Special Assignment: Small Georgia town still divided over dark past

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock, November 26, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga --- It all started with an argument and a stabbing between a black man named Roger Malcolm and a white man named Barney Hester. The motive may have been hatred or the racial climate of the times.

While many people in Monroe remember it as if it happened yesterday, most of them wish they could forget it.

It was July 25, 1946 on a hot summer day. George Dorsey, a World War II veteran, his wife Mae Murray, and another couple, Roger and Dorothy Malcolm, rode down a lonesome road known then as Hwy 53.

The young couples worked on a farm for a man named J. Loy Harrison, the man driving the car. Harrison had just posted bail for Malcolm who was in jail for stabbing Barney Hester.

As Harrison drove back from the jail at approximately 5:30 p.m. the car was suddenly blocked at a bridge by 20 -25 men allegedly armed with shotguns. Dragged out of the car and down an embankment, the four of them fought to stay alive.

What happened next has been the controversy in the small Georgia town for the past 62 years.

62 years later, there's still a ghostly presence in the air on the bridge that connects Oconee and Walton counties. It is now a historic landmark but not for reasons to be proud. It is the location of the last mass lynching in Georgia and U.S. history. To this day the murderers of the four individuals have not been brought to justice. But that could all change.

Rich Rusk and Tyrone Brooks have both been intimately involved in this case for years. Their goal is to keep the investigation alive.

Because of the heavy workloads of the GBI and FBI, both men dedicate time, energy and resources to the Moore's Ford Memorial Committee, started back in 1997. The committee's goal is to commemorate the lynchings and work for racial harmony in Walton County...something that's sometimes difficult to see today.

If you fast forward to modern times, the once sleepy town of Monroe is filled with life. There's a CVS drug store, a Hardee's restaurant and lots of other businesses. But one thing noticeably hasn't changed: no one wants to talk about what happened that day back in 1946.

The killings outraged not only the state of Georgia, but President Truman and the rest of the nation. Some Monroe residents say keeping it alive is what's tearing apart this community, and a conviction of someone involved would only make race matters worse.

The FBI interviewed almost 3000 people during a six-month investigation, but say not many wanted to cooperate. 55 people were named in the FBI investigation back in 1946. It is believed that at least five of those people are still living in Walton County today.

Until the case is solved, Brooks and Rusk both say they will continue to search for the truth of what happened that day and search for answers as to why someone, or some individuals, took the lives of four people for what Brooks and Rusk believe were senseless reasons.

In 1999, the Memorial Committee arranged for a military memorial service to honor George Dorsey, who was killed less than nine months after his return from serving in the military During WWII. In 2001, the case was officially reopened by the GBI. In June 2008, as part of the continuing investigation, the GBI dug up a backyard at a home in Walton County and collected material they believed related to the lynchings.

The town is still split on the case.


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