Sunday, July 29, 2007

Can't really think of a title for this...

In Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, one can find this little newspaper snippet on page 135:

The Alabama Supreme Court yesterday upheld a death sentence imposed on a Negro handyman, Jimmy Wilson, 55, for robbing Mrs. Esteele Barker of $1.95 at her home last year. Mrs. Barker is white.

Although robbery is a capital offense in Alabama, no one has been executed in the state before for the theft of less than $5. A court official suggested that the jury has been influenced by the fact that Mrs. Barker told the jury that Wilson had spoken to her in a disrespectful tone.

A spokesperson for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the death sentence 'a sad blot on the nation,' but said that the organization is unable to aid the condemned man because it is barred in Alabama.

- Des Moines Register, 23 August 1958

My father was 18 years old when this took place and I'd like to think of it as a positive story about how much can change in so little time, but right now I'm mostly just horrified.

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