New memorial markers pay tribute to lynching victim

Greenville, South Carolina community leaders took time on Thursday to remember one of the city’s most notorious crimes, and the controversial court decision that followed.

Historical records list the 1947 lynching of Willie Earle as an unsolved murder. Earle was arrested and jailed as a suspect in the murder of a white cab driver in February of that year. A few days after being thrown in jail, an angry mob went there, took Earle out and beat and shot him to death.

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Strom Thurmond was governor at the time and promised swift justice.

Twenty-eight cab drivers were quickly arrested and put on trial at the old Greenville County Courthouse in downtown Greenville. Historians wrote that the cab drivers signed confessions and even bragged about what they did.

After a two-week trial in front of an all white jury, the cab drivers were found not guilty and acquitted on all charges.The lynching and court case have now become one of the most notorious crimes and controversial court decisions in the city’s history.

On Thursday, two historical markers were unveiled in honor of Earle and speak of what many called the unjust treatment he received. The unveiling of the markers took place at the downtown Hughes Library.

The markers were then placed at the old Greenville County Courthouse on Main Street and the other on Bramlett Road.