The Moore's Ford Lynching InfoCenter
7. Grand Jury, Athens, GA (12/1946)
This text below is an extract from Anthony Pitch's book, “The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town” – Chapter 13
As the grand jury prepared to meet, nobody seemed to know for certain whether the federal government had any right to go forward with the case. By now hostility toward the FBI had diminished because agents had followed orders to take scrupulous care in their conduct. But Hoover regretted the FBI's entanglement. Accumulated evidence tended to show that it should have been treated as a state murder, investigated solely by the GBI.
Hoover had great misgivings about the FBI getting too deeply involved in the case because of the jurisdictional issue.
Even so, Hoover was having second thoughts. Maybe a grand jury would shake out leaks between the major suspect (Loy Harrison) or the Sheriff's department to the gunmen.
FBI S.A.C. Charles Weeks was still hopeful that a connection might be established between weapons that were seized and the appropriate firearms identifications thus providing credible evidence. There were close to 2,000 discharged veterans in Walton and Oconee counties and it was reasonable to suspect certain white veterans might have played a role in the murders.
One element of this suspicion rested on the fact that many returning veterans had European-manufactured ammunition in their firearms, which might have been carelessly discharged in the course of the murders.
But just prior to the grand jury hearing, more than 40 weapons had been tested and no identifications were linked to the primary suspects. Ownership of guns used in the crime would not be admitted but search warrants could still be issued to search for weapons on the property of local residents.
The Justice Department was doubtful witnesses would reveal any more than they had already told the FBI. But they left open the faint possibility that, faced with a grand jury, witnesses might give details they had previously withheld. In the weeks prior to the grand jury, Hoover ordered Weeks to prepare summaries reflecting witness discrepancies and the possibility of getting them to divulge more than they had already outlined.
Grand Jury: December 3, 1946
The text below is an extract from Anthony Pitch's book, “The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town” – Chapter 14
On December 3, 1946, District Court Judge T. Hoyt Davis convened a grand jury. The grand jury met for 16 days. According to one account, the FBI interviewed 2,790 people and the grand jury subpoenaed 106 witnesses.
Twenty-three jurors were selected to serve on the grand jury. They consisted of merchants, coal dealers, a barber, a cotton gin operator, a banker, a laundry manager, a clerk and one retired farmer.
Apart from the jurors, only three journalists were allowed in the courtroom during the 25-minute instruction by the judge. He told those empaneled to inquire "fearlessly and fairly."
Within the sixth day of grand jury testimony, Charles Weeks felt that most of the witness were lying. He told Washington about his concerns and that he was not getting information of any value.
Weeks wanted to use a lie detector in court. The U. S. Attorney supported him and even suggested machines should be turned on before the body assembled. But Washington quickly scuttled the idea.
A physically weakened Barnett Hester was summoned to testify. He had a serious stab wound and had been hospitalized for three weeks, all of which had taken a toll on his body.
He was followed by Loy Harrison - who shouted back at inquisitive reporters, 'I don't know a damn thing!"
An internal FBI memo revealed that they believed it would have been considered a serious mistake to have any ongoing investigation because the facts, to date, had failed to uncover any tangible evidence.
Hoover thought the grand jury should be closed and advised the Attorney General to shut it down as soon as it completed hearing testimony.
During the 16 days of testimony, it became obvious there was a clear conspiracy of silence; S.A.C. Weeks was convinced that many of the key witnesses were lying. Worse yet, there were others who should have given testimony but were never called because they believed their lives might be in danger if they did.
It was later discovered that one of the jurors was related to several of the witnesses thought to be part of the mob.
Only certain blacks had testified – and then only after they felt safe enough to do so.
The final statement was handed down on Dec. 19th. “We the grand jury have carefully investigated the killing of 4 negroes in Walton County, GA on 7/25/1946. Numerous witnesses have testified and have been questioned exhaustively. Our attention is focused on the identities of the perpetrators. We have been unable to establish the identity of any person or persons involved in this crime.”
Signed: Charlie S. Roe, Foreman
Sources & Resources
The primary sources used for developing content on these pages include the following:
Pitch, Anthony S., The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Mass Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town
Skyhorse Publishing, 307 W. 36th St., 11th Floor, New York City, N.Y. 10018 © 2016 by Anthony S. Pitch
Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
Region 11 Investigative Case Summary (565 pages, PDF)
Additional sources used for developing content on these pages include the following:
The 1946 Moore’s Ford Lynching Case: Another Push for Justice on 10/3/2018
By TAPINTO STAFF (Laura Ali)
2018 - September 16
Original entry by E. M. Beck, University of Georgia, Stewart E. Tolnay, University of Washington, Seattle, 01/26/2007
2018 - August 26
Activists look to keep history alive through reenactment of Moore's Ford lynching
By Hope Ford, Adrianne Haney
2018 - July 27
Investigations into 1946 Georgia lynching ends, hope for answers lingers
Chattanooga Times Free Press
2018 - March 7
by Associated Press
1946 Lynching: Investigations End, Hope for Answers Lingers
By: KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
2018 - February 27
1946 lynching: Investigations end, hope for answers lingers
AP Images Blog
2018 - February 27
Answers to last mass lynching in U.S. die when investigators close case after 72 years
SPLC - Southern Poverty Law Center, By Brett Barrouquere
2018 - February 7
Notorious Ga. Lynching Case Closes After Years of Anguish, No Justice
Article by Brad Schrade, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2018 - January 24
Probes of Moore’s Ford Lynching End with No Charges, AJC learns
By Brad Schrade - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
2017 - December 28
Morris County Lawyer Wins Release of Records from 1946 Mass Lynching Case
MorristownGreen.com, by Kevin Coughlin
2017 - August 18
Morris County Attorney Seeks Justice in Gruesome 1946 Lynching
MorristownGreen.com, by Kevin Coughlin
2017 - July 31
Righting an Historic Wrong: The 1946 Moore's Ford Lynching Case May Finally Be Drawing to a Close
By Joe Bell, Esq.
2017 - July 17
The Horror of Lynchings Lives On
The New York Times, by the Editorial Board
2016 - December 3
A Lynching in Georgia: the Living Memorial to America’s History of Racist Violence
2016 - November 2
70th observance of Moore’s Ford lynching set in Monroe; reenactment of killings planned
By Wayne Ford
2016 - July 21
FBI Questions Elderly Georgia Man in Connection with Unsolved 1946 Lynching at Moore’s Ford Bridge
New York Daily News, by Doyle Murphy
2015 - February 17, 2015
Civil Rights Leaders Claim New Leads in 68-year-old Moore’s Ford Lynching Case
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, by Christian Boone
2014 - March 5
U.S. Urges Opening Up Old Grand Jury Records
New York Times, by Charlie Savage
2011 - October 19
Judge Orders Release of Nixon’s Watergate Testimony
By JOHN SCHWARTZ, New York Times
2011 - July 29
Holding on to Those Who Can't Be Held: Reenacting a Lynching at Moore's Ford, Georgia
Central Washington University, by Mark Auslander
2010 - November 8
'Murder' Seeks Justice for Victims Of Jim Crow Era
Special to The Washington Post, by Ellen Maguire
2008 - October 6
Seeking Justice for Victims of Terror Long Ago
New York Times, by Felicia R. Lee
2008 - October 3
New evidence collected in 1946 lynching case
CNN, by Doug Gross
2008 - July 2
Looking Behind Tragedy at Moore's Ford Bridge; Foot soldier of civil rights era works to solve 60-year-old-mystery
NBCNews.com, Associated Press (AP)
2006 - July 24
1946 Killing Of 4 Blacks Is Recalled
New York Times
1999 - June 1