Q: One of the most spectacular trials in Georgia history was the Matthews murder case in Cobb County in the 1970s. Did anybody ever admit guilt?
—Jim Connah, Sandy Springs
A: Warren and Rozina Matthews, two prominent Marietta pathologists, were murdered at their home on May 7, 1971. In July 1972, South Carolina police told Cobb County authorities that Deborah Ann Kidd, who they had in custody on unrelated charges, had information about the murders. Kidd was promised immunity for any details regarding the Matthews case, and she provided the names of James Creamer, George Emmett, Hoyt Powell, Larry Hacker, Bill Jenkins, Wayne Ruff, Charles Roberts, Mary Ann Morphus and Carolyn Sue Bowling Johnson. None of the evidence at the scene implicated Kidd or the other nine people, but she said Creamer killed Warren Matthews and that she killed Rozina Matthews, according to newspaper articles from the time. There were problems with Kidd’s version of events, but Creamer, Emmett, Powell, Hacker, Jenkins, Ruff and Roberts – who became known as the “Marietta Seven” — were convicted of murder in five separate trials from 1973-75. All seven were exonerated of the murders because of the gaps in Kidd’s story, and she later admitted to perjury, but was never charged because of immunity. Charges against all seven were dropped in Sept. 2, 1975. In another turn to this unusual case, Billy Sunday Birt confessed to the murders in 1975, also implicating Billy Wayne Davis and Willie Hester. Birt and Davis were indicted in 1979, but were already serving time for other crimes, so the case was never tried.
Q: I love hearing the song “Georgia on My Mind.” Who wrote it and when?
A: Don’t be disappointed or tell the folks who go to Stone Mountain’s laser show, but the composer of the beloved song wasn’t from Georgia. Or even the South. Hoagy Carmichael was born in Indiana and spent his professional years in both New York City and California, where he flourished as a popular songwriter and performer from the 1920s to the ’70s. He was considering a career change in 1929 when Louis Armstrong recorded one of his songs called “Rockin’ Chair” in December. Carmichael wrote “Georgia on My Mind” about a year later, with Stuart Gorrell, another Indianan, providing the lyrics. It’s been said those were the only lyrics Gorrell ever wrote. Many artists have performed and recorded the song, but it was a massive hit for Ray Charles, a native Georgian, when he included it on his 1960 album called “The Genius Hits the Road.” Willie Nelson won a Grammy in 1979 for his version.
If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail Andy Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org.