MONROE — The NAACP showed a video before the board of commissioners meeting Tuesday night with a man who offered names of people who were either involved or had knowledge of who was involved in the Moore’s Ford lynching.
But at least one of those names on the list felt compelled to tell his side of the story.
While much of the information on the video could not be immediately corroborated, NAACP officials said the goal was to get the county’s leaders to join them in an effort to have Congress appoint a special prosecutor to seek out those still alive who were involved in the 1946 killing of two black couples.
With a captive audience
The video was an interview by NAACP members of Wayne Watson, 55, formerly of Monroe. He was not alive at the time and the basis of his interview was stories from his uncles, who he alleges were involved, as well as other lore overheard in the community.
“All through my life all I heard about was Moore’s Ford,” he said. “I came back in 1993 and every day I made documents.
“Why am I doing this? Because I’m tired of it, going through life here with all the lies.”
Among the many accusations made by Watson were that Dorothy Malcom, one of the four victims of the lynching, was 7 months pregnant with the child of a white man and that the baby was cut out and driven to Atlanta for adoption. Watson said his uncle vehemently defended the story. Watson went on to bounce back and forth — almost incoherently at times — between people who were allegedly involved in the lynching and others who were involved in the Ku Klux Klan both at the time as well as years later who had knowledge of what happened at the Moore’s Ford bridge. Some of those named are dead today while others were less than 10 years old at the time of the lynching.
Watson also stated he was offered a $250,000 bribe to keep his mouth shut about what he knew. Watson, whose return to Monroe in 1993 followed a stint in jail and included a time where he was without a home, alleged he documented much of what he gathered but had nothing to give NAACP officials. During the video he said part of it was turned over to investigators and never seen again while the rest was lost when he sold his house and did not recoup his possessions.
Following the conclusion of the video, Edward Dubose, recently retired president of the Georgia NAACP, said something happened to Watson after the video was filmed and he ran away from them the last time they tried to speak. Nevertheless, he said the video serves as a new starting point.
“Everybody in this room here heard the names,” he said. “What we do or don’t do now, there is a higher person who will hold us accountable.
“We have other names and interviews. At the least this family is dead — they can’t speak no more. You can. Join us in getting a special counsel appointed.”
Commission Chairman Kevin Little said they were not sure what legal responsibility the board had and would not offer any action until legal counsel was consulted.
Telling a different story
After hearing about the video, and being contacted by the Tribune, former Walton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Sorrells told a different story.
“My daddy didn’t talk about it much, but he always had the belief that if folks had left it alone and let local law enforcement do the job, there would have been people behind bars who did this horrible thing. And it is horrible,” said Sorrells, whose father, C.J. “Dock” Sorrells, was a senior deputy at the time of the lynching.
Sorrells was quick to discredit much of the lore which has become associated with the Moore’s Ford lynching. He noted that all of this was not over Roger Malcom’s fight and alleged with Barnette Hester nor the alleged interracial affair. The killings were a result of Malcom leaving the employment of a liquor maker in Oconee County for one in Newton County.
“Black and white folks got along good together then,” the former judge and state legislator said. “This was over liquor running. Loy Harrison claims that a number of men stopped him and just grabbed Malcom and he was the only one they were going to kill. But one of the ladies in the car said she recognized one of the folks and was going to tell the sheriff. So they just killed them all.
“And there was good evidence at the time that this ‘big group’ was a total of six men.”
Sorrells, like Watson, has pieced together concurrent storylines from various sources and has stuck to his belief that the murders were not racially motivated.
“I am not sure I know where this is coming from,” Sorrells said about his name being included on the list of people named by Watson in the video. “Just like him I can’t prove everything because it is what many people who were alive then told me. But I guess since my father was with the county police at the time, they just naturally assume I know about it or took part in it being all of 9-and-a-half years old.
“There are certain people out there who don’t want this to be a liquor killing — they need it to be something else. And they have started to tell the same stories so much they are believing them. Because most of the people who were named in that video are first class people and just plain innocent of being involved in this.
“I will say this — until the last person of my daddy’s generation dies, no one will talk.”
Attempts to reach officials with NAACP both for additional comment and a copy of the video were not returned, nor were efforts to reach others that were named in the video.