2019-02-06 / Front Page

FAIR GAME: Surviving a 1960s Georgia Lynching

By Billy Fleming

I doubt many who read this will recognize the name, James Fair. I didn’t, either, when Clennon King called me in July 2017. When our phone call ended I found myself scanning the pages of the bound copies of the 1960, ‘61 and ‘62 issues of the Early County News.

And there they were, the articles chronicling the story of the rape and brutal murder of an eight-year-old Negro girl and how James Fair, a 24-year-old black man from New Jersey, was facing the death penalty three days later.

“Justice seemed to move swiftly in this case,” the News stated in the lead paragraph of the front page article about the crime, likely written by my Uncle Alvan.

Over the course of three days, Fair was arrested, arraigned, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. He sat behind bars for the next 26 months, while his mother and lawyers fought for his life.

One of those lawyers was Georgia’s legendary civil rights attorney C.B. King, father of Boston-based documentary filmmaker Clennon L. King.

By that time 24 lynchings had been attributed to Blakely and Early County, second in Georgia only to Fulton County with 37.

The national newspapers had already spread the community’s lynching reputation across the country with the deaths and lynchings resulting in the 1915 Gradison Goolsby incident and again in 1919 with a false story about a senseless “lynching” of an American soldier at the hands of a racially motivated mob.

That story prompted Carl Sandburg, then a young Chicago journalist, to give Blakely the moniker “Meanest Little Town in America.”

King has produced a documentary 65-minute film — “Fair Game: Surviving a 1960 Georgia Lynching” — dedicated to the 24 known Black men lynched in Blakely and Early County and to his father, C.B. King.

Needless to say, the film will cast Blakely in Early County in a dim light as it is described as “a portrait from their foundings until the early '60s.”

“This was a case he talked about a lot,” King said of his father in an interview with Martha’s Vinyard Times. His father represented the Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks during the civil rights movement.

The 65-minute film premiered on Martha’s Vineyard in August and is slated for other showings, including the showing and discussion scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Georgia Tech Student Center Theatre.

For additional information about the Feb. 13 documentary screening, visit: https://diversity.gatech.edu/fair-game-surviving-1960-georgia-lynching-documentary-screening

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