June 16, 2007
F.B.I. Investigated Politics in â46 Lynching of 2 Georgia Couples
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MONROE, Ga., June 15 (AP) â" Newly released files about the lynching of
two black couples more than 60 years ago show that the F.B.I.
investigated suspicions that a three-term governor of Georgia
sanctioned the killings to sway rural white voters in a tough election
The 3,725 pages obtained by The Associated Press do not make
conclusions about the still-unsolved killings at Mooreâs Ford Bridge.
But they raise the possibility that the politics of the governor,
Eugene Talmadge, may have been a factor.
Speaking of Mr. Talmadge, Robert Pratt, a University of Georgia
history professor who has studied the case, said he was not surprised
that âhistorians over the years have concluded the violently racist
tone of his 1946 campaign may have been indirectly responsible for the
violence that came at Mooreâs Ford.â
Mr. Talmadge, a Democrat who died just months after his 1946 election
to a fourth term, dominated Georgia politics in the 1930s and 1940s
with a mix of racism and pocketbook populism.
He came under scrutiny from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after
the lynchings because of a visit he made to the northern Georgia town
of Monroe two days before the Democratic primary for governor and a
day after a highly charged racial incident there, a fight in which a
black sharecropper stabbed a white farmer. The sharecropper was one of
the four people who would be lynched.
In a report sent to the F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, the agent in
charge of the investigation said Mr. Talmadge met with George Hester,
the brother of the stabbing victim. Citing an unconfirmed witness
statement, the agent said the governor offered immunity to anyone
âtaking care of Negro.â
Mr. Talmadge faced a tough challenge in the Democratic primary, and
Walton County, where Monroe is situated, was up for grabs.
On Election Day, Mr. Talmadge won the county by roughly 200 votes,
with overwhelming support from the Blasingame District, where the
Hester family lived.