On June 11, 1964, only eight days after the Civil Rights Act had passed, three black men, soldiers and teachers at the U.S. Army Reserves, headed home from training at Fort Benning, near Columbus, GA. Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn, Major Charles Brown and Lt. Colonel John Howard were driving down a lonely road in Athens, GA in a 1959 Chevy when Ku Klux Klan members in a tan station wagon saw their D.C. license plates and began following them.

Since the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Southern racists vowed to seek some kind of retaliation. For no reason other than hate, the KKK nightriders opened fire on the Chevy, killing Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn. The soldiers tried to steer the car to safety but after a high-speed chase, the Chevy landed in a ditch. Just days later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to Athens to arrest and charge the Klan members with murder.

James Lackey (the driver), Cecil Myers and Joseph Sims were arrested. Myers and Sims were charged with murder after Lackey’s confession. But by the time he got to the courtroom, Lackey’s story was deemed unbelievable and an all-white male jury acquitted the three men.

But Myers and Sims, were then charged with violating the civil rights of the black soldiers and they both served six years in prison. Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A year after his death, Penn’s wife, Georgia, died from complications related to lupus. The couple had three children.

5 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Murder in Athens, Georgia

  1. SHADOW OF DEATH: For Us [African-Americans] there is no doubt that America is that “Shadow Of Death” referred to in the Bible

  2. Gloria Smith-Matthews on said:

    That same kind of stuff is still happening today. The rights of Blacks are still violated under the constitution. Whites are still making those KKK moves on Blacks every day. George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn; need I say more?

    • While I’m outraged by the justice system as a whole when it comes to our people, I’m even more upset about our people killing each other too. Where’s the outrage about that??? While Michael Dunn was on trial in Florida, here in Atlanta there where 14 homicides…blacks killing blacks….WTF!

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