On Feb. 8, 1946, Timothy Hood removed a Jim Crow sign from a streetcar in Bessemer, Alabama to relieve congestion.
The conductor of the streetcar shot Hood, an African American veteran of the U.S. Marines, five times.
Hood survived, only to be arrested and then shot dead by the chief of police in the back of his police car. The murder was ruled “justifiable homicide.”
Gregory L. Carr Jr, a law student at the Northeastern University School of Law, researched the case in 2012 for the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Clinic. He wrote a detailed report on the case, including the response to Hood’s murder:
Discontented with the way local law enforcement was handling the Hood case, the community organized to demand that justice be done.
In a letter to the editor of the Birmingham News, dated February 12, 1946, Dr. J. M. Byas, a prominent figure and dentist in the Black community in Birmingham, expressed outrage over the unequal application of the law in the Hood case, calling on the South to “promote equal and exact justice and democracy for all regardless of race”:
Courts have been set up in our city and our state to determine those guilty of law-breaking and to sentence the guilty to just punishment.
Yet, a Negro Marine veteran, Timothy Hood was not given the opportunity to appear before the court. He was shot down in the streets after arrest by an officer of the law, Chief E. B. Fant. The officer in this case took the rights of the court and the judge into his own hands. That the Jefferson County solicitor and Coroner T. J. McCollum agreed that this was a case of “justifiable homicide” illustrates once more the unequal justice with which Negroes are treated in Alabama.
A few days ago, Senator John Bankhead told the Nation that the Negro people of the South are content and satisfied with conditions in the South.
Can any Negro be content and satisfied when he knows that officers of the law have no more respect for his life than this? It is about time for those who dislike adverse criticism of the South to do something to promote equal and exact justice and democracy for all regardless of race.
Dr. J. M. Byas
On March 12, 1946, the Alabama Veterans Association, formed by members of the SNYC to fight for the rights of Black veterans, pledged to bring the “police killers of Timothy Hood” to trial.
The following Sunday, March 17, 1946, 1200 members of the NAACP gathered at New Zion Baptist Church to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the “slaying of Timothy Hood.” During the mass meeting, Reverend R. T. Thomas demanded that racial discrimination be put to an end and that black people in the South be granted justice before the law. Lorenzo Wyatt, a college roommate of Timothy Hood, and Malcolm C. Dodd of the Southern Conference for Human Welfare also spoke at the meeting.
Echoing Reverend Thomas’ call for justice, both Wyatt and Dodd expressed “deep indignation” over the coroner’s “justifiable homicide” determination that “exonerated Fant of the killing.”
However, based on information gathered through the CRRJ investigation to date, it appears that his killing has gone largely unpunished, despite the community’s efforts to bring justice for him and his family.
Read more about Hood’s case and find primary documents (including Hood’s death certificate) at the Northeastern University School of Law Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.