Agents probe 1946 lynchings

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MONROE, Ga. --- Federal and state agents swarmed the backyard of a modest white house along a windy stretch in rural northeast Georgia this week in search of clues that could be linked to living suspects involved in the 1946 unsolved lynchings of four people.

Agents from the FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished two days of searching the property in Walton County on Tuesday after they received "recent information" about the decades-old killings at the Moore's Ford Bridge. The deaths are some of the nation's most notorious unsolved lynchings.

"It was information that could not be ignored," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. "We had to follow it."

Activists in the area have long said that some of the culprits in the lynchings of Roger and Dorothy Malcom, and George and Mae Murray Dorsey are alive. For them, the public investigation was an encouraging sign that authorities were making good on a promise to follow each and every lead in the case.

"Over the years we've had so many highs and lows, so I'm trying to stay calm," said Bobby Howard, a resident of nearby Social Circle who has roamed the neighborhoods for 41 years in search of possible witnesses. "But you've got to get excited when you think there could be some type of finality."

An angry white mob of as many as 30 people dragged the two black couples from a car and tied them to trees on July 25, 1946. The mob fired three volleys of bullets at the couples, leaving their dead bodies slumped behind in the dirt. One of the victims, Dorothy Malcom, was seven months pregnant.

An outraged President Harry Truman dispatched the FBI to the town of Monroe, about 45 miles east of Atlanta, but the feds were met with a wall of silence. The FBI identified 55 possible suspects after the killings, but no one was arrested, partly because of a lack of witnesses.

The case grew colder for years, until 1991 when Clinton Adams came forward claiming he saw the lynching unfold when he was a 10-year-old while hiding in the bushes near the bridge.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes reopened the case about eight years ago, and the Justice Department followed suit last year. But any police work focused on the killings since then remained under wraps until this week.

The FBI said the current residents of the property are not suspects, and authorities would not say what type of evidence was seized or what led them there.

Activists say the search is linked to a recent spike in interest about the case. In recent years, a group of residents formed a committee to drum up more attention to the lynching by staging a gruesome re-enactment each year, an exercise they say often yields tips from aging witnesses who had been reluctant to come forward.

"We're encouraged and optimistic that we're getting closer to seeing justice done and the rule of law upheld and respected," said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, an Atlanta Democrat who helps stage the re-enactments. "That's what this is really about -- upholding the rule of law."

Each passing year, though, makes a successful prosecution less likely. Most of the suspects and possible witnesses have died, and many of those that are still alive are at least 80.Hattie Lawson, a former Madison resident who now lives in nearby Athens, said she's confident that the search will lead to a round of indictments.

"I really think this will give people more faith in the justice system," she said. "I really do."

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1trugent 07/03/08 - 08:30 am
Whatever is hidden in the

Whatever is hidden in the dark, will soon come to light.

mgr 07/03/08 - 09:59 am
It would be great if they

It would be great if they could put closure to this horrible tragedy by catching and convicting the cowards who were responsible for this. My thoughts are that when we can finalize the answers to these type of acts, then we are able to continue to move past the racial barriers that were established many years ago.

Purrfectlyevil 07/03/08 - 10:07 am
62 years later.... I am

62 years later.... I am appalled!
Granted there is an effort being made now...
So what if the perpetrators are found?...
What punishment will be meted out to them?
Jail time? yayyy... they are probably at deaths door now.
I think that it should be an 'eye for an eye' in this case!!!
Make their families suffer just as the families of the
victims have suffered ALL OF THESE YEARS!!!
...... in the words of Al Pacinos character.."Hurrah!!!"
BTW... I am white.. and the injustice needs to STOP

devilishlymad67 07/03/08 - 10:26 am
The families of the guilty

The families of the guilty are innocent, many not even born that long ago. Why should they be made to suffer. That is ignorant just as this lynching was. I have always wondered what lead to this series of events? While I am sure that doesn't excuse what was done it would be nice to have the "rest of the story".

jrbfromga 07/03/08 - 11:32 am
Would someone tell the AP

Would someone tell the AP that Monroe is not "rural northeast Georgia". It is more like "rural northeast suburb of Atlanta".

Lou Stewall
Lou Stewall 07/03/08 - 04:05 pm
Why was the mob angry and

Why was the mob angry and were they angry at the specific victims? Do these ancient crimes justify the endless slaughter that blacks inflict upon whites who are strangers, while very few whites kill or rape blacks who are strangers? Whites suffer in politically correct silence while blacks call in Al Sharpton over bogus "injustices".

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