On July 25, 1946, what was called “the last mass lynching in America” happened. George W. Dorsey, his wife, Mae Murray Dorsey, and Roger Malcolm, along with his wife, Dorothy Malcolm, all of them black, were shot to death at close range by a mob of armed white men.
I remember being told when I was young that Mae Murray Dorsey was related to the maternal side of my family in some way. I have not yet been able to make that connection in my genealogy research. However, whether she was family or not, it still feels like needles are being stabbed into my heart whenever I try to imagine what her last few minutes — what their last few minutes — of life were like. It’s hard to go there without tearing up.
On July 11, 1946, an argument between Roger Malcolm, and Barnette Hester resulted in the latter being stabbed in the chest with an ice pick by Malcolm. Hester was a white farmer that Malcolm worked for as a sharecropper. Though this has neither been confirmed, nor denied, it was said that the argument was because Malcolm discovered that Hester had been sleeping with Malcolm’s wife, Dorothy. According to some historical write-ups found online (listed at the end of this post), Hester claimed that he was stabbed while intervening in a domestic conflict between Roger and Dorothy.
Malcolm was arrested. He was held in the Walton County jail for about two weeks until J. Loy Harrison paid Malcolm’s $600 bond. J. Loy Harrison was a white land owner that employed George and Mae Dorsey as sharecroppers. Harrison drove Dorothy, George, and Mae to the jail to post the bond.
According to Harrison’s account, on the way back from the jail his car was stopped by an armed mob. George and Roger were seized from Harrison’s vehicle and tied to an oak tree. Dorothy recognized the members of the mob, called them by name and asked them to spare her husband, Roger Malcolm. It was then that the mob seized both Mae and Dorothy. Harrison watched as the armed mob shot all four victims at close range. Dorothy Malcolm was seven months pregnant. Later, Harrison would claim that he could not identify any of the members of the mob.
Again, regardless of whether Mae Murray Dorsey is a blood relative, or not, this is still a part of my family history. My maternal grandparents had a very up close, and personal experience with this heinous event. My grandmother recalled visiting Young Funeral Home (now Young Levett Funeral Home) with my grandfather to view the victims’ remains. She remembered that the press was there and wanted to take a picture of the two of them as they paid their respects to the deceased. My grandmother declined, not wanting to be a part of the exploitation.
I am still chipping away at news articles, and reading Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler. I still want to learn more about this. I still want to post more about this.
Until then, listed below are the sources of information I used to put this piece together.