Henry Gilbert was beaten and shot to death by the Harris County police chief in 1947 while in custody at the county jail. He had been wrongly accused of helping another black man flee after he had shot and killed a white farmer. No one was ever held accountable for Gilbert’s murder and his family was forced to sell their 111-acre farm and leave the state. A local sheriff acknowledged law enforcement’s role in the lynching with a ceremony honoring Henry Gilbert. “I acknowledged and accepted the fact

Georgia Tech will screen documentary on infamous Georgia lynching town

“Fair Game: Surviving a 1960 Georgia Lynching” will be shown at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The screening of a new documentary about an infamous 1960 Blakely, Georgia, murder trial that many have described as an attempted judicial lynching will help mark Black History Month at Georgia Institute of Technology on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

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The film, “Fair Game: Surviving a 1960 Georgia Lynching”, will be shown at 3:30 p.m. at the Georgia Tech Student Center Theater. The documentary, which was written, directed and produced by Boston-based filmmaker Clennon L. King, an Albany, Georgia, native, visits the town of Blakely, in Early County, where at least 24 Black men were lynched, and where, in 1960, a Black U.S. Navy veteran from New Jersey nearly becoming the 25th victim.

James Fair with his mother, Alice Fair
Photo: For the AJC

In May 1960, James Fair Jr. joined a friend on a road trip to visit relatives in Blakely Their arrival in Early County could not have been more ill-timed, coinciding with the murder (and alleged rape) of an 8-year-old girl, Yvonne Holmes. Local law enforcement pinned arrested Fair for the crime. Within three days, a local judge sentenced Fair to Georgia's electric chair (without a jury trial), prompting his mother, Alice Fair, to mount an 18-month long campaign to save her son's life.

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King has dedicated his film to the 24 black men who were lynched in Early County and to his late father, legendary civil rights attorney C.B. King, who tried to prevent Fair from becoming the 25th victim. C.B. King and Atlanta civil rights legend Donald L. Hollowell represented Fair in his appeal. (Interestingly, the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse in Albany was first federal courthouse in the former Jim Crow South named for a Black man.)

"We can either mark history or repeat it," King said. "This documentary reveals in real time what this man went through and represents what we as black people, especially black men, go through today."

The film features several Georgia luminaries, including the Atlanta native Vernon Jordan, who was a young law clerk on the case, and Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine and former Health and Human Services Secretary under President George H. W. Bush., who grew up in Blakely.

"The motivation for me doing this film was to glorify my own community to seeing about ourselves," said King. "There is responsibility in us owning our own history."

“Fair Game” is King's second documentary. His first, “Passage at St. Augustine: The 1964 Black Lives Matter Movement That Transformed America”, won the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the 2015 Roxbury International Film Festival.

"We as African-Americans have to take stock in our story in all of its dimensions," King stated. "We really celebrate the fullness of our story by doing so."

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King is not content to have told the story of Fair's ordeal, so he is currently seeking to reopen the murder case of Yvonne Holmes. The filmmaker penned a letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to reopen the case, because he said he feels there are several questions left unanswered.

 "The state never did its job in solving the case," said King. "This is a cold case that no one has ever answered for. It happened nearly 60 years ago. James Fair was the fall guy."

Photo: For the AJC

Event details:

The screening is organized by Georgia Tech's Institute Diversity. It is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. After the film, Clennon L. King will take part in a Question & Answer session.

Visitor parking is located behind the student center, 350 Ferst Dr NW, Atlanta. For more information, contact King at 207-450-3585.

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