Seventy years ago in Lyons, Ga., a Black man was murdered in front of his family by a violent White mob. Despite his wife’s protests and her best efforts, the perpetrators were never put behind bars.
Robert “Duck” Mallard was a traveling salesman and his wife, Amy Mallard, was a college-educated schoolteacher. The couple lived on a farm in a populated area of the small Toombs County city.
On November 20, 1948, the Mallard family, along with their two-year-old son John and two of Mrs. Mallard’s young cousins were driving home from an event.
Mrs. Mallard spotted a group of around 20 or so men reportedly dressed in white robes, recognizing one as a man from their town. In her account, the men open fired upon Mr. Mallard’s brand new Frazer automobile, striking him in the chest. Mrs. Mallard then ran to a neighboring farm to ask for help. When police arrived, they approached her as if she were the assailant.
Days later at the funeral for her husband in nearby Savannah, Mrs. Mallard was arrested as a suspect by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation but was held for just nine hours before her release. Her case drew national attention and the NAACP, who then supported her.
Mrs. Mallard was able to identify at least two of the men by name in the mob that attacked her family. Several conspiracy theories suggested that the Mallard family intended to vote, and that because of their social standing, White citizens in town felt threatened by them.
Among the five men named in the crime, only two were indicted on murder charges. One man was acquitted by an all-white jury in hours and another man was never charged. This injustice did not keep Mrs. Mallard silent, and she toured the country with the help of the NAACP to keep attention on the case.
In July 1949, the Mallard family home in Lyons was allegedly burned down by Ku Klux Klan members. Mrs. Mallard and her son never returned to Lyons, instead resettling in Buffalo, N.Y.
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