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A Scottsboro Chronology


March 24: Two white girls, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, of Huntsville, Alabama, hobo their way to Chattanooga and stay there overnight.

March 25: They return on a freight train leaving Chattanooga for Alabama. A number of Negro and white youths on the train engage in a fight. The white boys either jump or are thrown off. Alleged rape of the two girls by the Negro boys follows. When the train reaches Paint Rock early in the afternoon nine Negro boys, aged thirteen to twenty, are arrested and taken to jail at the Jackson County seat, Scottsboro. Victoria Price and Ruby Bates are examined by doctors that afternoon. Late at night Governor B. M. Miller calls out the National Guard to prevent a massacre of the arrested youths.

March 26: The nine Negro boys are taken for safekeeping to Gadsden, Alabama, by the state militia.

March 30: The grand jury, all white, is called into session at Scottsboro.

March 31: All nine boys are indicted for rape.

April 6: Trials begin at Scottsboro. Clarence Norris and Charles Weems convicted.

April 7: Haywood Patterson convicted.

April 8: Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, Andrew Wright, and Willie Roberson found guilty. Mistrial declared for Roy Wright on account of his extreme youth.

April 9: Judge E. A. Hawkins sentences all but Roy Wright to die in the electric chair at Kilby Prison on July 10, 1931.

March 13: Petition for leave to appeal filed in the United States Supreme Court and granted.

June 9: Scottsboro protest before the United States Legation at Riga, Latvia.

July 3: 150,000 German workers fill the Lustgarten in Berlin to hear Mrs. Ada Wright plead for the lives of her sons and the other Scottsboro defendants.

October 10: Appeal to the United States Supreme Court is argued by Walter H. Pollak, constitutional authority, retained by the I.L.D. Simultaneously, a large demonstration occurs before the American Embassy in Paris.

November 3: Thirty-six French organizations present to the American Embassy a joint petition demanding release of the nine.

November 7. United States Supreme Court reverses the conviction of the seven defendants on the ground that appointment of counsel for them appearing for them in the first trials at Scottsboro was inadequate. Simultaneously, demonstrations take place before the Supreme Court in Washington,in Birmingham, Alabama and throughout the world.


January 5: Ruby Bates, at Huntsville, Alabama, writes a letter to a boy friend denying that the Negro youths attacked her. Local police secure the note.

January 23: The I.L.D, secures a court order to photostat the Ruby Bates letter for use as defense evidence. At Birmingham, Judge J. P. McCoy hears a writ of habeas corpus asking the release of Roy Wright, still in jail but never sentenced.

January 30: Judge McCoy dismisses the writ in behalf of Roy Wright. Roy Wright remains in jail, unsentenced.

March 6: Judge E.A. Hawkins at Scottsboro hears two motions of the I.L.D., one for a change of venue and the other to quash indictments on grounds no Negroes were on the jury originally convicting the Negro youths. Hawkins grants the first motion only, for change of venue.

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The Scottsboro boys meet with attorney Liebowitz in prison

March 23: Samuel S. Liebowitz, New York criminal lawyer, is retained by William Patterson, I.L.D. executive secretary takes charge of the defense.

March 24: Ruby Bates seeks out Harry Emerson Fosdick in New York and tells him the charge against the nine is a frame-up and she was not attacked by the Negro youths.

March 27: A separation of the case of Haywood Patterson from that of the other defendants is secured by the state of Alabama and he is placed on trial at Decatur, Morgan County, before Judge James E. Horton.

April 7: Ruby Bates comes into court for the defense. Originally a complaining witness, she reverses her previous testimony and denies the boys committed rape on her or Victoria Price. Victoria Price challenges her story and maintains her original testimony.

April 9: Haywood Patterson convicted for the second time, sentenced to die in the electric chair.

April 13: Mrs. Jannie Patterson, mother of Haywood Patterson, arrives in New York from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to aid I.L.D. in the fight for her son and the other defendants.

April 16: Joseph R Brodsky files with Judge Horton a motion on a new trial for Haywood Patterson on the ground that conviction was against the weight of the evidence.

April 28: The Scottsboro defendants protest ill-treatment in Jefferson County Jail, Birmingham, with a hunger strike.

May 5: Mass Scottsboro march, Negro and white, to Washington, with petition signed by 200,000 demanding freedom for the boys.

May 28: Ruby Bates joins a delegation to the White House headed by William Patterson, executive secretary of the I.L.D. Vice-President John N. Garner sees the delegation.

June 1: Judge James E. Horton orders two of the boys under sixteen years of age transferred to the Juvenile Court. These are Eugene Williams and Roy Wright.

June 22: Judge Horton grants the motion for a new trial for Haywood Patterson and sets aside the conviction with a lengthy opinion reviewing the case and concluding that the conviction was unjustified by the evidence.

October 17: E. L. Lewis, defense witness, dies of poisoning in Chattanooga.

November 20: Haywood Patterson goes on trial for the third time, this time before Judge William Washington Callahan, at Decatur. On November 23 the defense challenges the authenticity of seven Negro names placed on the jury roll, charging forgery.

December 1: Haywood Patterson convicted for third time and again the death sentence is imposed. Clarence Norris is put on trial immediately and is convicted and similarly sentenced a week later. It is Norris's second trial, his first, like that of the others, having been at Scottsboro. Samuel Liebowitz, Joseph R. Brodsky, and George W. Chamlee of Chattanooga represent both defendants.


February 24: Motion for a new trial denied by Judge Callahan. defender.jpg (102824 bytes)

April 8: Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., from Atlanta, Georgia, writes Samuel Liebowitz a letter reporting on mistreatment of the Scottsboro defendants in jail. Liebowitz protests the mistreatment to Alabama authorities.

May 13: Five Scottsboro mothers, accompanied by Ruby Bates, call at the White House on Mothers' Day. The President is out.

May 25: Appeals in both cases are argued in the Alabama Supreme Court by Samuel S. Liebowitz and Osmond K. Fraenkel.

June 23. The I.L.D. mails President Roosevelt a complete documented statement on the case, demanding his intervention. Document weighs eleven pounds and contains Judge Horton's opinion.

June 28: The Alabama Supreme Court affirms the convictions.

October 4: Motions for rehearing, are denied.

October: Samuel S. Liebowitz forms the American Scottsboro Committee.


January 7: The United States Supreme Court grants petitions for review of the convictions of Patterson and Norris.

February 15 to 18: Appeals are argued by Samuel Liebowitz, retained by the American Scottsboro Committee, and Walter H. Pollak and Osmond Fraenkel, retained by the International Labor Defense.

defender2.jpg (111561 bytes)April 1: The Supreme Court reverses the convictions of both defendants on the ground that Negroes were excluded from the panel of grand and petit jurors which indicted and tried them.

May 1: New warrants are sworn out by Victoria Price, the only complaining witness since the withdrawal of Ruby Bates from the prosecution.

November 13: The grand jury at Scottsboro returns new indictments for rape against all the boys including the two transferred to Juvenile Court. A Negro, Creed Conyer, sits on the grand jury for the first time in the memory of any resident of Alabama. A two-thirds vote is sufficient to return the indictment.

December: The Scottsboro Defense Committee is formed, composed of all agencies cooperating in the defense. The American Scottsboro Committee is dissolved. The Scottsboro Defense Committee is composed of representatives of the International Labor Defense, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Methodist Federation for Social Service, the League for Industrial Democracy, and the Church League for Industrial Democracy (Episcopal). The Scottsboro Defense Committee takes over the legal defense, while the I.L.D. continues its public campaign for the freedom of the nine.


January 6 to 8: The defendants, other than the two juveniles, are arraigned and plead not guilty. Judge Callahan rejects petitions for removal to the United States District Court. Haywood Patterson's fourth trial is set for January 20.

January 20,: Attorneys Samuel Liebowitz, C. L. Watts, of Huntsville, Alabama, and George W. Chamlee, of Chattanooga, conduct Patterson's defense.

January 23: Haywood Patterson convicted for the fourth time. He is sentenced by Judge Callahan to seventy-five years imprisonment.

January 24: The nine defendants are on the way back to Birmingham jail. There is a scene in the automobile of High Sheriff J. Street Sandlin, of Decatur. Blalock is slashed by Ozie Powell and Sandlin shoots Powell. Powell permanently injured.

January through December: Further appeals in the courts. Repeated stories of Alabama's fatigue with the case appear in the press. F. Raymond Daniels, New York Times reporter covering the case since its inception, repeatedly reports compromise possibilities.


June 14: Alabama State Supreme Court confirms Haywood Patterson's fourth sentence.

July 15: Clarence Norris convicted for the third time, receives the death sentence.

July 22: Andrew Wright convicted, receives sentence of ninety-nine years.

July 24: Charles Weems tried, convicted, receives seventy-five-year sentence.

July 24: Ozie Powell pleads guilty to charge of assault with intent to murder and is sentenced to twenty years in jail. Rape charge against Powell and four others is dropped. The state of Alabama announces the freedom of Roy Wright, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, and Willie Roberson. The others are returned to prison. An Associated Press dispatch from Decatur says, "A source usually reliable said, 'This ends the Scottsboro case.' This source forecast clemency would be extended to Norris and appeals in the other cases would be dropped."

July 26: The five remaining Scottsboro defendants are taken to Kilby Prison. Haywood Patterson is sent to Atmore State Prison Farm.

August 16: Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, Roy Wright, and Willie Roberson appear in a show in Harlem.

August-December 31: Agitation for the freedom of the five in prison continues.


January-December: Negotiations for the release of the five still in prison continue throughout the year.

October 11: Former Senator J. Thomas Heflin opposes freedom pleas for three of the defendants.

December 23: Dr. Allan Knight Chalmers, chairman of the Scottsboro Defense Committee, accuses Governor Bibb Graves of reneging on a gentlemen's agreement.


Agitation for the release of the five continues. Alabama adamant.


February 15: Former Senator J. Thomas Heflin again publicly opposes pardons.

March 9: Pardons Board refuses appeals.


February 20, 1942: Pardons Board denies pardon to Clarence Norris and Charles Weems. The nation has become occupied with the war effort and interest in the case has faded. The Scottsboro Defense Committee is not active. Its chairman, Allan Knight Chalmers, maintains contact with Anna Damon of the International Labor Defense. The I.L.D. sends a monthly sum to each Scottsboro defendant still imprisoned but cannot act legally since the appeals have been taken out of the courts.


January 8, 1944: Andrew Wright, now aged thirty, and Clarence Norris, now thirty-two, are paroled. Charles Weems, now thirty-three, is paroled later. Norris is out nine months and then reimprisoned as a parole violator. Norris is let out again in 1947 and goes North. Wright is returned twice as a parole violator, returning for the second time in 1946. Ozie Powell paroled on June 16, 1946. He goes to Georgia.

April 1947: The International Labor Defense merges with the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties and the Veterans Against Discrimination, and together they form the Civil Rights Congress. The Congress continues contact with Haywood Patterson and Andrew Wright.


July 17: Haywood Patterson escape Kilby Prison.


Andrew Wright still in Kilby Prison. Warrant out for the arrest of Clarence Norris.


June: Andy Wright paroled to New York. FBI arrests Haywood Patterson in Detroit. Michigan governor Williams refuses extradition request. Alabama abandons extradition proceedings.


August: Haywood Patterson dies.


August: Roy Wright dies.


October: Clarence Norris pardoned.


January: Clarence Norris dies.

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