Ala. Board Approves Pardon for Scottsboro Boys

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) - In a historic move Thursday morning, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted posthumous pardons in the case of the Scottsboro Boys.

The pardon formally exonerates three men whose convictions were never overturned.  They were initially convicted of raping two white women in 1931.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited Scottsboro in April to sign Senate Bill 97 and House Joint Resolution 20, historic legislation clearing the men.  The parole board made it official Thursday morning.

The pardoning legislation for the Scottsboro Boys was sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Laura Hall.

In all, nine black men were falsely accused and convicted by all-white juries.  Five of the cases were overturned, and a sixth person received a pardon.  Thursday's formal pardons are for the other three men, Charles Weems, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson.

"It's not in the dark stages where we started off. We have come into a new light," Shelia Washington says. She's the founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. It's the only museum dedicated to the boys in Scottsboro.

She says Thursday's decision marks a change. "Scottsboro has always had a negative name about it because of the Scottsboro Boys case," Washington says.

Washington says she hopes the decision will make Scottsboro stand out in the nation under a different light. "I'm hoping that Scottsboro will finally take the place in history, and we are the birthplace of the civil rights, and no longer be ashamed of what happened in the thirties," she says.

Washington says after she started the museum in 2009, she decided she wanted to do more. So she started to determine what needed to be done to pardon the last three. "The Pardons and Paroles Board didn't have the power to do it, and the Governor didn't have the power to do it," Washington says.

She says it was up to Alabama lawmakers to create legislation that would allow the boys to be pardoned after their deaths. So she says she started talking.

Washington says that talk turned to actions. What's now called the Scottsboro Boys Act was unanimously passed by the legislature and promptly signed by the Governor. "Everyone wanted to how I got the Republicans and the Democrats to work together on this and I said 'I don't know if I'm that good I should run for office.' "

Washington says the legislation saw a need. "The Governor said it's time to correct a wrong, it's never too late to correct a wrong," Washington says.

Washington says a lot has changed in more than eight decades. "I think it worked because it's a different age and a different time, where people know the truth," she says.


  • eddie braxton johhnson

    ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!…i guess this board has nothing better to do!! so what difference does it make other reopening old wounds??

    • Tina

      No, this is not ridiculous. Those boys were 100% innocent, falsely accused, and wrongly convicted. Even Oprah Winfrey was talking about it this week in her interview about racism. This needed to be done for many reasons! One reason is to apologize to their families and the other reason is to show that this is not how Scottsboro is!

  • DJB

    Alabama should not be issuing pardons in this case. They should pass a resolution begging forgiveness. What happened to the Scottsboro Boys is outrageous.

  • eddie braxton johhnson

    we all know what happened!!………but with all the problems facing this state..unemployment, addiction they choose to waste taxpayers money on this stuff!!! …wow

    • Clarence Norris

      I take issue with anyone saying that this was a “waste” of time or tax payers’ money…as the son of Clarence Norris, who was pardoned in 1976, I am very grateful that the state of Alabama has seen fit to pardon these other men posthumously. It is too late for these men to see their names vindicated, but it is fitting that history record the truth that they were INNOCENT. All of the Scottsboro Boys suffered immeasurably as a result of being convicted for something they did not do. This is now and forever a part of history..I sincerely hope for all the other surviving relatives of these men that this gesture by the stste of Alabama brings some measure of justice and consolation to their lives….

  • eddie braxton johhnson

    scottsboro is still one of those places that still live in the 50’s!!..i bet u wouid add culman, arab and harselle….its more institutionalized. u know the ‘boys’ run the courts, are in the police and in sheriff’s depts, and stuff

  • Sarah Beth Janney

    Wow, I’ve read these comments and Eddie Braxton Johnson you make me wanna vomit. To right a wrong is a just move no matter how long ago it occurred. Just because these men have passed on and it’s not effecting you personally is no reason to criticize their pardons that they deserve . What a great day for their families, Scottsboro, Alabama , and Ms. Shelia Washington!

  • Walter Duranty

    Anyone reminded of Tawana Brawley and her ‘judgement-proof’ promoters, including “Al, show up before the body hits the ground and call it racism, Sharpton’?

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