02 January 2018

Only Negro Voter Killed: a Georgia Civil Rights Cold Case Project

MariettaJournal1946-07-28Maceo Snipes was an honorably discharged World War II veteran when he went to cast his vote in the 1946 Georgia Democratic primary for governor.  He was also a black man.

Earlier that year, federal courts struck down the usual "whites only" voting rule for primaries in Georgia.  Eugene Talmadge, one of the candidates for governor, denounced the decision "as a threat to segregation, [and] promised to restore the white primary and to keep blacks in their place in Jim Crow Georgia." [Source]

In spite of threats from the Ku Klux Klan, Maceo Snipes bravely became the first African American to cast a ballot in Taylor County, Georgia.  Days later, he was dead.  Erica Sterling wrote for The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University in August 2014:

The day after Snipes voted, four white men arrived in a pick-up truck outside of his grandfather’s farmhouse, where Snipes and his mother Lula were having dinner. The men, rumored to be members of the local Klan chapter, called for Snipes, who came outside to meet them. During their encounter outside the house, Edward Williamson, who sometimes went by the name of Edward Cooper, shot Snipes in the back.

There are varying stories as to how Mr. Snipes got to the hospital, but he got there.  Then he waited while the doctor worked on other patients.  (I wonder how many of them had gun-shot wounds.)

Approximately six hours lapsed from the time Williamson shot Snipes until the doctor performed surgery to remove the bullets, the family would later say. The story that still resonates from that day in the Snipes family carries the same theme of medical neglect found in other Georgia civil rights cold cases: Not long before he died, Snipes was talking actively with his family. The white doctor at one point said Snipes would need a transfusion, then said it would be impossible because there was no “black blood” available at the hospital…Without a transfusion, Snipes died from his injuries two days later, on July 20.

Because of the rumored threat to the lives of anyone daring to attend the funeral for Maceo Snipes, he was reportedly buried in the middle of the night in an unmarked grave in Butler, Taylor County.

NAACP Headquarters, New York City. Via Library of Congress (loc.gov).News Article from the Time

Marietta Daily Journal (Georgia)
Sunday, 28 July 1946 – pg. 5 [via GenealogyBank]

Only Negro Voter In Rupert Killed
ATLANTA, July 27. – (UP) – The Walton county lynching of four Negroes follows by one week the death of Macio Snipes, a Negro war veteran at Rupert, Ga.

Snipes was the only Negro to vote at Rupert in the Georgia primary that returned white supremacy candidate Eugene Talmadge to the Governor's chair.

A coroner's jury ruled that he was killed by one of four white men who called at his home.

The fact that he was the only Negro voter in the precinct, said the jury, was only a coincidence.  The jury said the men went to his house to collect a debt.

The killer/s also claimed self-defense; the coroner's jury called the shooting justified.

[Note: the "Walton county lynching" mentioned in the above article refers to the Moore's Ford lynching of George Dorsey, Mae Murray Dorsey, Roger Malcolm, and Dorothy Malcolm – the "last mass lynching in America."]

Links to more about the killing of Maceo Snipes:
· Answers Sought in 1946 Ga. Killing (Washington Post article dated 13 February 2007)
· Killing and Segregated Plaque Divide Town (New York Times article dated 18 March 2007)
· U.S. Department of Justice Notice to Close File (updated 29 September 2016)

The Tuskegee Institute, under its founder Booker T. Washington, recorded data on lynchings.  The guidelines used to decide if a killing was to be deemed a lynching were the following:  “There must be legal evidence that a person was killed. That person must have met death illegally. A group of three or more persons must have participated in the killing. The group must have acted under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition.” [Source: 100 Years of Lynchings]

Some might not consider the murder of Maceo Snipes to be a lynching.  I do.

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