On this dayJun 27, 1911

Two Black Men Lynched by White Mob in Georgia After Judge Refuses to Protect Them

On June 27, 1911, a Walton County mob of several hundred unmasked white men lynched two Black men named Tom Allen and Joe Watts after a local white judge—Charles H. Brand—had refused to allow state guardsmen to be present to prevent mob action.

Judge Brand had been aware of the threat of mob violence for weeks. Mr. Allen, who had been accused of assaulting a white woman, had been held in Atlanta for safekeeping because of the threat. In early June, Mr. Allen was brought to Monroe for trial with the protection of state troops from the Governor, but Judge Brand “resented” the presence of troops, postponed the trial because of the protection being offered, and sent Mr. Allen back to Atlanta. When Mr. Allen was ordered back to Monroe for trial on June 27, Judge Brand refused an offer of protection from the state troops. Consequently, Mr. Allen was protected only by two officers on the train.

Knowing that Mr. Allen no longer had the protection of state troops, the white mob intercepted the train bound for Monroe and seized Mr. Allen from the two officers charged with protecting him. The mob tied Mr. Allen to a telegraph pole and shot him while the passengers of the train and hundreds in the mob looked on. 

The mob then proceeded to march six miles to the town jail where another Black man named Joe Watts was being held. Some newspapers reported that Mr. Watts was an alleged accomplice of Mr. Allen, while others noted Mr. Watts had been arrested for having “acted suspiciously” outside of a white man’s home, but had not been charged with a crime. The white mob stormed the jail without resistance from the jailers, removed Mr. Watts, and lynched him as well, hanging him from a tree and shooting him repeatedly. Both men had maintained that they were innocent, and contemporary newspapers reported that there was no evidence against them. 

In most cases of racial terror lynching throughout this era, the criminal legal system failed to intervene or use force to repel lynch mobs, even when the threat of lynching was evident and underway. Despite their legal responsibility to equally protect anyone in their custody, law enforcement and judicial officials were often found to be complicit in the seizure or lynchings of Black men, women, and children by abdicating their responsibility to prevent mob abductions. In this case, Judge Brand refused to allow for the protection of the state troops that had successfully transported and protected Mr. Allen from being lynched just three weeks before, thereby, making it easier for the white mob to lynch these men. Three months earlier, in Judge Brand’s hometown of Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County, he had also refused the assistance of state troops to protect a Black man named Charles Hale, who, left without the protection of those troops, was taken by a white mob and lynched. 

Despite his failure to protect these men, he continued to serve as a judge until 1917. In 1917, Judge Brand was elected to Congress to represent Georgia's 8th Congressional District, where he served seven consecutive terms. 

Mr. Allen and Mr. Watts were two of at least nine documented victims of racial terror lynchings in Walton County, Georgia, between 1865 and 1950. EJI has documented over 6,500 racial terror lynchings that occurred between 1865 and 1950. To learn more, read EJI’s reports, Lynching in America and Reconstruction in America.

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