Editorial: Austin Callaway deserved better

Published 8:16 am Saturday, January 28, 2017

Civil rights took an important step forward Thursday in LaGrange and we applaud those responsible and appreciate their efforts.


Area leaders gathered at Warren Temple United Methodist Church on Thursday night for a ceremony acknowledging the lynching of Austin Callaway, a black man, at the hands of a group of white men in September 1940.


Callaway was arrested by LaGrange police officers on September 7, 1940, for allegedly assaulting a white woman. After his arrest, Callaway was jailed in the basement of City Hall.

Later that night a mob of armed white men reportedly removed the teen from his cell – and the custody of LaGrange police.


According to the Troup County NAACP, LaGrange Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar and members of Troup Together, who have looked into what happened, the men drove Callaway out to Liberty Hill Road, shot him several times and left him to die.


Dekmar helped spearhead the Thursday ceremony, which filled the church and adjacent rooms. His officers, dressed in uniform, lined the walls of the sanctuary as community leaders spoke to those gathered and offered apologies to Callaway’s family. Dekmar, State Court Judge Jeanette Little and Dan McAlexander, president of LaGrange College, all spoke


The justice that eluded Callaway in life is now his in death. The church plans to erect a monument to him later this spring.


For those involved in the ceremony, it was important to acknowledge what happened to aid in moving forward, to help build trust in the black community that they say has been lacking.


“The institutions responsible for Callaway’s death are still here,” Dekmar said.


We agree.


After Callaway’s lynching, Coverage of his death by this newspaper was on page six. To the best of our knowledge there was no further investigative coverage or follow up of any kind by the LaGrange Daily News.The New York Times and other national media appear to have done a better job of reporting Callaway’s death than his hometown newspaper.


If such an incident were to happen today, such an egregious omission would be inexcusable.


Fortunately for all of us, this nation, this community and its institutions have changed for the better.



All this newspaper can do now is promise to do the same thing Dekmar, Little, and McAlexander promised those gathered at Warren Temple on a Thursday night.


“We will do our best to be fair to all,” Little said



As will the Lagrange Daily News.