Read the beginning of Gabriel’s tale.
Gabriel, the Civil Rights Lawyer’s Tale
III. The Appeal
“At Ed Johnson’s father’s behest,
Two black lawyers took his request
Parden knew they would be threatened
His prosperous practice destroyed.
But Parden was a Christian man,
He prayed to his God for wisdom.
Pardon agreed to bear the cross,
It did not matter what the cost.
If it meant his violent demise,
The lawyer would not compromise.
When the attorneys tried to file
A motion for a new trial,
Judge McReynolds demanded they wait.
The next day the judge said they were too late.
The judge tried to block their appeal,
By disparaging their zeal,
Their arrogance to think they knew
As much as the white man in his view.
But the lawyers filed an appeal,
Refusing to buckle and kneel.
The state high court upheld the court’s decisions
So to the federal court they petitioned.
Charging due process violations.
Enshrined in U.S. Constitution.
Ed had rights to a trial that was fair,
Not one held in an inflamed air.
A mob tried to attack the jail,
The trial court in its role did fail.
Lawyers had no time to prepare,
The trial venue was unfair,
Non-white jurors were excluded,
Judge and prosecutor colluded.
Ed Johnson was forced to confess
By torture and under duress.
The temper of a juror flared,
A mistrial should have been declared.
Here on earth the laws made by men.
Are only as good as the men.
Parden’s home was threatened with fire.
Thugs sprayed his house with gunfire.
People – black and white – saw Ed Johnson
Well wishers whose hearts he had won.
Those friends were the children of God,
And a trickle became a flood.
Two days before the date of his death,
Ed was given one last request.
He asked to attend church service.
To thank the Lord for His good grace.
Three hundred made the pilgrimage to jail.
Even in jail God’s love prevails
The courtyard of the jail was filled,
Into the lobby the believers spilled.
The special congregation sang hymns,
Read biblical scriptures and psalms.
After singing the Sweet Bye and Bye,
Ed declared “I’m ready to die.”
Young Ed Johnson had been transformed
By his faith in God, he was reborn
All his hatred was swept away
Tomorrow would be judgment day.
He asked that Miss Taylor be healed
That the Lord’s love be revealed.
We are all the children of God.
He had faith in the power of God.
He denied he was guilty again.
He repeated “I am not that man.”
At service end, he was baptized.
And by his faith his soul was saved.
By purity of righteous heart,
He would enter the narrow gate.
The federal judge denied their petition,
Citing lack of federal jurisdiction.
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was made,
Powerful forces came to their aid.
Their voices were heard from on high.
Justice Harlan listened with an open mind.
The astute hand of providence
Gave Ed Johnson a final chance.
The great dissenter stayed execution.
To decide Ed’s rights under the Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case.
And its specified time and place.”
IV. The Lynch Mob
“But injustice would blight the land.
Public officials had other plans.
Upon receipt of the high court order,
Sheriff Shipp stripped the jail of jailers.
And moved all the other prisoners,
Leaving Ed to the murderers
Hundreds of townsfolk stormed the jail,
Bent on seeing mob justice prevail.
Judge McReynolds watched from the courthouse,
As the mob descended upon the jailhouse,
Sheriff Shipp abandoned his post.
Ignoring his duty to the utmost.
Police officers led the violent mob,
Law and order supposedly their job.
A white minister called the police.
Demanding a stop to the mob’s caprice.
His lone voice in the wilderness.
An unanswered plea for justice.
The mob led the lone defendant
In a procession malevolent,
The lynch mob seemed to go berserk,
And lynched Ed Johnson on the trestlework
Of the Walnut Street Bridge
Ed kept his dignity to the end.
Johnson proclaimed his innocence
Blessed his enemies’ insolence.
For two minutes, his legs danced in the air
As the mobs and onlookers stared.
Vigilantes began shooting.
A bullet cut the rope, his body falling,
Ed was still moving but nearly dead.
One man shot five bullets into his head.
An old black woman waded through the crowd.
“Is he dead, white folks?” she said aloud.
When a man said yes, she eyed with a dare,
In defiant reply, she said “Well, I swear.”
As she turned her back and left from the line,
One man pinned on Ed’s corpse, a sign.
“Justice Harlan, get your n****r now.”
Such was their insidious vow.
A police man from the crowd there.
Cut off Ed’s finger as a souvenir.
A fitting end to these sad events.
Monsters who sought to harm the man,
Could not touch good Ed Johnson’s soul
For good are raised up, evil brought low.
The finger of justice was beckoning,
There would be a day of reckoning.”
V. Judgment Day
“The Supreme Court began its investigation,
Into the city’s depredations.
Federal agents descended.
Laid charges against those that offended.
Twenty-four men were arrested.
Sheriff Shipp’s guilt was suggested.
Sheriff Shipp was in contempt of court
Shipp and six others were thrown in prison.
Public officials across the country
Could not give free reign to bigotry.
In future Supreme Court decisions,
Our Bill of Rights protections
Were incorporated into the 14th Amendment,
And applied to local governments.
Though Styles Hutchins and Noah Parden,
Never practiced law again,
Their courageous fight was a victory,
That changed the course of history.
Progress requires we take a step backward,
Before we can move forward.
These two courageous men,
Fought for justice with voice and pen,
They faded into obscurity
Leaving behind a lasting legacy.
There may be things as miracles,
I have never seen them in any court.
Justice is administered by men.
The aspirations of a nation
Where the people are sovereign,
Depend upon its citizens.
Euclid said there is no royal road to geometry.
The same could be said for justice in a democracy.
Progress oftentimes comes at a price.
Someone somewhere must make a sacrifice.
Cry if you must, shout if you will,
Then wipe away your tears.
Summon your courage.
And begin again.”