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Scottsboro: An American Tragedy

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Scottsboro Timeline

1931 - 1933 | 1934 - 1989


June 12: Judge Horton is defeated in his bid for re-election.

Courtroom crowdJune 28: The Alabama Supreme Court unanimously denies the defense motion for new trials. Leibowitz had argued that qualified blacks were systematically kept off jury rolls, and the names that were currently in the rolls had been forged after the fact.

October 1: Nashville police arrest two lawyers associated with the I.L.D. for allegedly intending to bribe Victoria Price with $1,500 to change her testimony. The lawyers were never convicted.


February 15: Samuel Leibowitz makes his first appearance before the Supreme Court of the United States. He describes the absence of blacks in Jackson County juries and presents the justices with the jury rolls with forged names. The justices use magnifying glasses to determine the overlay of inks on the page.

Clarence NorrisApril 1: In Norris v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court finds the exclusion of blacks on jury rolls deprived black defendants of their rights to equal protection under the law as guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment. The case is overturned and remanded to a lower court. Patterson's case is not argued before the court because of technicalities in filing dates; however, the court strongly suggests the lower courts review his case "in light of the situation which has now developed."

December: Because of the prevailing sentiments in Alabama, both Leibowitz and the I.L.D. are considered liabilities to the defendants and the defense is reorganized. The Scottsboro Defense Committee (SDC) is formed with Allan Knight Chalmers as chairman, and a local attorney, Clarence Watts, is named co-counsel.


Haywood PattersonJanuary 23: Patterson is found guilty and sentenced to 75 years in prison. The sentence is a compromise between the foreman, who thought the defendant innocent, and the rest of the jury.

January 24: While being transported back to Birmingham Jail, Ozie Powell pulls a knife and slashes Deputy Edgar Blalock's throat. Sheriff Jay Sandlin stops the car and shoots Powell in the head. Both Blalock and Powell survive.

Governor Thomas KnightDecember: Prosecuting attorney Lieutenant Governor Thomas Knight meets Leibowitz in New York to negotiate a compromise.


May: Thomas Knight dies.

June 14: The Alabama Supreme Court upholds Patterson's conviction.

July 12-16: The third trial of Clarence Norris ends in a death sentence. Pressure from his community, and his defeat in this case, causes Watts to fall ill, leaving Leibowitz to lead the defense.

July 20-21: The trial of Andy Wright ends in conviction and a sentence of 99 years.

July 22-23: The trial of Charley Weems ends in conviction and a sentence of 75 years.

July 23-24: Ozie Powell pleads guilty to assaulting Blalock and is sentenced to 20 years. Rape charges are dropped.

July 24: Rape charges against the last four defendants, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, and Roy Wright, are dropped.

October 26: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the appeal of Haywood Patterson.

December 21: Alabama Governor Bibb Graves meets with Allan Knight Chalmers to discuss granting clemency to the five convicted Scottsboro defendants.


June: The Alabama Supreme Court affirms the sentences given Norris, Andy Wright and Weems.

July: Governor Graves commutes Norris's death sentence to life imprisonment.

August: An Alabama parole board recommends a denial of parole for Patterson and Powell.

October: An Alabama parole board recommends a denial of parole for Norris, Weems and Andy Wright.

October 29: Governor Graves meets with the convicted Scottsboro defendants in his office to consider parole.

November 15: Governor Graves denies the pardon applications of all five Scottsboro defendants.

November 17: Weems is released on parole.


January: Andy Wright and Clarence Norris are released on parole.

September: Wright and Norris leave Alabama, in violation of their parole. Chalmers persuades them to return to the South and, despite promises to be lenient, both are returned to jail, Norris in October 1944, Wright in October 1946.


June: Ozie Powell is released on parole.

September: Clarence Norris is paroled again.


July: Haywood Patterson escapes from prison.


June 9: Andy Wright is paroled. He finds a job in Albany, New York.

June: Patterson is arrested by the FBI in Detroit; Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams refuses to sign the extradition papers to return him to Alabama. Alabama abandons attempts to return him to prison.

December: Patterson is charged with murder after a barroom brawl.


September: Patterson is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 6 to 15 years.


August: Patterson dies of cancer.


August: Roy Wright dies.


October: Clarence Norris is pardoned by Alabama Governor George Wallace.


July 12: Victoria Price files a lawsuit against NBC for defamation and invasion of privacy after the broadcast of Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys; her claim is dismissed.


January 23: Clarence Norris, the last of the Scottsboro Boys, dies.

1931 - 1933 | 1934 - 1989

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