MONROE, Ga. — A handful of Monroe City Council members signed a letter Tuesday publicly acknowledging the brutal, unsolved murders of four Black Walton County residents 75 years ago.
Mayor John Howard and Councilmen David Dickinson, Ross Bradley and Tyler Gregory signed the acknowledgment letter after the meeting ended. The signatures of Vice Mayor Larry Bradley, Councilman Norman Garrett and Councilwoman Lee Malcom did not appear on the letter of which The Walton Tribune received a copy. Councilwoman Myoshia Crawford was not present at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Bradley told The Tribune on Thursday he did not sign the letter because the crime, as terrible and tragic as it was, did not occur in the city or involve Monroe citizens. He clarified that the city government should focus on those events that do.
“This was just not one of them,” Bradley said.
Community activists who spoke in support of the letter and a proposed monument to the victims at the start of the meeting said these actions are small steps toward healing collective trauma caused by the racially motivated mass lynching. However, racial divisions still exist here, activists said, and building trust will take more time and effort.
George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Dorsey Malcom were killed by a white mob on July 26, 1946. Roger Malcom, who was arrested following an argument with a local farmer, was bailed out of the county jail in downtown Monroe. Malcom’s wife and the Dorseys were in the vehicle with him when they were driven out of town and ambushed by the mob on a bridge over the Apalachee River at the Walton/Oconee county line.
Howard read an earlier draft of the letter last week, during a council work session, and presented the final version to council members during Tuesday’s regular meeting. The city’s Diversity Advisory Board made revisions to Howard’s final letter.
“When he showed it to us we didn’t think it was good enough and we made a number of suggestions for him to change it,” said Diversity Advisory Board member Gareth Fenley. “He wanted this (letter) to come out a long time ago. Time has a way of moving along.”
Fenley, along with board Chairman Rashaad Ansley and Vice Chairman Carlos Thompson, spoke in favor of the acknowledgment letter.
Ansley, a licensed funeral director and 2019 Young Gamechanger, said the Diversity Advisory Board was created to give a voice to those in the community who didn’t have a voice. The board works to help African Americans and other disenfranchised citizens address the daily challenges they face, he said. The board accomplishes this, in part, by trying to provide improved health care and business opportunities, according to Ansley.
“I ask that you approve this letter,” Ansley said. “We have to move forward. We have to get to a place where I can say, ‘This is my brother, this is my sister.’”
Thompson said he had told the mayor — whom he considers a friend — that he had hoped for more than an acknowledgment of the murders.
“We don’t want an acknowledgment,” Thompson said. “We want a full-fledged apology.”
“Look, I’m not saying that you all are directly responsible,” he continued. “But somewhere, indirectly, we all share some responsibility. For example, I never owned any slaves. (Councilman) Dickinson never owned any slaves. But somewhere your ancestors owned some slaves. And indirectly, you have benefited from those whose land was stole, body was raped, somewhere. I’m not saying directly, I’m saying indirectly. There is a cloud over Monroe that has to be dealt with.
“I want some healing, I want some closure.”
Diversity board members clarified that the timing of the letter was not politically motivated and had nothing to do with the mayor’s reelection campaign. Councilman Garrett had questioned the timing of the letter during last week’s work session.
Howard told the council he would sign the letter and hoped they would follow his lead. He added that the idea of constructing a monument to the Moore’s Ford victims would be brought back to the council later this year once a policy for erecting monuments on city grounds was established.
Dickinson, who last week commented that the city should make a public apology for the crimes, declared he would continue to work to “build bridges” in the community.
“I worked on this for 25 years of my life,” Dickinson said. “I will work on this for the rest of my life; whether or not I get reelected. That’s not what this is about.”
Dickinson said his Christian faith urges him to strive to make the world a better place and encouraged others to do the same.