So said the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Page 3 of 5)
IN DISCUSSING the Screws case, Ms. Sherrod left out another considerable piece of fact.
Here are the remaining two paragraphs on the subject as she presented them.
So, in the opinion, when the justice wrote his opinion and justifying overturning the conviction, he said you had to prove that as the sheriff was murdering Bobby Hall he was thinking of depriving him of his civil rights. That’s where the whole issue of proving intent came from and you heard it a lot. It was used a lot during the Civil Rights Movement. What you also heard a lot when Rodney King was beaten out in California. Y’all might remember that. They kept saying you had to prove intent — and that came from Screws vs. the U.S. Government.
I’m told that case is studied by every law student. And usually when we have people coming into Southwest Georgia, and wanting to take some tours of — of things where some events happened during the Civil Rights Movement, I usually take them to the courthouse in Newton to show where Bobby Hall’s body was displayed.
What’s left out here? We learn from Ms. Sherrod that the Screws verdict against Bobby Hall’s killers was overturned. She mentions “the justice” (sic) “who wrote his opinion justifying overturning the conviction…” But what does she, tellingly, not say?
She never mentions, strangely, either the one-vote margin that overturned the conviction of Bobby Hall’s killer by a 5-4 vote. Nor does she say exactly which Justices composed the 5 votes that overturned the conviction of Sheriff Claude Screws. Any one of whom, voting to keep the Screws conviction intact, would have provided some form of justice to the Sherrod family by reversing that Supreme Court 5-4 vote in the other direction.
Not once does Ms. Sherrod ever connect the presence of a New Deal Justice of the Supreme Court — one of those five votes that rescued the racist Sheriff Screws — to the Ku Klux Klan.
Nary a word from Ms. Sherrod about Hugo Black, the man who can easily be said to have rescued Bobby Hall’s murderers. Much less is there a solitary thought from Sherrod about why Black was on the Supreme Court in the first place.
Justice Hugo Black, you see, was two things. Like Ms. Sherrod he was a committed liberal activist, a progressive of the day. He was a staunch supporter of FDR’s New Deal as the Senator from Alabama. But Hugo Black was also something else: a “Gold Passport” lifetime member of the Ku Klux Klan. Which is to say, a committed racist.
So let’s start with what has been much requested.
Who was Hugo Black?
One of the finer books written on this subject recently was Bruce Bartlett’s Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past.
Mr. Black joined the Ku Klux Klan on September 13, 1923. Bartlett, citing a Black biographer, writes this of the future Justice’s Klan activities: Black was “marching in (Klan) parades, speaking at Klan meetings throughout Alabama, and wearing the Klan regalia, including hood and mask. Historian J. Mills Thornton says Black’s involvement with the Klan was ‘extensive and ardent.’”
Hugo Black was, of course, a lawyer. His law partner? That would be a man named Crampton Harris. Mr. Harris was the Klan “Cyclops” of the Birmingham Klavern. Does this weird term ring a recent bell? It should. “Exalted Cyclops” was the Klan post held in a later time in West Virginia — by another prominent future Democratic Senator named Robert Byrd.
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