Friday, February 12, 2021

Negro Vet Beaten, Eyes Gouged Out By Georgia Police -- February 12, 2021


Detroit Tribune, 23-November-1946

75 years ago today, on 12-April-1946, policemen in Batesburg, Georgia committed one of the ugliest crimes in American history against honorably discharged Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard. Local authorities refused to prosecute the policemen. When the US Department of Justice prosecuted on the orders of President Harry S Truman, an all-white jury acquitted the policemen. 

Woodard's case helped to draw attention to the lack of civil rights in the south, and encouraged President Truman to integrate the military and the civil service. 

The Detroit Tribune was an African-American-owned weekly newspaper. 

Omaha Guide, 20-July-1946

Negro Vet Beaten,
Eyes Gouged Out
By Georgia Police

NEW YORK—One of the most horrible cases of southern police brutality against returning Negro vets was brought to light today when the NAACP released the facts surrounding the unbelievably barbarous beating and blinding of Isaac Woodard, 27 year old veteran of 4 years, 15 months of which were spent in the South Pacific. Woodard, 3 hours after his discharge from a demobilization center, was taken from a bus in Georgia by two policemen on complaint of a bus driver. The police immediately attacked the vet with their blackjacks and as he lay at their feet gouged out both his eyes with the blunt end of a blackjack before throwing him in a narrow cell where he was left intensely suffering through the night without treatment.

Told in his own quiet words, Woodward's story matches any that ever came out of the barbarous horror chambers of Nazi Germany. The following story is taken without embellishment from the Negro vet’s affidavit filed with the legal division of the NAACP:

“I, Isaac Woodard, Jr., being duly sworn, do depose and state as follows:

"That I reside at 1100 Franklin Avenue, Bronx, New York, Apt. 2. 1 am 27 years old, and a veteran of the United States Army,

Having served from the 13th of October, 1942 to the 12th of February, 1946, when I received an honorable discharge from Camp Gordon, Georgia. I served for 15 months in the South Pacific with the 429th Port Battalion. I served in the Philippines and in New Guinea and earned one battle star.

“I was discharged about 5:30 p. m. February 13, 1946 from Camp Gordon, Georgia. At 8:30 p. m. at the Greyhound Terminal in Atlanta, Georgia, while I was in uniform I purchased a ticket to Winnsboro, South Carolina and took the bus headed there to pick up my wife to come to New York to see my father and mother. About one hour out of Atlanta the bus driver stopped at a small drug store. As he stopped, I asked him if he had time to wait for me until I had a chance to go to the rest room. He cursed and said no and when he cursed me, I cursed him back. After I cursed him, he said, “Go ahead and get off and hurry back”, so I got off hurrying back as he said.

“About half an hour later, when the bus got to Aiken, he stopped again and got off and went and got the police. I did not know what he was doing and thought it was just a regular stop. He came back and came in the bus and came up to me and said, ‘Come outside for a minute,’ and I got off the bus. When I walked out, the police were there. As I walked out, the bus driver started telling the police that I was the one that was disturbing the bus. When he said that, I started explaining to the police that I was not raising a disturbance on the bus, but they didn't give me a chance to explain. The policeman struck me with a billy (billy club, nightstick, baton -- JT) across my head and told me to shut up. After he finished talking he said to me, ‘You won’t catch this bus out of here, you catch the next bus’.

"After that, he grabbed me by my right arm and twisted it behind my back, and walked me down the street, continually twisting my wrist. He asked me was I discharged and I told him yes. When I said yes, that is when he started beating me with the billy, hitting me across the top of my head. After that, I grabbed his billy and wrung it out if his hand. He ran behind my back and grabbed my arm again. I had him by his right shoulder. After that another policeman came up and drew his gun on me and told me to drop the billy or he would drop me, so I dropped the billy.

“After I dropped the billy, the second policeman held his gun on me while the other one was beating me as we were walking down the street. I did not see anyone on the street. When we got to the door of the police station, he hit me again and knocked me unconscious. After I commenced to come to myself, he hollered get up. When I started to get up, he started punching me in my eyes with the end of his billy. I finally got up. I could still see for a few minutes as I can remember, because I was hardly conscious.

"A few minutes after he locked me up, he came in and threw me my purse. He went back out and locked the door. I picked out a cot and lied down.

“I woke up the next morning and could not see. Someone gave me my breakfast at the bed. After that, a policeman came to the door and opened it and told me to come out. He said ‘let’s go up here and see what the judge wants’ I told him that I could not see how to come out, I was blind. He said, feel your way out’. I did not make any move to come out so he came in and led me to a sink and told me to wash my face. He then led me up to the judge, and the judge said to me, ‘You were raising sand on the bus last night stubborn' So I said to him .‘no. sir’ and then told him what happened. After I told him what happened, he said, ‘We don’t have that kind of stuff down here’. After he said that, the policeman spoke and said, ‘He wrung my billy out of my hand, and I told him that if he did not drop it, I would drop him’. That is how I knew it was the same policeman as had beat my eyes out.

“After that, the judge spoke and said, ‘I fine you $50 or 30 days on the road’. I said that I would pay the $50 but I did not have the $50 at the time. So the policeman said You have some money there in in your wallet’. He took my wallet and took all I had out of it, which was a total of $40 and took $4 from my watch pocket. I had a check for $694.73 which was my mustering out pay and soldiers deposit. He said to me ‘Can you see how to sign this check—you have a government check’. I told him ‘No sir’ so he gave it back to me after that.

"He took me back and locked me up in the jail. I stayed there for a while and after a few minutes he came in and asked me if I wanted a drink of whiskey—if I took a drink of whiskey I would probably feel better. I told him no sir, I did not care for any. He went and got some kind of eye medicine and came back and poured it in both my eyes. He went and got a hot towel and spread it across my head. I stayed for the rest of the day until about 5:30 that evening. I could tell about what time it was because I asked a policeman and he told me it was late. I do not know if that was the same one or not. At that time he came in and got me and told me that We're going t otake you to the hospital’. I did not hear anyone else In the room.

"He took me to the Veteran’s Hospital in Columbia, S. C. When I got there, the doctor was not in at the time so he laid me on a bench. A nurse took my name and asked him what was the matter. The policeman told him that I was raising a disturbance on the bus and drunk. The doctor asked the policeman was I drunk then, and he said no. So the doctor had an attendant carry me in a room and the attendant undressed me and put me to bed.

“About 5 or ten minutes after I was in bed, the nurse came and started giving me shots in my arm.

‘One of the contact men came around one day and told me they were going to take out a pension for me. I believe that the doctor who cared for me was named Dr. Clarence. I told him what had happened to me. He made no comment I but told me I should join a blind school.

"I stayed in the hospital for two months. I went in on the 13th of February and came out on the 13th of April. My sisters came down to see me, and since they discharged me while they were down there, they brought me back to New York to my father’s home in the Bronx, where I am still staying."

Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP, who as a war correspondent and special observer for the War Department visited Negro troops in both the European and Pacific Theatres during World War II stated: "For sheer bestiality and fascist terror the terrible story told by young Woodard is without parallel in all my experience. This man served his country for four years, fifteen months of that time in the South Pacific where he managed to live through and accept all of the horrors of jungle warfare only to return to what he had been told was a grateful nation. Here in the homeland he’d fought for and protected he was given a taste of that gratitude by southern policeman who maimed him for life”.

Dr. Chester W. Chinn, well known eye specialist who examined Woodard’s eyes at the request of the NAACP declared that there was absolutely nothing that medical science could do for the vet. “The boy’s eyes are completely hopeless”, stated Dr. Chinn.

The War Department which was asked to conduct" an investigation into Woodard’s case by the Natiinal Association for the Advancement of Colored People in May, has had nothing to say in the case.

No comments: