Events and Exploration in Limestone County Alabama Can Be Part of Your 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Find below some of the commemoration events and opportunities to delve in the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Limestone County Alabama.
Jan 13, 2018 -- Motivational Reading Program with Limestone County NAACP at Round Island Creek Mission Center (13829 Lucas Ferry Road in Athens) for students aged 3-12 starting at 9:30AM. For more information, please contact NAACP President, Mr. Woodruff 256-227-8489
n 15, 2018 -- Community Unity March with the Athens-Limestone Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Committee will meet on the westside of the Limestone County Courthouse on Jefferson Street at 8:45AM. Marchers will travel to the Limestone County Event Center (114 West Pryor Street) for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Program and the presentation of the winning essays of the Martin Luther King Jr Essay Contest beginning at approximately at 9:30AM.
March Starts on West Side of Limestone Co Courthouse
Line up starts at 8:45AM on the Jefferson Street side of the Limestone
Martin Luther King Jr. Program Location
The Martin Luther King Jr. Program starts at the Limestone County Event Center at 9:30AM.
Jan 15, 2018 -- The 21st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church (803 Westmoreland Avenue in Athens) hosted by the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Advisory Committee. The ceremony starts at 11:00AM. For information please contact Robin Hines at 256-614-5622.
Jan 16 2018 -- Calhoun Community College Martin Luther King Jr. Program at 11:00AM in the Aerospace Training Center on the Tanner Campus for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Program. For more information: Ernest Williams 256-306-2742 or calhoun.edu
Things to See
Athens-Limestone County African American Heritage Trail
The Athens-Limestone County African American Heritage Trail created by Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association celebrates African-American contributions, people, places and history throughout the county.
The Athens-Limestone African American Heritage Trail brochure can be picked up at the Athens-Limestone Visitors Center 100 North Beaty Street in Athens.
Copies are available in the porch display racks as well as inside the Visitors Center during hours of operation.
The Athens-Limestone African-American Heritage Trail can be explored by sections.
Judge James E. Horton Jr. Monument
The "Scottsboro Boys Trial" story begins along the railway during a time of racial tension and aggression in the 1930's. During this time, migratory works of all backgrounds would hop freight cars to travel between towns and cities looking for work.
The 1931 incident that set things in motion involved 2 young white women, 6 young white men, and 9 young black men aboard a railcar headed from Chattanooga to Huntsville. A fist fight broke out and the young black men ejected the young white men from the boxcar. The young white men ran back to Stevenson, pressed charges, and the train was soon stopped down the line at Paint Rock where one of the young white women told the posse of 75 white men they had been raped by the young black men.
The trial for the young black men was swift with four all-white juries returning a verdict of guilty in just four days. Eight of nine of the young men were sentenced to the electric chair. Lawyers entered appeals on the grounds of poor representation and mishandling of due process. The appeals case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Honorable Judge James E. Horton Jr. presided over the "Scottsboro Boys Trial" retrial of Patterson after their conviction was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court based on the fact that the defendants had been denied the right to adequate counsel and a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court ordered a new trial be held in a new venue to Decatur and that the Honorable Judge Horton was appointed to hear the trial.
The Honorable Judge Horton began the retrial in 1933 on behalf of Patterson ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Morgan County where one of the alleged victims, Ruby, testified the rape never occured, one victim, Victoria, maintained her story of rape, and the physician declined to testify for fear of retaliation but did raise to the Honorable Judge Horton he did not find any signs of attack. The all-white jury disregarded the testimony and evidence and solely based their decision on Victoria's testimony and issued a guilty plea and death sentence.
Following the jury's decision, the Honorable Judge Horton held a hearing in the Limestone County Courthouse, of his hometown of Athens, to discuss defense motions. The Honorable Judge Horton reviewed of the lengthy evidence report and said it did not corroborate the accuser’s testimony. The courtroom was shocked when the Honorable Judge Horton set aside Patterson’s conviction and ordered another trial. This decision divide and polarized the nation.
The Alabama Supreme Court were not pleased with the Judge's actions and replaced Horton. His re-election efforts the following year failed even with the support of Limestone County behind him. Meanwhile, the prosecutor Attorney General Thomas Knight Jr. who lead the trial was elected lieutenant governor.
The young black men languished in prison amidst a series of more convictions and death sentences handed down in Decatur. The series of trials continued into 1937. The last Scottsboro Boy left prison in 1950. The last of the nine died in 1989. The 82-year-long saga came to a legal conclusion in 2013, when Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed two pieces of legislation unanimously approved by the Alabama Legislature that exonerated the nine defendants.
Where to See the Monument
The blue marker on the west side of the Limestone County Courthouse on Jefferson Street in downtown Athens is the approximate location of the Judge James E. Horton Jr. Monument
WHNT Coverage of the Unveiling
Video property of WHNT News Channel 19