GAVEL GAMUT By Jim Redwine

I was born in Osage County, Oklahoma at a time Black people, then called Colored, could not eat, go to school or use the same restrooms as white people. Ironically, they were also unwelcome in our churches. Peg and I now make our home in Osage County after moving from Posey County, Indiana. I served as an elected judge in Posey County for almost forty years. We have many good friends in both counties.

Oklahoma, as most southern and southwestern states, has had numerous instances of racism, most notably the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. I personally remember the bus station and the pool hall in my hometown of Pawhuska.

When my brother, Philip, and I took the bus to our father’s family home in Wilburton, Oklahoma I was six years old. I still remember the separate restrooms and water fountains for whites only and Colored and how I could not lie down in that long seat in the back of the bus as it was where Coloreds had to sit.

As to the pool hall in Pawhuska, even after the 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown vs. The Topeka, Kansas Board of Education, Colored boys could not enter through the front door and they were restricted to playing pool as snooker was reserved for us whites.

Posey County, Indiana used to bus its Colored kids to Evansville for education and New Harmony, our longtime hometown, was at one time a “Sundown Town” where Blacks were not welcome after dark.

In other words, there was plenty of prejudice to go around in most of America for most of our history. That was why I, as the Posey Circuit Court Judge in 1993, was not totally incredulous to discover that right outside my courthouse door in Mt. Vernon, Indiana five Black men were murdered by a well-regulated group of approximately 200 white men on October 12, 1878.

The Posey County legal system actively covered up the crimes and the editors of the two local newspapers even interviewed the victims just before they were murdered and yet the papers did not print the names of the responsible parties. In fact, editor John Leffel called for the “Dark pall of oblivion to cover the entire matter.” And, with the acquiescence of the legal system and the citizenry, that is just what happened.

But on Sunday, October 23, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. a Committee led by Mt. Vernon High School student Sophie Kloppenburg and consisting of numerous, mainly, Posey County citizens, such as Tom Guggenheim, Chuck and Bonnie Minnette, Ben Uchitelle and Betty Hart with the cooperation of the elected members of the Posey County Board of Commissioners, dedicated a memorial to the Black men who were murdered, seven in all, and the more than 100 Black residents who were driven from their homes under threats of death. 

I appreciate the efforts of all those who have for many years sought to bring these matters to light and who deserve credit for their courage and concern for justice.

As Peg and I are currently in the country of Georgia working with the Georgian judiciary we were unable to attend the dedication ceremony. Had we been able to attend and had we had the opportunity to speak, the following eulogy is what we would have offered to the victims.



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