Seeking the truth on an 83-year-old murder

photo Homer Simpson appears in his Cleveland police chief uniform in the 1920s.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - In the 1920s, former Cleveland police chief Homer C. Simpson went down to Georgia to meet up with a World War I buddy.

Things did not turn out well in Camden County, Ga., for Simpson and friend Malcolm Morrow. In 1929, the two men were electrocuted in Georgia's "Old Sparky" for robbing a bank and killing cashier Carl Arp Perry.

But was Simpson guilty of murder?

It's a question before the Bradley County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Tara D. Fields, an author and genealogist from Woodbine, Ga., will speak about her online book, "The Grave: Murder in the Deep South."

It details the robbery of the Georgia State Bank in Kingsland, Ga., in 1928, the robbery for which Simpson and Morrow were convicted.

Dennis Stewart, a Simpson descendant from Etowah, Tenn., is writing a book on Simpson's life, "Homer Simpson Must Die."

"After 80 years, some family started talking again about the story because the older generation had passed away," Stewart said Sunday.

He said the family concedes Simpson took part in the bank robbery, but they don't believe he killed anyone.

In an interview before the meeting, Bryan Reed, historical society president and Cleveland State Community College history instructor, said Fields and Stewart have different perspectives.

"It will be very interesting to hear Tara, who is coming from the other side of the story, the robbery and the victim, and Dennis' perspective from the family," Reed said.

Reed often is asked to post photos of Fort Hill Cemetery markers on the web for families elsewhere to see. That's how he learned about Simpson. Fields asked for a photo.

Fields said she was working on a different story entirely when she heard the first mention of the Simpson case.

"I got started on this story because one woman remembered something," she said.

Simpson's body was returned to Cleveland where, according to The Cleveland Daily Banner of Sept. 16, 1929, there was a seven-hour funeral service attended by upwards of 10,000. The body is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery.

The Simpson family was well known in Cleveland. Jacob H. Simpson, Homer's father, served in the Tennessee Legislature. He wrote a book defending his son, "The Life and Fate Of Homer C. Simpson: The Man Who Was Electrocuted for a Crime He Did Not Commit."

The book quotes Morrow as saying that he is the only one guilty of the killing.

Only a photocopy of Jacob Simpson's book remains at the History Branch of the Cleveland Public Library.

Beth Carroll, Simpson's great-great niece, agreed that the story was suppressed in her family.

"I lived beside my grandmother and I was 27 years old when she passed away. And she never said anything about this story.

"I always thought they didn't love Homer. But they really did. They wrote letters asking for mercy for him, and that gave me a lot of comfort."