The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta has refused to unseal Grand Jury testimony concerning the 1946 murders of two black couples in rural Georgia believed to have been put in killers’ crosshairs by Governor Eugene Talmadge who needed to win the rural vote to secure his re-election in 1947 governor’s race.
The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently ruled 8 to 4 the courts did not have the authority to unseal Grand Jury testimony.
The ruling overturned two lower court decisions that would have allowed the testimony to be unsealed in the murders of Roger and Dorothy Malcom (also spelled Malcolm) and George and Mae Murray by a white mob that dragged the two couples from their car before shooting them to death.
The murders took place near Moore’s Ford Bridge on the Apalachee River, 50 miles south of Atlanta. The killings are called the Moore’s Ford Lynchings.
The murders shocked and horrified the nation and the FBI and police questioned nearly 3,000 people, but no one was ever charged with murders.
The murders were sparked when Roger Malcolm got into a fight and stabbed his former employer, Barney Hester.
J. Loy Harrison, a wealthy planter, bailed Malcolm out of jail and was driving him, his wife, George and Mae Murray to Harrison’s farm. On the way, a mob of 20 to 30 armed white men dragged the couples from the car tied them to a tree and shot them hundreds of times.
The FBI investigated Gov. Talmadge allegedly for encouraging the murders of the two black couples, but they never personally questioned him.
Talmadge, who was governor of Georgia from 1933 to 1937 and 1941 to 1943. In 1946, Talmadge’s opponent, James Carmichael won the popular vote but he lost the rural vote by 200 votes and governorship. Talmadge died before he could be sworn into office in 1947.
The FBI agent in charge said Gov. Talmadge spoke to George Hester, Barney’s brother. According to FBI documents, the governor agreed to offer immunity to anyone who took care of that Negro, meaning Malcolm.
The Grand Jury testimony is stored in the National Archives.