The Moore’s Ford Lynching: Remembering Mae Murray Dorsey on July 25th

guest column by Elizabeth Jones

Uncomfortable topics are often a part of historic backgrounds. The Zion Hill Colored Baptist Church split and moved in 1953, following a series of pastors that left soon after arriving. The Moore’s Ford lynching between Oconee and Walton County on July 25th,1946 may have had much influence on the move, and it is significant to the Civil Rights Movement. Mae Murray Dorsey, one of four victims killed in the lynching, is buried in the cemetery, along with relatives who were founding members of the church. Mae Murray Dorsey was known as a Murray, but she was born with the last name Lee. Hester Murray married Willie Lee, and their daughter was Willie “Mae” Lee. Mae’s father died in an electrical accident. Stricken with grief, her mother had a “stomach aneurysm”, and she died too. The grandparents and aunts reared the children, and Mae became known as a “Murray”.

The Moore’s Ford Lynching is often called the “Last Mass Lynching in the United States.” The lynching of two young African American couples spurred President Harry S. Truman to push for a civil rights investigation, call for anti-lynching legislation, and create the President’s Commission on Civil Rights. A memorial stone for Mae Murray Dorsey rests in a corner of the property, placed by the Moore’s Ford Committee. No one specifically recalled where Mae was buried, so they placed the marker near Emma Murray, who was a founding member of the church. (The Ground Penetrating Radar conducted at the site reveals there is a probable burial at the location where Mae’s memorial rests, but there is also another probable burial in between the memorial stone and Mae’s marker. It is doubtful one can ever really know where Mae was buried.) In 1953, the church split into the First African Baptist Church and Tabernacle Baptist, and the cemetery became overgrown.

We hope to remember Mae and the others buried in Zion Hill Cemetery by continuing to care for their memorial ground.

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