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Horace Cort

(active 1930s - 1960s)

Circuit Judge T. Werth Thagard, who is scheduled to preside over two Civil Rights murder trails this week, stands in front of the court house in Hayneville, Alabama, September 29, 1965
Vintage wire photograph on paper
9 9/16 x 6 13/16 in. (24.29 x 17.3 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Restricted gift of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Accession Number: P2021.13.331

Busy Week For The Judge: Circuit Judge T. Werth Thagard, who is scheduled to preside over two Civil Rights murder trails this week, stands in front of the court house in Hayneville, Alabama. He is currently presiding over the trail of Thomas L. Coleman for the slaying of Jonathan Daniels, a Civil Rights worker from the New Hampshire. Later this week he is due to preside over the case of Ku Klux Klansman Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr. for the slaying of Mrs. Viola Liuzzo, a Civil Rights worker from Detroit.

Jonathan Daniels (1939-1965) was a 26-year-old white seminary student from New Hampshire who traveled to Lowndes County, Alabama to register blacks to vote. On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniels, Ruby Sales (then a 17-year-old black Civil Rights activist), Reverend Richard Morrisroe and Joyce Bailey left the Lowndes County jail after spending six days locked up with sixteen others following a protest. The four headed for Varner's Cash Store a few blocks away for soft drinks while they waited for a ride. "Bloody Lowndes," a nickname earned because of the county's often-violent suppression of blacks, was an especially dangerous place for activists. When Daniels' group got to the store, they were met at the door by Tom Coleman, a white 54-year-old highway engineer, with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands. Coleman told them the store was closed. When Daniels asked whether he was threatening the group, Coleman fired. Daniels pushed Sales out of the way and was hit in the chest, dying instantly but saving Sales’ life. Coleman pulled the trigger again, hitting Morrisroe in the back and side as the priest tried to escape with Bailey. After a three-day trial, a jury of 12 white men took one hour and 31 minutes to acquit Coleman. The reaction was blistering. Elected officials, including Alabama's Attorney General, decried the trial as a sham and the verdict a travesty. Editorial pages in both Northern and Southern newspapers excoriated Lowndes County as a bastion of entrenched racism. Coleman, who had said that the churchmen had weapons and that he had killed them in self-defense, told CBS News a year later he had no regrets. The Civil Rights workers denied that the men were armed, no weapons were found, and at trial, defense witnesses gave changing accounts. The killing of Daniels and fellow Civil Rights activist Viola Liuzzo earlier the same year helped galvanize blacks in the county. More blacks registered to vote and within five years, the county elected its first black sheriff. By the end of the 1970s, county government was effectively controlled by blacks. In 1991, the Episcopal Church added Daniels to its roster of martyrs; it celebrates his life on August 14, the day of his arrest in Alabama.

Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo (1925-1965) was a Unitarian Universalist Civil Rights activist from Michigan. In March 1965, Liuzzo--then a housewife and mother of five with a history of local activism--heeded the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. and traveled from Detroit, Michigan, to Selma, Alabama in the wake of the Bloody Sunday attempt at marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Liuzzo participated in the successful Selma to Montgomery marches and helped with coordination and logistics. Driving back from shuttling fellow activists to the Montgomery airport, she was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Liuzzo was 39 years old. Her funeral was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Detroit on March 30, with many prominent members of both the Civil Rights Movement and government there to pay their respects. Included in this group were Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins; Congress on Racial Equality national leader James Farmer; Michigan Lieutenant Governor William G. Milliken; Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa; and United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther. Liuzzo was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan. Less than two weeks after her death, a charred cross was found in front of four Detroit homes, including the Liuzzo residence.

Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr. was the last survivor of three Klansmen accused in the 1965 shooting death of Viola Liuzzo, a white Detroit housewife and mother who went to the South and volunteered to help register blacks to vote. Liuzzo was shot from a passing car on a highway as she drove a black marcher home after the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. An FBI informant claimed that Wilkins was the triggerman. An all-white state jury acquitted Wilkins of murder. Later that year, Wilkins was convicted in federal court along with William Orville Eaton and Eugene Thomas of violating Liuzzo's Civil Rights. Wilkins served about seven years of a 10-year sentence.

On recto: typewritten title and date.
On verso: Associated Press stamp and date stamp.

Wire photographs were originally transmitted over phonelines, then later, by satellite. They were first used in the early 1920s. Associated Press became a leader with this. After pigment touch-ups, etc., the print is put into a drum (like a drum scanner). The image gets converted into audio tones that are transmitted. The tones are received and beamed onto photo-sensitive paper. Wire photographs are copies without originals---they are hybrid, transmitted objects. (Britt Salvesen, Curator and Department Head, Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 30-31, 2022)

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  • Image Dimensions: 9 9/16 x 6 13/16 in. (24.29 x 17.3 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen
  • Sheet Dimensions: 10 x 8 1/16 in. (25.4 x 20.48 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen

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