Sen. Ossoff spotlights 1949 cold case from Wilkinson County

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The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board will examine unsolved murders that occurred during the Civil Rights era.

IRWINTON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)- As part of a Senate Committee hearing today, Sen. Jon Ossoff pointed to a Wilkinson County cold case as he spoke in support of the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board.

According to Sen. Ossoff’s office, the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board will examine unsolved murders that occurred during the Civil Rights era.

Ossoff recalled the case of Caleb Hill, Jr., who was pulled from the Wilkinson County jail in the middle of the night in 1949 and shot to death by a lynch mob.

Ossoff is part of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is considering the nominations of members to the Review Board.

Nominee Hank Klibanoff is director of The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University, which has noted the following about Hill’s death:

Caleb Hill Jr. of Irwinton was pulled from Wilkinson County jail in the middle of the night on May 30, 1949, and was shot to death by a lynch mob. Sheriff George Hatcher had arrested Hill for stabbing another black man. According to Hatcher, Hill had removed Hatcher’s gun while the sheriff was questioning a witness and attempted to shoot him. The next morning, Hill’s body was found on the side of a road — three miles from the jail. The GBI initiated an investigation and brought charges against two white men, Dennis Lamar Purvis and Malcolm “Mack” Vivian Pierce, but an all-white grand jury refused to indict. The FBI investigated the case, interviewing about 165 possible witnesses, but met hostility from both the GBI and the local community. The case remains unsolved and Hill’s death certificate (where his name was spelled Calib) remains the final word: “…shot through the head by hands unknown.”

Attorney Margaret Burnham, historian Brenda Elaine Stevenson, and archivist Gabrielle Dudley were the other nominees up for consideration to serve on the board.

The bill creating the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board was signed into law by President Trump in January 2019.

 

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