About the Program
Alex Heard, editorial director for Outside magazine, recounts the death penalty trial of Willie McGee. In 1945, Mr. McGee, an African-American, was sentenced to death for allegedly raping white housewife, Willete Hawkins in Laurel, Mississippi. Mr. McGee was defended by Bella Abzug, a New York labor lawyer who was dispatched by the Civil Rights Congress, a civil rights organization with ties to the Communist Party. Ms. Abzug and a collection of Mississippi lawyers fought the case until 1951, bringing it national attention and making it a rallying point for civil rights advocates. President Truman and the U.S. Supreme Court were inundated with clemency pleas from the likes of Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, and Paul Robeson. Willie McGee was pubically executed in Mississippi on May 8, 1951. Alex Heard discusses his book at Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi.