People & Events: Eugene Williams, 1918 - ?
"Sorry about my last letter -- hope it didn't make you angry. Didn't mean any harm whatever. only telling you how I felt towards you and what's more I could not help it."
-- Letter to theInternational Labor Defense apologizing for a frustrated outburst, December 1936
In 1931 Eugene Williams was traveling from Chattanooga to Memphis looking for work with his friends Haywood Patterson and Roy and Andy Wright. At 13, he was one of the youngest of the nine African Americans taken from the train.
Williams was convicted in a speedy trial at Scottsboro with the other boys, but the Supreme Court of Alabama struck down his conviction based on his young age. He was still in jail without another trial in 1937 when the defendants received two visitors, a Life magazine reporter and Dr. G. C. Branche. Williams told Branche that he thought often of girls. Life magazine described him rather suspiciously as "a sullen, shifty mulatto" who "usually tries to impress visitors with his piety." In July of that year, he was released, along with three other defendants.
After his release and a brief entertainment career, Williams moved to St. Louis where he had relatives who helped him adjust to a relatively stable life.