In February 1947, Willie Earle hired a taxicab to take him home from Greenville, SC, to Liberty, about 20 minutes away. Early the next morning, the driver, Thomas Watson Brown, lay dying in a Greenville hospital. Soon, Earle was charged with stabbing Brown and was taken to the nearby Pickens jail. About the same time that Watson finally succumbed to his wounds, Earle’s body was found mutilated by the side of a lonely, frosty road.
Willie Earle was black. Only hours after he’d been arrested at his mother’s home and taken to jail, 31 white cab drivers snatched him from his cell, drove him to a vacant lot next to a slaughterhouse and blew his brains out. In subsequent statements to federal authorities, they all confessed.
Three months later, an all-white jury acquitted all 31 defendants.
The trial drew international and national attention.