Police Chief Lou Dekmar goes through letters and emails he received after he publicly apologized for the lynching of Austin Callaway more than 75 years ago, at LaGrange Police Department on Thursday, March 2, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Ga. chief’s lynching apology draws worldwide attention

Approximately 160 letters, emails and phone calls came to the police station in this small west Georgia city, including from England, Germany, Portugal and Australia. The chief, who’s been in the top job 22 years, is believed to be the first chief in America to apologize for their agency’s role in a lynching.

The chief said most of the responses have been positive, but some have been critical.

“It’s just further evolved our reconciliation efforts,” said the chief. Listen to the chief read one letter here.

Police Chief Lou Dekmar goes through letters and emails he received after he publicly apologized for the lynching of Austin Callaway more than 75 years ago, at LaGrange Police Department on Thursday, March 2, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Austin Callaway had been in the city’s jail in Sept. 1940 when a group of six men removed him in the middle of the night and shot him multiple times on a rural dirt road. The apology is part of a broader racial reconciliation effort in LaGrange the past couple years.

That process will continue this Saturday when the community will dedicate a historic marker memorializing Callaway’s lynching and three others in the area. The marker will include the chief’s apology.

On Sunday, community activists and religious leaders will hold a sunrise service in LaGrange that will include the reading of nearly 600 names of people lynched in Georgia from the period 1877 to 1950. Only Mississippi had more recorded lynchings.

Read how Callaway’s lynching sparked community dialogue on myAJC.com and return this weekend for complete coverage.

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