In 1941, he organized the Florida State conference of the naacp, and soon became its unpaid executive secretary. He began churning out eloquent letters, circulars, and broadsides protesting unequal salaries, segregated schools, and the disenfranchisement of black voters. Moore's Fight for Equal Rights, in 1943, he moved into an even more dangerous arena: lynchings and police brutality. At first, his protests were confined to letters to the governor, but he quickly threw himself directly into lynching cases, taking sworn affidavits from the victims' families and even launching his own investigations. From that point until his death, moore investigated every single lynching in Florida. In 1944, Thurgood Marshall won a major victory in the landmark Smith. Allwright case, in which the.
The Awakening of Thurgood Marshall The marshall Project
The newlyweds moved in with Harriette's parents until they built their own house on an adjoining acre of land. Meanwhile, harry had been promoted to principal of the titusville colored School, which went from fourth through ninth grades. He taught ninth grade and supervised a staff of six teachers. In March 1928, their eldest daughter, Annie rosalea, nicknamed peaches, was born. When peaches was six months old, harriette began teaching at the mims Colored School. On September 30, 1930, their "baby daughter juanita evangeline, was born. Moore joins the naacp, in 1934, harry moore started the Brevard county naacp, and steadily built it into a formidable organization. In 1937, in conjunction with the all-black Florida State teacher's Association, and backed by the naacp attorney thurgood Marshall in New York, moore filed the first lawsuit in the deep south to equalize black and white teacher salaries. His good friend, john Gilbert, principal of the cocoa junior anterolisthesis High School, courageously volunteered as the plaintiff. Although the gilbert case was eventually lost in state court, it spawned a dozen other federal lawsuits in Florida that eventually led to equalized salaries. By 1941, naacp work had become moore's driving obsession.
Over the next four years, moore excelled in his studies, earning straight As, except for one B; he was even nicknamed "Doc" by his classmates. In may 1925, at age 19, he graduated from Florida memorial College with a "normal degree" and accepted a teaching job in Cocoa, florida- in the watery wilderness of Brevard county. Building a family and a career. He spent the next two years teaching fourth grade at Cocoa's only black elementary school. During his first year in Brevard county, he met an attractive older owl woman (she was 23, while he was barely 20 named Harriette vyda simms. She had taught school herself, but was currently selling insurance for the Atlanta life Insurance company. Within a year they were married. Her family lived in Mims, a small citrus town outside of Titusville.
Rosa tried to manage alone, working in the cotton fields and running her little store on weekends, but in 1915, she sent Harry to live with one of her sisters in daytona beach. The following year, he moved to jacksonville, where he spent the next three years living with three other aunts: Jesse, adrianna, and Masie tyson. This would prove to be the most important period in his formative years. Jacksonville had a large and vibrant African American community, with a proud tradition of independence and intellectual achievement. Moore's aunts were educated, well-informed women (two were educators and one was a nurse who took this spindly, intelligent boy into their house on louisiana Street and treated him like the son they'd never had. Under their nurturing guidance, moore's natural inquisitiveness and love of learning were reinforced. After three years in Jacksonville, he returned home to suwanee county, in 1919, and enrolled in the high school program of Florida memorial College.
4 Marshall to White, february 2, 1941, naacp papers, library of Congress 5 Marshall to White, february 2, 1941, naacp papers, library of Congress 6 lyons. State of Oklahoma, 322. 596 7 The paris News, march 1, 1961. Biographical sketch of Harry moore, harry. Moore was born on november 18, 1905, in houston (Hous-ton Florida, a tiny farming community in Suwanee county, in the Florida panhandle. He was the only child of Johnny and Rosa moore. His father tended the water tanks for the seaboard Air Line railroad and ran a small store in front of the house. Johnny moore's health faltered when Harry was nine years old, and he died in 1914.
The decision, which Marshall openly criticized in a rare display of anger, amplified for him the harrowing legal and tenuous position of placing a clients fate in the hands of the supreme court. He was consoled only by the fact that drivers he had managed to save lyons from the electric chair. For years, marshall advocated for his clients early parole, often sending his own money to lyons at the oklahoma State penitentiary at McAlester. After serving twenty years of a life sentence, lyons was finally approved for parole in February 19617. Still, the surge of money that flowed into the naacps New York office after the lyons case was not lost on Marshall, and the lesson in Constitutional Law that he brought to that Oklahoma courtroom in 1941 left a lasting impression. Despite his successes in landmark civil rights cases involving voting rights, the desegregation of schools, and racially based restrictive covenants in real estate, marshall would later observe that his criminal cases were even more important because they saved lives. Throughout his life, the lawyer, judge, and eventual Supreme court justice would effectively hold a mirror to the deep racial gaps in the criminal justice system.
Marshalls tales of endless miles on the road and rail, risking his life to defend the powerless and falsely accused, were told, countless times, to spellbound justices and clerks alike. Stories, sandra day oconnor said after Marshall retired from the supreme court, that would, by and by, perhaps change the way i see the world. Gilbert King is the pulitzer Prize-winning author of devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland boys, and the dawn of a new America. State of Oklahoma, brief on Behalf of Petitioner. 2 Thurgood Marshall to walter White, january 28, 1941, naacp papers, library of Congress. 3 Oklahoma Black dispatch, february 8, 1941.
Boy, did I like that, marshall wrote at the time, and did the negroes in the courtroom like that. White people, too, were stopping Marshall in the halls, expressing support for lyons and disdain for their local police, who had so obviously lied on the stand. The father of the murdered woman even joined the naacp to emphasize his belief that lyons had been framed in the killing of his daughter and her family. The young lawyer could barely contain his excitement in a letter he wrote from Oklahoma to walter White, the executive secretary of the naacp in New York. You can't imagine what it means to these people down there who have been pushed around for years to know that there is an organisation that will help them. They are really ready to do their part now.
They are ready for anything4. One thing this trial accomplished, marshall added, the good citizens of that area have been given a lesson in Constitutional Law and the rights of Negros which they won't forget for some time. Law enforcement officers now know that when they beat a negro up they might have to answer for it on the witness stand. Despite marshalls ebullience, the jury deliberated for more than five hours, ultimately returning with a guilty verdict that brought lyons a sentence of life imprisonment. The lawyer took it in stride, noting that while the prosecutor had sought the death penalty for a heinous crime where three people were killed, cut up with an ax and then burned, the jurys decision shows clearly that they believed him innocent5. Marshall was confident that in his appeal for lyons, he had a sure winner under the recent. But he had the rug pulled from under him, suffering his very first defeat before the supreme court. (Marshall would lose only three of the 32 cases he argued there.) In a 6-to-3 decision that was inexplicable to him, marshall learned that the court affirmed the conviction, ruling that lyons second confession, made hours later, was obtained without coercion. Justice Frank murphy dissented: to conclude that the brutality inflicted at the time of the first confession suddenly lost all of its effect in the short space of 12 hours is to close ones eyes to the realities of human nature6.
Holley - thurgood Marshall School of Law
Over the next few days, Thurgood Marshall would have a difficult time concealing his excitement over the changes he was sensing in the courtroom, and how that might play out more widely in the criminal justice system. Before the judge and prosecutor, marshall argued to suppress lyons confessions. He cross-examined local police, predicting that they might become angry at the idea of a negro pushing them into tight corners and making their lies so obvious. His strategy, he noted, worked perfect. By noon recess, marshall observed, the crowd in court had about doubled, as list word began to spread that a black lawyer was putting on a great show. Marshall called to the stand white relatives of the murder victims, eliciting testimony that Vernon Cheatwood had admitted to them that he beat lyons for either six or seven hours. I havent even got to go to bed. Then Marshall had a go at the governors special investigator himself, and by the time the lawyer was done, cheatwood was, as one newspaper described, shaking as though suffering from palsy3.
Superstitious and in fear for his life, lyons broke down as Cheatwood grabbed him by the neck and pushed his face into the pan. Only a confession would end his agony, lyons was told, and the young sharecropper quickly obliged. He later stated that he summary confessed twice because he didnt want to be tortured anymore and couldnt stand any more of the beating. In an uncharacteristically slow crawl toward justice, lyons lingered in prison. Marshall believed that the Choctaw county attorney was scared to try the case for a whole year because the fort Towson prison camp scandal might erupt again and become an issue in local elections. By the time marshall arrived in Hugo, word had already spread that a nigger lawyer from New York was on the case. The courthouse was packed with locals, and when he assumed his seat at the counsel table, marshall wryly observed, the building did not fall and the world did not come to an end. Still, marshall noted that the jury was lousy and there was no chance of winning here. He vowed to keep the record straight for the inevitable appeal2.
and consume alcohol with local residents. After a farmer signed an affidavit claiming that he had witnessed three convicts enter the rogers home on the night of the murders, warden Jess Dunn promptly closed the prison camp and shuttled all convicts to the more secure state penitentiary in McAlester. A camp sergeant was soon fired amid reports that two convicts, who had lost 90 to rogers in a dice game earlier that evening, had been arrested after confessing to the murders. Leon Chase Phillips surely sensed in the lax discipline at the prison camp the potential for a crippling political scandal. He dispatched his special investigator, vernon Cheatwood to fort Towson, and after Cheatwoods investigation, the two arrested convicts were released1, and an illiterate, 21-year-old black sharecropper,. Lyons, was arrested by local police. Over the course of the next two days, lyons was beaten senseless and told to confess to the murders. Denied sleep and food, and still groggy from the beatings, lyons was visited in the middle of the night by the special investigator, who approached with a large black pan, which he dropped in the sharecroppers lap. Theres the bones of the baby you burned up, Cheatwood told him.
The lyons trial wasnt Marshalls first criminal case. He had, in fact, thesis already argued and won Chambers. Florida before the supreme court, which ruled unanimously that coerced confessions by police are inadmissible at trial. The courts 1940 opinion, however, had done little to stem the tide of police beatings during the interrogation of black suspects in the jim Crow south. Marshall and his team of ldf lawyers had their desktops piled high with capital cases in which suspects confessions were believed to have been compelled by law enforcement officers through duress. The case that brought Marshall to hugo, okla., in 1941, was one of the most extreme. On the evening of Dec. Elmer Rogers had been attacked (by ax and shotgun) and killed in their home. Their tenant house was then doused with coal oil and set afire, and 8-year-old James Rogers managed to flee the home, carrying his baby brother, billie don, to safety.
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By gilbert King, looking Back at the stories about, and excerpts from, the history of criminal justice. From time to time, the marshall Project will look back at the history of American justice and injustice. We begin with a for watershed moment in the life of our namesake. He didnt know it then, but when Thurgood Marshall boarded an Oklahoma-bound train at New Yorks Pennsylvania station in January of 1941 to defend a young, black sharecropper accused of murdering a white family and burning down their home, he was just days away from. The murder trial of the sharecropper,. Lyons, would be a watershed moment in Marshalls career as a lawyer, and despite the fact that he lost the case, which ultimately led to a rare and devastating defeat before the. Supreme court, the special counsel for the naacps Legal Defense and Educational Fund would leave oklahoma with an unbridled hope for the future.