updated 3/7/2005 5:32:07 PM ET 2005-03-07T22:32:07

Where the old Moore's Ford bridge once stood, there are no reminders of the atrocities exacted here 58 years ago _ other than a crude, black "KKK" spray-painted on the underside of a modern bridge nearby.

It was at this point along the Apalachee River that a mob of white men pulled four black sharecroppers from a car, dragged them down a wagon trail and repeatedly shot them with pistols and shotguns.

Nearly six decades later, the lynchings remain unsolved and most of the 55 suspects named in the FBI's investigation are dead, but that isn't deterring the efforts of the dozens of politicians, activists and victims' relatives that make up the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee.

They want justice _ regardless of how much time has passed.

Seeking indictments
Bolstered by the recent wave of reopened civil rights murder cases across the South, the small activist group is asking a local prosecutor to use the FBI report to seek indictments against the surviving suspects.

The group also is organizing local events next month to call attention to the unsolved lynchings of Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey. The events will include a forum at the Walton County Courthouse and a 2 1/2-mile march to the new bridge.

District Attorney Ken Wynne says he won't reopen the case until new evidence is found.

"They've successfully prosecuted old, old homicide cases when new evidence develops," Wynne said, but he pointed out that four years ago the Georgia Bureau of Investigation "conducted a fresh investigation and wasn't able to unearth any evidence to bring charges."

In 2001, then-Gov. Roy Barnes ordered the case reopened. The GBI says it considers the case open, but unsolved.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a longtime civil-rights leader from Atlanta, said there is enough evidence to seek indictments in the case.

"We don't need any more investigations. The evidence is there," said Brooks, an honorary member of the memorial committee. "They should be charged and let a jury decide their fate."

In the FBI's 500-page synopsis of its case file (the agency says the full 3,500-page file will not be available until next year), it states that some people were named as suspects simply for being relatives, friends or neighbors of a white man stabbed days before the lynchings by one of the victims. Others were listed as suspects because they could not explain their whereabouts on the day of the lynching.

Two suspects still alive
At least two of the suspects named in the FBI report are still alive. Repeated telephone messages left by The Associated Press at the suspected homes of those two men went unreturned.

Not everyone is eager to see the Moore's Ford lynching case again gain notoriety. An elderly woman recently stopped along Monroe's Broad Street said of the suspects, "Leave those poor people alone. They're all dead." The woman declined to give her name.

In Walton County _ about 35 miles east of Atlanta and where three roads near the lynching site bear the surnames of many of the FBI suspects _ few leads have developed over the years.

Members of the memorial committee say Walton County residents seem scared or unwilling to come forward with information. Only two residents have helped police with information on who may have been in the mob. The suspects they named are dead.

Soon after the lynchings in the summer of 1946, souvenir seekers scavenged physical evidence _ buckshot, bullets and teeth _ from the scene, and suspects and witnesses were resentful during questioning. Most of the 4,000 residents of the city of Monroe clammed up to the point that Georgia State Patrol Maj. William Spence was quoted at the time as saying: "The best people in town won't talk."

Based on news reports from the time and the FBI report _ one of the victims, 24-year-old Roger Malcom stabbed white farmer Barnette Hester in the chest with a pocket knife 11 days before the lynchings. Witnesses told authorities that Malcom had suspected Hester was sleeping with his 20-year-old wife, Dorothy.

Then-Monroe Police Chief Ben Dickerson told the FBI a mob had gathered days later in the woods south of Monroe to figure out how "to get Roger out of jail."

On July 25, 1946, white farmer Loy Harrison paid $600 to bail out Malcom and took with him Dorothy Malcom and the Dorseys, who had promised daily since the stabbing that Roger would work off the debt on Harrison's 1,000-acre farm.

Crossing the Moore's Ford bridge en route to Harrison's farm, the farmer's car was "hijacked" by the lynch mob, according to Harrison's testimony to investigators. Harrison told the FBI he didn't recognize any of the unmasked men who shot the victims. The FBI report noted that Harrison was a former Ku Klux Klansman and well-known bootlegger.

When police arrived, George Dorsey and Roger Malcom's hands were tied to each other's, and Roger had a 10-foot rope tied in a slipknot around his neck.

President Truman responded to killings
George Dorsey, a 28-year-old World War II veteran, was shot above his ear, and in the stomach, back, hip and forearm, the coroner's report stated. Roger Malcom was shot in the forehead, chest and hip. Both bones in Dorothy Malcom's left forearm were broken and she was shot in the jaw, chest and ear. Mae Dorsey, 23, was shot in the top of the head and through both shoulders.

The lynchings prompted President Harry S Truman to send the FBI en masse to Monroe. A critical national media followed.

A September 1946 article in The New Republic magazine pointed out some of the holes in witnesses' stories while questioning the investigation's thoroughness: Why was the bail set so low for Roger Malcom? Why did Harrison bail out Malcom? Why did Harrison take a lonely side road to his farm rather than the paved highway?

These are among the questions the memorial committee wants answered.

"We can do no less for the Malcoms and the Dorseys," Brooks said.

The committee recently invited the victims' relatives to the lynching site. For Roger Malcom's aunt, Rosa Ingram, it was her first time there. The 87-year-old had never before made the 15-mile trip from her home in Fairplay to visit the site.

"I feel awful lonesome," she said stoically while standing on the new bridge spanning the river. "You know it's always sad when you lose your folks."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments