November 20, 1933


Warning of 'Massacre' of Seven Prisoners and Their Lawyers at Decatur (Ala.) Court Today, Defense Counsel Wire President a Plea to Obtain State Troops.

By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to The New York Times

DECATUR, Ala., Nov. 19.

    President Roosevelt was urged today to intervene and avert the danger of mob violence tomorrow when seven of the nine Negro defendants in the Scottsboro case are to be arraigned here in the Morgan County Court House.

    Attorneys for the accused men, who have been in prison for nearly three years, telegraphed the President at Warm Springs, Ga., urging Governor Miller of Alabama to insure military protection for themselves and their clients.

    In the message sent from Birmingham and signed by Samuel S, Leibowitz, chief counsel; G.W. Chamlee and Joseph Brodsky, his associates, Mr. Roosevelt was informed that "the probability of a massacre of the defendants and their attorneys is extremely grave."

    The tentative decision of Circuit Judge W.W. Callahan, who is to preside at the third trial of Heywood Patterson, opening a week from tomorrow, to dispense with the militia, occasioned the dispatch of the telegram after a direct appeal to Governor Miller, who is ill, failed to bring the desired result.

    The telegram to the President, as made public by Mr. Leibowitz in Birmingham, where he is staying pending the opening of court tomorrow, was as follows:

    "We earnestly ask your good offices to persuade Governor Miller of Alabama to order out sufficient National Guardsmen to provide adequate protection for the nine Scottsboro boys and their attorneys who are to appear at Decatur tomorrow for arraignment of the defendants and for trial Nov. 27.

    "At the previous trial this Spring, Circuit Judge Horton, presiding, took judicial notice of incipient mob action to lynch defendants and attorneys by ordering soldiers in open court to shoot if necessary to preserve the peace.  Shortly after the trial, Judge Horton, who has since been supplanted, adjourned court on his own motion because of the temper of citizens.

    Since the last trial two Negroes in the custody of Sheriff were recently  lynched in Tuscaloosa cases; a Negro named Royal was lynched in the very city of Decatur in August and a mob visited the Decatur jail to lynch a Negro prisoner named Brown.  Only removal to Huntsville jail before mob arrived prevented his assassination.

    "Situation now infinitely more tense.  Have affidavits naming many persons in Decatur and neighboring towns who have openly voiced intention of 'getting the niggers and their attorneys.'

    "Editorials today in Birmingham Age Herald and Post show their appreciation of imminence of danger and urge official to call out militia.  Despite this situation, the Governor has rejected a plea for State troops to guard prisoners and attorneys.  The probability of massacre of defendants and attorneys is extremely grave.  We urge your intervention."

    Despite the concern of the defense attorneys, there were no indications here today that Judge Callahan contemplated the summoning of troops, and officials and townsfolk insisted that there was no need for his doing so.

    Attorney General Thomas E. Knight Jr., who is to prosecute the Negroes on charges of attacking two white girls in a freight car in March, 1931, indicated that he regarded the presence of militiamen at the last trial as a needless expense.

    Sheriff Bud Davis left here with one deputy this afternoon with an order on the Sheriff of Jefferson County for a transfer of the prisoners on the ninety-six mile automobile trip from Birmingham to Decatur.  The time of their arrival is being kept secret, but the arraignment is set for 9 A.M.

    Mr. Chamlee, the only Southern lawyer associated with the defense, which is financed by the International Labor Defense, visited the prisoners in the jail this afternoon and said he found them in a state of panic.

    Fearing they would be lynched en route to Decatur, they said at first that they would resist any attempt to remove them from the Birmingham jail and it took a great deal of persuasion by Mr. Chamlee to induce them to sign the motion papers for a change of venue.  Finally they agreed . . .

November 23, 1998


Alabama Jurist Asserts That He Will 'Debunk' Case of Extraneous Matters


Flood of Telegrams Assail the Prosecution and Demand Release of Negroes

By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to The New York Times

DECATUR, Ala., Nov. 19.

    With the hearing on defense motions in the Scottsboro cases in recess today, Circuit Judge W.W. Callahan let it be known that he hopes to try at least four of the seven Negroes before Christmas.

    Then if the Negroes accused of attacking two white girls on a freight train near Scottsboro in March, 1931, are convicted, Judge Callahan intends to recess his special term of court to await  the results of appeals by the defense.

    According to close friends of the jurist, he hopes in that time to "debunk the Scottsboro cases."

    The words are supposed to have been his.  He feels, it was said, that the simple question of the guilt or innocence of the defendants has become involved in a tangle of extraneous matters relative to Communist activities among the Negroes, interference of outsiders with Alabama justice and local pride.

    This motive was behind his ban upon photographers in the courtroom and his refusal to provide facilities for representatives of the press assigned to cover the the third trial of a case that has attracted international attention.

    While defense attorneys have been crying  out against dangers they face in trying the case here where public sentiment is alleged to be bitterly against them, it became known today that the prosecution and the judge himself have been threatened in letters and telegrams from Communist sympathizers.

    So many messages have been received  by Judge Callahan, according to his friends, that he thought seriously of instructing the Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies to deliver no messages to him except in case of a death in his family.  He decided not to do so, however, adopting the policy of receiving and ignoring the telegraphed "demands" for the "unconditional release" of the prisoners.

    The "mass action" represented by  the sending of telegrams to Alabama officials has been one of the factors complicating the Scottsboro case.  Governor Miller, it was said, has received 25,000 messages, 8,000 of them since Patterson's conviction here last Spring.

Court Officials Summoned.

    Tomorrow, when the hearing on a defense motion to quash the venire from which a jury will be chosen to try Patterson is resumed, Arthur J. Tidwell, a jury commissioner, is to be recalled to answer a question as to why a Negro was excluded from a jury roll, which Judge Horton, who presided at Patterson's last trial, refused to let him answer.

    As soon as the court has ruled upon this motion, another to quash the indictment against the Negroes will be argued.

    Among the officials subpoenaed as witnesses for the defense motion are Probate Judge J. M. Money and his clerk, J.M. McBride, Sheriff; C.A. Wann, clerk of  the Circuit Court; H.G. Bailey, Circuit Solicitor, and H.C. Thompson, County Solicitor.  Each will be asked whether he has ever seen a Negro on a jury in Jackson County.  The answer is expected to be "No."

    With the court in recess, Decatur spent a quiet and pleasant day.  Attorney General Knight, still limping from gunshot wounds he received accidentally while investigating a lynching at Tuscaloosa in the Summer, went quail shooting, while G. W. Chamlee and Joseph R. Brodsky, defense lawyers, conferred at Chattanooga.

    Although Samuel S. Leibowitz indicated when he left here Monday night that he might not return until the trial opened Monday, it was reported here tonight that he might be in court tomorrow.  With his return, the tension of the trial is expected to increase.

November 29, 1933


White Youth Who Was on Train Says Negroes Attacked Two Girls in Alabama.


State Rests Case--Negro Defendant Charges Intimidation at Scottsboro.

By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to The New York Times

DECATUR, Ala., Nov. 19.

    Called to the witness stand today to corroborate the charge of Victoria Price that a band of Negroes attacked her on a Southern Railway freight train nearly three years ago, Orville Gilley, a roving young minstrel of the South, added new contradictions to the Scottsboro case.

    Upon his testimony, which Samuel S. Leibowitz, chief counsel for the defense, sought to show was bought and paid for by the State, Attorney General Thomas E. Knight Jr.  rested the case on which he will demand the death penalty for Heywood Patterson, the Negro now on trial for the third time.

    The defense opened at once, with Patterson, a coal black, six-foot Negro who has just turned 20, sitting in the witness chair before Judge W.W. Callahan and a jury of stern faced white farmers, and trying to make them believe that he and not his white accusers was telling the truth.

    Confronted by conflicting statements he made in his first trial at Scottsboro--a trial which the United States Supreme Court held was unfair -- Patterson "disremembered" saying things attributed to him including his testimony that all but he and two others attacked Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.  But he added:

    "We was scared and I don't know what I said.  They told us if we didn't confess they'd kill us-- give us to the mob outside."

Negro Accuses First Prosecutor.

    Patterson declared these threats were made by guards and militiamen on duty in the Jackson County jail and in the court room in the presence of Judge A.E. Hawkins, who presided at the first trials a few days after the arrest of the Negroes by a posse at Paint Rock.  Then, pointing a finger at H.G. Bailey, circuit solicitor, who prosecuted him originally and is assisting in this trial, Patterson said:

    "And Mr. Bailey over there-- he said send all the niggers to the electric chair.  There's too many niggers in the world anyway."

    The testimony of Gilley, a tall, dark, almost handsome youth with a toothy smile and long, slender white fingers, was the high point of the day, and to catch every word of his story the court-room crowd leaned forward with hands cupped behind their ears.

    He explained to the court and jury in a low and pleasing voice that he was not a hobo but an "entertainer," and while he was on the witness stand he sought to demonstrate that he was a good one.

    For seven years, said Gilley, he had traveled about the country, sometimes on freight trains and sometimes on trucks and automobiles whose drivers would give him a lift.  He paid his way, he said, not by panhandling but by "collections taken up," after "reciting poetry on the street, in hotel lobbies, anywhere that I can get a crowd."

    His home, he said, was in Albertville, Ala.; but he was not there often.  Elsewhere, he said, he was known as "Carolina Slim."

Gilley Heard No Shots, He Says.

    Gilley supported the essential fact in the testimony of Victoria Price--that she and Ruby Bates were both attacked by Patterson and eight other Negroes-- but to the contradictions in her story, multiplied at the close of her cross-examination this morning, he added others.

    While she heard three shots fired when the fight began between the Negroes and seven white hoboes in a gondola car loaded with crushed stone, Gilley heard none and saw no revolver.  Nor did he see any of the Negroes strike her in the face as she had described.

    Gilley said that he had met Lester Carter with Victoria Price and Ruby Bates in the railroad yards in Chattanooga the night before they started back for Huntsville on the ill-fated freight train ride.

    Gilley was allowed to tell how he had struck up an acquaintance with Carter and the two girls, getting them coffee and sandwiches from a store that night and from an hospitable kitchen in the morning.

    Did you go somewhere with them that night?" asked Mr. Leibowitz, but before the witness could answer Judge Callahan had sustained an objection from the Attorney General.

    "But your Honor, won't you excuse the jury and allow me to inform you of what I am trying to prove?" pleaded the New York attorney.

    "I can imagine," snapped Judge Callahan, ordering Mr. Leibowitz to proceed to something else.

    Gilley denied that the Price woman had urged him to pose as her brother to avoid prosecution for violation of the Mann Act upon their arrival at the jail in Scottsboro.  In jail he testified she washed his shirt and did some mending for him.

    "Did you become friendly enough to want to help her do things she wanted to do?"  Mr. Leibowitz asked, fixing the boy with a stony stare.

    "Just what do you mean by that?" replied Gilley, his temper rising for the first time.

    "Don't you know?"


    Patterson testified that the fight between blacks and whites aboard the train started after a "cussing out" that was provoked by Carter, who stepped on his hand in getting aboard an oil-tank car and then almost knocked the Negro off the train in getting past him.

    Patterson insisted that he had not seen the overalled white girls or any others on the train until it reached Paint Rock.  Nor had he heard any screams or pistol shots.

    Court was adjourned at 9:30 P.M. until tomorrow morning after four defendants who are now on trial had appeared upon the witness stand.  They were Willie Robinson, Ozie Powell, Olin Montgomery and Andy Wright.  All denied that they had "touched a white girl."

    In the afternoon, Joseph R. Brodsky, one of the defense attorneys, received a special delivery letter from Dr. Louis Drosin, 302 West Eighty-Sixth Street, New York, saying that the condition of Ruby Bates was such that she could not be questioned about the case before next Monday.  She underwent an operation recently.