The "Scottsboro Stories" blog reflects the writings, photographs, arrangements, opinions and musings of me, Garry L. Morgan, only. I do not represent the Scottsboro Boys Museum or the Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation - the parent organization of the Scottsboro Boys Museum. I receive no profit from this endeavor. This blog is for educational purposes and that of open expression about racial and sexual discrimination, institutional and personal racism and the deadliest war of all time - "The Culture War."


The Ledger: "Scottsboro, Ala., Museum Opens to Mark a Shameful Case "

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sheriff Matt Wann, a brave man and the untold story, secrets and questions, the story of a murder.

The continuing saga of the Scottsboro Boys case. The Story of Jackson County Sheriff Matt Wann and his murder raises questions due to local stories concerning involvement of the Ku Klux Klan in Sheriff Wann's murder in the early morning hours of May 3, 1932. He saved the lives of the 9 Scottsboro Defendants on the night of March the 25th, 1931 from an angry mob of Ku Klu Klan by preventing them from lynching the defendants. Several local stories have been told that Sheriff Wann's murder was connected to a conspiracy by law enforcement officials and local Ku Klux Klan leadership. (Click on images for an expanded view.)
The truth of this case must be told. Did a conspiracy to murder the Sheriff occur or was this an insane act by one individual? A magical through his brother trajectory shoot and subsequent disappearance of Harry Hambrick? If a conspiracy did not occur, why all the stories of conspiracy by reliable citizens and officials of our community?
The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc., (ODMP) listing for Sheriff Matt Wann: The Sheriff erroneously placed the handcuffs on Harry Hambrick's brother, Arthur. It was Harry Hambrick for which the warrant for arrest was being served and who shot Sheriff Wann. This description per report from the May, 5, 1932 Jackson County Sentinel newspaper as reported by the Officers present and Arthur Hambrick. (This was one year and one month past the "Scottsboro Boys Case" Trials. )
Update: October 29, 2010 A search of Jackson County Circuit Court records disclosed the following information related to the case of Sheriff Wann's murder by suspect Harry Hambrick on May 3, 1932. A search was completed for the Grand Jury Records for the period 1932. Book 6 for the Summer Term of 1932 was missing. The Spring term of 1932, Book 5 was located, it ended in March of 1932. There were no other Grand Jury records after the Spring Term of 1932 that could be located.
The arrest warrant records for the period of 1932 were located and reviewed. There was no warrant issued for the arrest of Harry Hambrick during 1932 or any time after the May 3, 1932 date. There was also no warrant found concerning desertion which was the alleged reason Sheriff Wann was at the Hambrick home. This is very suspicious, it would be a normal act to issue an arrest warrant for the individual that was suspected of murdering the Jackson County Sheriff, particularly when there were 4 witnesses to the act of murder, 3 being law enforcement officers.

Image of Sheriff Wann in the Jackson County Sentinel 2 days after his death, May 5th 1932. It was alleged that Sheriff Wann was murdered by Harry Hambrick a short time after midnight on May 3, 1932 between Scottsboro and Larkinsville, Alabama while serving a warrant for the arrest of Harry Hambrick for the failure to support his wife, charged with desertion.
Matt Wann was a Mason and as reported he was buried with much ceremony in a Masonic burial the following Thursday, ceremonies were held at the First Baptist Church of Scottsboro.
Report listed in the May 5th, 1932 edition of the Jackson County Sentinel (paraphrased). "Sheriff Wann knocked on the door of the residence, no one came to the door initially. Sheriff Wann sent the officers accompanying him, Houston Dicus, Henry Jones, Wayne Phillips to the sides and rear of the home west of Scottsboro on the Larkinsville Road below the home of Miller Kelly. The house was dark, except for the light of the flashlights of the officers shinning through the windows. The report states that a man came to the door after Sheriff Wann announced that he was there to arrest Harry Hambrick. According to the news article the Sheriff asked, "are you Harry Hambrick," the man replied, "I am Hambrick," Wann replied, "you are under arrest." Sheriff Wann proceeded to place handcuffs on Hambrick. The news report states, "the man Sheriff Wann placed the cuffs on was not Harry Hambrick but his brother Arthur Hambrick."
The report describes the fatal event after placing the handcuffs on Arthur Hambrick, "Harry Hambrick produced a shotgun, fired over his brothers shoulder striking Sheriff Wann directly in the heart killing him." As reported in the Jackson County Sentinel Officer Jones shouted to Hambrick after the shooting, "you come out of the house with that shotgun I'll kill you." Harry Hambrick reportedly threw the shotgun onto the floor then mysteriously escaped into "the bottoms.""
Harry Hambrick was never captured or seen again. In the following weeks local papers tell the story of a southeastern man hunt for Harry Hambrick. He was described as follows: "A young man age 20, 5ft. 8in. tall, weight 130 pounds, has light hair, freckles, tattooing described as a woman on one arm and a heart on the other. He is talkative, very friendly, easily acquainted with strangers, appears younger than his appearance. He is of above average intelligence and easily mistaken for a farm boy of 16 or 17 years of age and did not have a "criminal appearance."" The local newspaper goes on to describe the magical Hambrick as "in a class of shrewd criminals... he may be hiding locally or distant places."
There is the question, why were charges never brought forth to try Hambrick in absentia, after all, there were several witnesses, namely the law officers present? Justice has not been served in this case.

Sheriff Matt Wann, Sheriff of Jackson County 1931-1932. Photo posted in the Sheriffs Office lobby in the Jackson county courthouse.
Sheriff Wann was survived by his wife Stella Rorex Wann and children Billie Jack and Robert Wann. Earnest Parks was appointed Guardian ad Litem for the minor children, Will Book 16, Pages 339-340.
Clarence Norris - In the book, "The Man From Scottsboro," by Dr. Kwando M. Kinshasa, who interviewed Clarence Norris prior to his death, Norris relates that Sheriff Wann was one of the white men that was responsible for saving the Scottsboro defendants lives. (Bio of Dr. Kinshasa-  )
Norris reported that Sheriff Wann stood in the door of the jail and told the mob that he would kill any of them that attempted to take his prisoners. Norris also reported in the book that Sheriff Wann was murdered for his efforts of keeping the mob from lynching the defendants.

Reports from citizens and news reports. - A mob of Ku Klux Klan and angry whites had gathered outside the jail the night of the "Scottsboro Boys" arrest on March 25th 1931. The mob had the intentions of breaking the prisoners out of jail and lynching the prisoners as had occurred in Marion, Indiana 5 months previous. Sheriff Wann contacted the Governor the night of March 25th and requested the assistance of the National Guard.
The National Guard arrived on March 26, 1931 and lent support to the Jackson County Sheriff until the decision was made to transport the prisoners to Gadsden, Alabama as their security could not be assured at the Jackson County Alabama Jail.
Allegations of Conspiracy to Murder. There are allegations that a conspiracy occurred related to Sheriff Wann's murder due to him not allowing a mob to lynch the Scottsboro Defendants. As the story goes, law enforcement officials were connected to the local Ku Klux Klan and the Klan leadership was angry that Sheriff Wann would stand in the way of "Klan justice."
Inquiry to the Sheriff 's Office reveals there are no Reports of Investigation relating to this case.
Other information gained in this research. In accordance with the laws of the State of Alabama at the time, it was reported that Coroner A.H. McAnelly became the acting Sheriff. Additional reports indicated that a petition would go forward to the Governor for the appointment of Mrs. Wann as the Sheriff, that never occurred, T.W. McBryde was appointed Sheriff.
Sheriff Wann owned 126 acres in Township 4, Range 8 east, section 18 Jackson County Alabama, just northeast of Pisgah, Al. town limits, Deed Book 74, page 386. Sheriff Wann had money on deposit in the Tennessee Valley Bank which Mrs. Wann attempted to be reimbursed via a claims process after the bank's failure. A case is recorded in Will Book 16 pages 339-340. The index lists the cases erroneously as being in Book 17. There was also a Case involving Mrs. Wann as the Executrix of Matt Wann's estate concerning the Federal Land Bank. This case is indexed as being in Deed Book 87, page 408, the case record could not be located. The records on page 408 or adjacent pages do not pertain to the "Wann" case.
There is an old saying, "the truth is always better than fiction." Such is the story concerning the murder of Jackson County Sheriff Matt Wann. For Sheriff Wann and the law enforcement community of Jackson County, the truth must be revealed for justice to occur. For the citizens of Jackson County, our history must reflect the truth concerning the continuing saga of the case known as the "Scottsboro Boys Trials."

An Ode to a Sheriff from "The Odes" in part,
A story of an Odd Fellow from the heart.
The restless wings of time hath brought
the parting moment near.
The bell that tolls the midnight chime,
will knell a glorious day-
The memory of a forgotten time,
shall never fade away.
Farewell ye Brothers true and bold!
This day to you shall be.
O'er prejudice and slander old;
The Day of Victory;
And they who barr'd our infant way
Shall cheer our mighty youth,
And own the noble power to-day,
Of Friendship, Love and Truth.
The story of Matt Wann is told,
So the "Pale Face" may n'er agin be so bold,
Thus-this story of murder is told.
Poem by Garry Morgan in part and in part from the Odd Fellows, "The Odes". 

Update:  While researching the Matt Wann story I came across this obituary for Matt Wann's son Robert E. "Bob" Wann. "On Feb. 10, 13 World War II veterans received France's highest honor for the roles they played in the liberation of that country in 1944 and 1945. Staff Sgt. Robert E. "Bob" Wann was one of the recipients of the Legion of Honor...Nearly four months after receiving his medal, Mr. Wann of Decatur died Friday from complications of melanoma at VistaCare Hospice. He was 92. A funeral was held Tuesday at A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home, which handled arrangements." Date of article, Wednesday June 8, 2011.

Sheriff Wann would have been proud of his son.  (This update 12/23/2011)

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