitol.

Mr. Talmadge's involvement came to light in newly released FBI documents reviewed by The Associated Press last month.

The 3,725 pages obtained by The AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the FBI looked into whether Mr. Talmadge sanctioned the murders to woo white rural voters during a tough 1946 re-election campaign.

Mr. Talmadge paid a visit to the north Georgia town of Monroe just two days before the Democratic gubernatorial primary and a day after a highly charged racial incident there in which Roger Malcom, a black sharecropper, stabbed a white farmer. Mr. Malcom and Dorothy Malcom, along with George and Mae Murray Dorsey, would later be dragged from their car on Moore's Ford Bridge by a mob of white men, tied to trees and shot to death. Dorothy Malcom was seven months pregnant.

The killings remain unsolved and are under investigation by the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In a report sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the agent in charge of the probe said that Mr. Talmadge met with George Hester, brother of the stabbed farmer. Citing an unconfirmed witness statement, the agent said Mr. Talmadge offered immunity to anyone "taking care of negro."

The agent called Mr. Talmadge's involvement "unbelievable" but added that it still warranted investigation. The report made no conclusion about the killings.

Mr. Talmadge's grandson, Herman Talmadge, denied his grandfather had an involvement.

The simmering racial tensions in the rural Georgia community about 45 miles east of Atlanta came as Mr. Talmadge was facing a tough primary battle. Walton County was up for grabs.

Mr. Talmadge won the county by about 200 votes. He died in 1946, after winning a third term.

Wednesday will mark the third re-enactment of the killings.

Mr. Brooks said he hoped the renewed attention on the case will result in the arrest and prosecution of those suspects who are still alive today.

There is $27,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution in the case.

Robert Howard, a Walton County civil rights activist, said the killings show there was a complicity between politicians, law enforcement, the legal system and the KKK.

"This case illuminated the history of the whole South," he said, noting it prompted President Truman to dispatch FBI agents to Monroe. "Having the truth told would help us live in peace."