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ADW Commemorates The 50th Anniversary Of The Release Of Rosa Lee Ingram & Her Two Sons

Wallace Ingram (from left) stands with Rosa Lee Ingram, Samuel Ingram and Clayton R. Yates following the IngramsÂ’ release from prison. (Photo Courtesy of the Ingram Family)
Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009

..... In January of 1948, Rosa Lee Ingram and her two teenaged sons -- Wallace and Samuel -- were given the death penalty by an all-White jury for what the ADW described as a "self-defense" slaying of a White tenant farmer named John E. Stratford.

The incident happened in November of 1947. Following their conviction, it would take 11 years for them to be released, following a valiant fight that involved the Black Press, including the Atlanta Daily World; civil rights organizations, including the NAACP; and Clayton R. Yates, the African-American co-owner of Yates & Milton Drug Stores and chairman of the board of Citizens Trust Company (now Citizens Trust Bank).

It is now 50 years after their 1959 release from prison. Wallace Ingram, now 78 years old, told the Atlanta Daily World in an interview on Tuesday, Oct. 27, that all of the people who helped secure their freedom "were wonderful. They did a lot, and we all appreciated it."

As the case was happening in the 1940's and 1950's, the ADW frequently featured Rosa Ingram's plight on the front page of the newspaper....

.... On Sunday, March 28, 1948, the ADW wrote that President Truman had just learned of the Ingram situation the previous Thursday when he was asked at a press conference whether he had heard of the case. The president had not. Ingram and her sons were originally scheduled to die on Feb. 27, 1948, but a motion for a new trial stayed their execution and was taken under advisement by the judge. Stratford, the 66-year-old White tenant farmer who was killed, had been beaten to death with his own rifle (with which he was threatening the family).

Reports at the time stated that a hoe and a claw hammer also were used during the attack, but Wallace Ingram recently said only the butt of the rifle was used and that Stratford died after only one blow to the head.

Unsolicited funds poured in to the ADW office for the Ingrams. The money was forwarded to the Citizens Defense Committee of Americus, Ga., headed by Dr. R. S. Douthard.

The Ingram case struck a chord in other parts of the country and even with celebrities. In Los Angeles, more than 600 people assembled at Phillips Temple CME Church on Sunday, March 28, 1948, where they heard members of the entertainment and religious community, including actress Lena Horne, condemn the death sentence imposed on Ingram and her two sons. The rally was held under the auspices of the Los Angeles Negro Congress, which demanded that President Truman and Georgia Gov. Melvin Thompson release the family.....

...Although the case was tried in Americus, Ga., people in Atlanta and nationwide took an interest in it because Rosa Ingram was the mother of 12 children, and she and two of her teenaged sons, Wallace and Sammie Lee, apparently had acted in self-defense.

The altercation apparently arose from a dispute about farm animals belonging to the Ingrams that had strayed into Stratford's fields. Rosa Ingram further claimed that Stratford had been "picking after her and insisting she needed a man after her husband died," according to the article.

About eight of the Ingram children, most of them minors, were living with a farmer near Americus at the time the article was written. Funds to help the children came pouring into the ADW's office, as well as to the NAACP.....

.... The Ingrams were not released from prison until August of 1959, and full rights were restored to them in 1964. Following their release from prison, Yates invited them to live in his Atlanta home for months as they became adjusted to a more normal life.

What coverage of this case showed was that when the ADW's management thought that a mockery of justice had been done, it stepped in and became an active participant in the news it covered -- not just a chronicler of events.

COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE: (ADW - Atlanta Daily World)

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