Court rules that grand jury transcripts of the Moore’s Ford Lynching can be released

Almost 73 years after the 1946 lynching in Walton County of two black couples, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta yesterday affirmed a lower court decision and ruled that the grand jury transcript of the case can now be released.

A marker on Highway 78 between Monroe and Athens marks the turnoff of the road leading to Moore’s Ford when the shooting took place in 1946. Photo credit: Sharon Swanepoel

What became known as the Moore’s Ford Lynching was considered by many to be the last mass lynching in the nation’s history.  On July 25, 1946, sharecroppers George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcom died in a hail of bullets at Moore’s Ford Bridge on the Walton-Oconee County line. The two couples were ambushed after Roger Malcom was bonded out of jail where he’d been held for stabbing a white farmer. According to the narration of an annual reenactment of the events, he was the intended target, but when George Dorsey fought to prevent him being taken by the mob, and one of the women recognized someone in the crowd, they were all dragged from the car and murdered. All four were shot multiple times.

According to court documents from the 11th Circuit of Appeals, yesterday’s ruling comes after author and historian Anthony Pitch petitioned the Middle District of Georgia in 2014 to unseal the grand jury transcripts. The district court granted his request, but the government appealed, arguing that the district court had abused its discretion in doing so. However, the lower courts decision has now been upheld by the 11th Circuit, clearing the way for those transcripts to be released.

At the time the grand jury was convened following the investigation of the events seven decades ago, witnesses testified for more than two days, but no one was ever charged and the crime was never solved. In 2001, former Gov. Roy Barnes commissioned the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to re-open the case. In 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation also again became involved and in 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Emmett Till Act allocating funding to help solve crimes such as the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi in 1955 and the Moore’s Ford Lynchings.

A depiction of the events is reenacted every year in Walton County, beginning in Monroe and ending on Moore’s Ford Bridge where the shooting death of the two couples took place. These annual reenactments were a way to keep a focus on the events at Moore’s Ford Bridge in hopes of one day solving it. But in 2017 the FBI closed its file on the killings and in January 2018 the Georgia Bureau of Investigation followed suit and closed its files too.



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