This Day in History

April 19, 1960: Attempted Assassination of Nashville NAACP Attorney

Time Periods: 1945
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Racism & Racial Identity

Zephaniah Alexander Looby. Source: The Tennessean

Z. Alexander Looby was a desegregationist lawyer who emigrated from Antigua to Tennessee in 1914. He earned degrees from Howard University, Columbia Law School and New York University.

Looby worked with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP in the 1940s, was elected to the Nashville City Council in the 1950s, and represented student sit-in protestors in February 1960. He fought for school desegregation, including in Clinton, Tennessee.

On April 19, 1960, Looby’s North Nashville home was dynamited in an assassination attempt that has never been solved.

As Betsy Phillips writes in Who Bombed Z. Alexander Looby’s North Nashville Home?, “Looby and his wife Grafta were lucky to escape with their lives.”

Civil rights leader Z. Alexander Looby’s house after being bombed in April 1960; the bombing remains unsolved.

Z. Alexander and Grafta Looby’s house after being bombed in April 1960. Source: Nashville Public Library, Special Collections

The article continues,

A few hours after Looby’s house exploded, a long line of somber sit-in protesters — whom he’d been representing in court — and community supporters marched from the heart of North Nashville to the steps of the courthouse. There, movement leader Diane Nash asked Mayor Ben West, “Do you feel it is wrong to discriminate against a person solely on the basis of their race or color?” West admitted that he did.

Continue reading Who Bombed Z. Alexander Looby’s North Nashville Home? at the Nashville Scene.