The death of Robert Mallard, murdered on November 20, 1948 by a mob of white farmers while his wife and son watched, initially garnered little attention. Police made no effort to investigate. Newspapers failed to break the story. Mallard’s family fled their home in Lyons, Georgia and nothing suggested that the town was at all concerned. At the time, one may have questioned whether the case would ever escape the confines of local gossip.
The death of Robert Mallard, murdered on November 20, 1948 by a mob of white farmers while his wife and son looked on, initially garnered little attention. Local police made no effort to investigate. Newspapers ignored the story. Mallard’s family fled their home in Lyons, Georgia and life in the town continued as if nothing had happened. At the time, one may have questioned whether the case would ever escape the confines of local gossip.
But Mrs. Mallard did not allow the case to disappear, and her outspokenness led to the participation of numerous interconnected parties. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People entered the case, which became a major plank in its campaign for federal civil rights legislation, including an anti-lynch law. The federal government took no action, waiting for Georgia officials to investigate and prosecute. Rather than focusing on the real murderers, local officials arrested Mrs. Mallard for her husband’s murder. Ironically, that arrest compelled Governor Herman Talmadge, an infamous white supremacist, to demand an investigation. Yet no Georgia law enforcement body effectively probed the killing; oddly, a businessman from Cleveland, Ohio, acting on his own, conducted the most fruitful investigation. The Mallard murder case was ultimately prosecuted by state authorities in what appears to be a sham trial. After the jury acquitted the accused, Mrs. Mallard toured the country on behalf of the NAACP campaigns, exposing the terror of mob violence in Georgia. The Mallard case revealed much about the practices of these law enforcement institutions and civil rights organizations, and brought to light an important cross-section of pre-civil rights era America.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_warren/1/