“Since then, as a nation, we have made incredible progress,” said Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. “But we can’t be satisfied until we have a generation that fully represents all elements of our population serving this country in uniform and that can look at the marker we will unveil and say to themselves, ‘Never again in my country. Never again in my Army.’”
Bishop, whose district includes Fort Benning, said he was heartbroken to learn about Hall’s murder.
“This happened on this base. It happened in our community,” Bishop said. “Though Pvt. Hall was taken from us decades ago, this wound has been open for far too long. But thank God today we are coming together to heal.”
Hall grew up in Millbrook, Alabama, about 100 miles west of Fort Benning. He enlisted in the U.S. military in August of 1940 as it was building up its forces amid World War II. He was last seen alive during the afternoon of Feb. 12, 1941, according to FBI records. Fellow soldiers who saw him working at a sawmill that day told authorities he was heading to a store on base. He never arrived. By early March of 1941, he was declared a deserter.
Later that month, military engineers were training just north of the regiment’s swimming pool when they discovered Hall’s body in a heavily wooded area. Hall’s hands were bound by rope, his neck was tied to one tree with a slipknot and his feet were bound with baling wire and tied to another tree.
The FBI concluded Hall had been “undoubtedly murdered by hanging.” Based on how he was killed and where his body was found, the FBI added, “it does not appear that one man could have committed the crime.”
Fort Benning is also preparing to place a granite marker near where Hall’s body was found that lists his birth date and declares “May he rest in peace.” A path leads to the somewhat secluded area, which remains thickly wooded.
Richard Liebert, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who trained at Fort Benning, contacted the base and Bishop’s office about Hall’s lynching after reading about it in The Washington Post in 2016.
“I was just aghast. I said that Fort Benning has to restore its integrity and set this right and do something,” said Liebert, a cattle rancher who lives in Great Falls, Montana. “It is never too late to do the right thing, though.”
Hall’s surviving relatives did not attend Tuesday’s ceremony. But they spoke approvingly about Fort Benning’s plans in the days leading up to it. Meanwhile, they still want justice.
“Who did this?” said his cousin Nancy Cooks, 81, of San Jose, California, who was an infant when he was killed. “If he was man enough to join the service and go out there and try to serve the country for us, this deserves to be looked into and found out. I would love to find out. I’m sure they are probably dead, too, whoever did it. Who knows.”
Lisa Jenkins, who was among the dozens of people who observed the ceremony at Fort Benning Tuesday, said the proceedings were handled with honor.
“The marker is a symbol of hope and healing as well as education to future generations of how far we have come as a society,” said Jenkins, the Department of Georgia president for Gold Star Mothers Inc., which supports military families who have lost loved ones. “But as we know there is so much more work to be done.”