MONROE, Ga. — A Georgia state lawmaker facing federal wire fraud and mail fraud charges said Thursday that federal investigators are targeting him because of his efforts to investigate an unsolved 1946 lynching.
Rep. Tyrone Brooks, flanked by about a dozen supporters, spoke at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Monroe, where two black couples were killed nearly 70 years ago. Brooks has long championed the effort for justice in the slayings and said he believes FBI agents have been actively involved in a cover-up.
He did not offer any proof to support his claim that he was being targeted, saying simply, “There is no other reason for them to attack me at this juncture in my history.”
A spokesman for the FBI’s Atlanta office said the agency would not issue any comment on Brooks’ accusations.
“We know that the reason that we have been under attack by the government over the last few weeks and the horrible things that have been said about me personally is a direct result of our involvement in the Moore’s Ford Bridge movement,” the longtime Democratic lawmaker said.
A federal grand jury handed down an indictment this month that alleges Brooks solicited more than $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 to fight illiteracy in underserved communities and other causes. Prosecutors say Brooks used the money for personal and family expenses, ranging from home repairs to credit card bills.
The 67-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns last week.
“The FBI, from 1946 up until today, as an institution, has not seen fit to pursue these criminals and bring them to the bar of justice,” Brooks said. He said a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the lynching and other civil rights cold cases.
Two black couples were killed at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Walton County, about 45 miles east of Atlanta, on July 25, 1946. A white mob dragged Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey from a car. They were then tied to trees and shot to death. Dorothy Malcom was seven months pregnant.
Roger Malcom, a black sharecropper, had stabbed and wounded a white farmer. After the lynching, President Harry Truman dispatched the FBI to Monroe, but the federal investigators were met with a wall of silence. The FBI identified 55 possible suspects, but no one was ever arrested, partly because of a lack of witnesses.
The case was untouched for years. Brooks met with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Macon in March 1968, and King said he would make the case a priority, Brooks said. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., a few weeks later.
The Georgia lawmaker, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1981, said he was urged by local activists to start looking into the case again in 1999. He urged Gov. Roy Barnes to reopen the case, and the Democrat directed the GBI to look into it, Brooks said.
Barnes, a lawyer, is representing Brooks for free in his criminal case.
Brooks refused Thursday to answer any questions about the criminal charges against him, referring those questions to Barnes, who wasn’t present. Barnes said last week that Brooks never took a salary from the organizations he led, but he was paid for expenses and used that money to pay his bills.
The ninth annual reenactment of the Moore’s Ford lynching, which Brooks helps to organize, is set for July 27.
Brooks and his associates have been interviewing witnesses and gathering information on the killings for years and have reason to believe many of the suspects are still alive, some of them still living in the area while others have moved to other states, he said. There were more than 200 people on the bridge the night of the lynching, and some of them have ties to prominent families in the area and elsewhere, Brooks said.
“I think a lot of people would like this to just go away because it’s a source of shame for Georgia. It’s a stain on our history,” he said. “But we’re going to continue on.”