1946 Moore's Ford Lynching Case: A Chronology

  • March, 1946 - Gubernatorial candidate Eugene Talmadge launches a racially divisive campaign for Governor of Georgia. There is an incendiary political climate throughout the state. He is re-elected on July 17, 1946.
  • Just over one week later, on July 25, 1946, two African-American couples are taken at gunpoint from local farmer J. Loy Harrison's truck, led down to a stream near the Moore's Ford Bridge in Walton County, GA, and executed in a hail of gunfire. The coroner's estimate counted sixty shots fired at close range. The victims were George W. Dorsey (a decorated WWII veteran), his wife Mae Murray, and Roger Malcom and his wife Dorothy.
  • By most accounts, a crowd of considerable size was present, yet no one came forward to identify members of the mob or the men who actually fired the weapons.
  • Near the bridge, the FBI recovered bullets from shotguns and pistols of various calibers. The lynching took place in broad daylight and the gunmen were not masked yet no one came forward to help law enforcement agents. "The best people in town won't talk," said Georgia State Patrol Maj. William Spence of the case in a 1946 quote.
  • On July 26, 1946, the Walton County Sheriff told a reporter that he had no clues or suspects and nothing could be done.
  • President Truman ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the murders. In order to gain jurisdiction over the case, however, the FBI would have to prove that a conspiracy existed between the killers and local or state officials.
  • On December 3, 1946, District Court Judge T. Hoyt Davis convened a grand jury. The grand jury met for 16 days. According to one account, the FBI interviewed 2,790 people and the grand jury subpoenaed 106 witnesses. Four months after the massacre, however, none of the participants were identified and no indictments were returned for the murders.
  • After dissolution of the grand jury, the lead investigator wrote to government officials saying that "he understood the transcripts were being sent to Washington, D.C." But a letter found decades later in Atlanta later revealed that all information about the Moore's Ford Lynching had been destroyed.
  • New publicity about the Moore's Ford Lynching led to a new investigation by the FBI and the State of Georgia but - to date - the murderers have neither been identified nor prosecuted.
  • Grand Jury transcripts that had been lost for decades were finally located in College Park, MD at The National Archives. Getting at the truth in the case now depended on persuading the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia to allow unsealing these records in the interest of justice.
  • At about this same time, author/historian Anthony S. Pitch began work on his book about the Moore's Ford Lynching, "The Last Lynching: How a Gruesome Murder Rocked a Small Georgia Town." He reviewed more than 10,000 documents from the FBI and the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
  • The State of Georgia officially reopened the case and FBI investigators dug up property in Monroe County in 2008.
  • As of 2001, when former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes reopened the case with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. At that time, some of those 55 suspects were still alive. In 2006 and 2008, the FBI joined in the investigations and began collecting forensic evidence from farms in the area.
  • In April 2006 the FBI announced that it would review its 1946 investigation of the crime. (Source: New Georgia Encyclopedia, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/lynching)
  • On February 3, 2014, Anthony S. Pitch petitioned the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia for an order unsealing the grand jury transcripts. Acting as counsel for Mr. Pitch was attorney Joseph J. Bell, Jr., (Bell & Shivas, P. C.) of Rockaway, NJ.
  • On August 19, 2014, U. S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell dismissed Bell's original petition without prejudice because there was no evidence that any records existed.
  • Anthony S. Pitch discovered key documents about the case in the National Archives, College Park, Maryland. There are about six (6) boxes containing 4,800 pages of transcripts and related materials.
  • On January 17, 2017, Pitch renewed his motion, claiming that his research had revealed the records in question were at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. That same day, the Court ordered the Department of Justice to produce the records for in camera inspection. The Government then confirmed that the transcripts - but no other records - had been found and filed copies under seal. Relying on Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e), the Government maintained that the records must remain sealed.
  • U. S. District Court Judge Marc T. Treadwell entertained arguments as to why the 1946 Moore's Ford mass lynching grand jury transcripts (recently located in College Park, Maryland in the National Archives) should be released. Working on behalf of the petitioner, author/historian Anthony S. Pitch, attorney Joseph J. Bell, Jr. renewed his petition to have the grand jury transcripts unsealed. The issue for the Court is whether or not the petitioner (A. S. Pitch) has met his burden of showing that the Moore's Ford Lynching had sufficient historical significance to justify suspension of laws governing grand jury secrecy.