published Thursday, March 27th, 2014

'Scottsboro Boys' remembrance is Saturday - March 29

The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center is at 428 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Ala., a block from Unclaimed Baggage.
The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center is at 428 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Ala., a block from Unclaimed Baggage.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A lawyer who helped secure a pardon for one of the defendants in the infamous Scottsboro Boys case will be the keynote speaker for the 83rd commemoration of that racially fueled miscarriage of justice.

The Scottsboro Boys, as they came to be known, were nine black teenagers from Chattanooga and various parts of Georgia who were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train ride through Alabama in 1931.

The commemoration will begin at noon CDT at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, 428 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Ala.

Attorney Donald Watkins of Birmingham, Ala., will offer keynote remarks. Event organizers say that as a young lawyer in the 1970s, he collaborated with Milton C. Davis, a former assistant attorney general, to convince Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to pardon Clarence Norris, the last surviving defendant in the case.

After years of legal wrangling and prison time for all but two of the defendants, Gov. Robert Bentley, in April 2013, signed House Joint Resolution 20, exonerating all nine of the Scottsboro Boys. In November 2013, Alabama's parole board granted all posthumous pardons. Those documents will be on display Saturday.

Also scheduled for the event is William Hampton, a photojournalist, archivist, researcher and historian who founded the preservation website Huntsville Revisited. The program also will include presentations by Elaine Tibbs Rice and recording artists Bryan Cordell and Tamara Bodie.

A ceremonial lighting of the candles will take place to honor the nine defendants: Olen Montgomery, Clarence Norris, Haywood Patterson, Ozie Powell, Willie Roberson, Charlie Weems, Eugene Williams and brothers Andy and Roy Wright. At the time of their arrests, their ages ranged from 12 to 19, according to online sources.

Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 256-609-4202 or 256-244-1310. Admission to the program is free.

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