State of North Carolina vs. Fred Erwin Beal, and et al. transcript
- 1979-09-30 - 1979-10-16
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Extent1 collection (1 pagie box)
The transcript comprises volumes 1-4, and is numbered from page 1 to 1876. A separate volume contains Judge Barnhill's charge to the jury.
In 1929, Fred Erwin Beal (1896-1954), a communist and National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) organizer, arrived at the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina. There, the young New Englander worked toward unionization of the mill workers. Many workers did join the NTWU as a result of Beal’s efforts. The company responded to the unionization by firing five union members in May 1929. After the firings, the union members voted to strike.
The initial strike on April 1, 1929 drew about 1,800 workers out to the picket lines. Over the month, the workers refused to return to the mill until their demands were met. The owners of the mill, a Rhode Island company, refused to negotiate. By the end of the month many demonstrators could no longer afford to continue without pay and left the picket lines.
A few hundred strikers remained on the picket lines, living in a tent village set up by the union because the company evicted them from their mill-owned homes. On June 7, 1929 Gastonia police chief, Orville F. Aderholt, other officers, and local men deputized for the purpose of ending the strike, broke a picket line comprised mainly of women and children. Aderholt and others then entered the tent village, shots were fired, and Aderholt was killed.
Sixteen people were arrested and charged with murder in the second degree: Fred Erwin Beal, K.O. Byers, W.M. McGinnis, Louis McLaughlin, George Carter, alias William Duke, Vera Busch, Joseph Harrison, J.C. Heafner, Robert Allen, Russell Knight, Clarence Miller, N.F. Gibson, Delmar Hampton, K.Y. Hendricks, Amy Schechter and Sophie Melvin.
The judge declared a mistrial on September 9 when one of the jurors became insane based, in part, on the extreme pressure placed upon the jurors. After a mistrial was declared, violence erupted. An anti-communist mob attacked union members and then kidnapped and flogged former strike leaders. The violence culminated on September 14, 1929 with the murder of strike participant Ella May Wiggins.
On the first day of the retrial, September 30, 1929, the state dropped its charges against 9 of the original 16 charged. Fred Beal, Clarence Miller, Joseph Harrison, George Carter, W. M. McGinnis, Louis McLaughlin, and K.Y. Hendricks were found guilty of second-degree murder. Beal and the three other Northern defendants were sentenced to 17-20 years; the locals received shorter sentences.
All seven defendants jumped bail. Five of the men, including Beal, fled to the Soviet Union. Beale remained in the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1933 and then returned to the United States. Beal’s autobiography, Proletarian Journey, was published in 1937. He was extradited to North Carolina and jailed in 1938. Governor Clyde R. Hoey, prosecutor for Beal’s trial, refused to grant Beal a pardon. Hoey’s successor did, however, grant Beal a pardon in 1942.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- State of North Carolina vs. Fred Erwin Beal, et al. Transcript: (September 30, 1929 – October 16, 1929). Finding Aid
- Harvard Law School Library Cambridge, MA 02138
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