Tag Archives: Simon Callow

Isaac Woodard, Officer X, and Orson Welles

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

(photo of Isaac Woodard and his mother taken from New York Post article, “Ask U.S. to Probe Negro Vet’s Blinding by Carolina Cops”, article by Ted Poston, no photographer identified. The distance of the victim from major press centers and the obscurity of the case has caused Woodard’s name to be consistently mis-spelled, as it is in this New York Post story; the proper spelling is Woodard, no “w” in the middle.)

What follows is a product of laziness and procrastination. While working on something else (which I hope to have done in the next day or two), I thought of breaking away from work to transcribe parts of this startling episode that I came across in Simon Callow’s Orson Welles: Volume 2: Hello Americans. The sad contemporary relevance of the following need not be spoken of, it’s so obvious, nor why it might carry greater immediate urgency, now, than when I read it earlier in the summer. I do not think I am entirely ignorant of history, the life of Orson Welles, or Hollywood of the forties, and yet it was a story I had never heard before. The label “story” feels like a misleading, as if this is something made gentle and constrained, when this story resists all such constraints, and bleeds into our present.

I do not excerpt Callow’s work in any attempt to purloin readers from his book, which stands (to my humble mind) as one of the great achievements in film scholarship. I do not make any attempt to elevate Callow’s account of this moment over others; I give extensive space to Callow’s account because it’s the most extensive I’ve come across and which I had easy access to. As said, this project began out of laziness; only after starting it, did I give myself more work to try and track down additional material, including the radio broadcasts of Orson Welles, which I’ve since uploaded to youtube. I am deeply indebted to archive.org as a resource for this audio, which can be found here: “1946 Orson Welles Commentaries”.

Given the length of excerpts used here from Callow’s book and other sources, for purposes of readability, I’ve avoided using the usual quote tags. Quoted excerpts within Hello Americans are given the quote tags.

After the break Hello Americans begins, with occasional interruptions by me. I have often relied on scans made by Andrew Myers, whose conference paper “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard” is accompanied by an on-line bibliography which is currently the premier source for documents related to the Woodard case, and whose work I’m deeply grateful for. I have transcribed many of these scans, again, not for the purpose of purloining readers from Myers’ site or his conference paper, only that this case and its details be better known.

These events begin in the summer of 1946, five years after the release of Citizen Kane, as Welles is ending an unsuccessful tour of a stage adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. At the time, Welles had a program on ABC Radio called “Commentary”, and each Sunday he would deliver a fifteen piece on contemporary political or social issues. In this memorable historical episode, Welles would put this program to very good use, and the boy wonder would show that he still had one or two magic tricks left, wielding the power of radio to astonishing effect.


Two days before Welles put up the sign backstage at the Adelphi Theatre giving his Around the World company a week’s notice, he received a letter from Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; they had an urgent matter on which they wanted to communicate with him. The following day White, the executive secretary of the organisation, visited him in his dressing room with Oliver Harrington, famous in the black community as creator of the radical cartoon Bootsie in the Pittsburgh Courier, but now starting his new job as publicity director for the NAACP. The story they brought Welles cannot have been unknown to him, because a fortnight earlier Harrington had secured headlines for it in the left-wing press to which Welles subscribed, and which – not least because of the incessant search to find material for his weekly Commentary programme – he studied assiduously. His old rage the populist New York Post [this is before the paper was taken over by new owners, and became infamous for its hard right reactionary and racist attitudes, examples of which can be found amongst “Bottoms Up! Here’s to the End of Sean Delonas” [archive link] and “Is the New York Post Edited by a Bigoted Drunk Who Fucks Pigs?” [archive link] by Tom Scocca, “The Post’s ‘Person of Interest’ Is a Local High-School Track Runner” [archive link] by Max Read, and “A Letter To The New York Post” by Public Enemy] had carried a front-page story, but it was the Daily Worker‘s headline that put the story as succinctly as shockingly as possible: SOUTH CAROLINA COP GOUGED OUT EYES OF NEGRO VET WHO FOUGHT IN PACIFIC; in a boxed inset was the phrase GET THAT COP!

The story had first broken in the Lighthouse and Informer, South Carolina’s leading black paper, after which the NAACP had taken it up, approaching the War Office for redress. It was the rejection of responsibility by the War Office’s legal department on the grounds that Sergeant Isaac Woodard Junior, the veteran in question, had been officially discharged (albeit only five hours earlier) that provoked the NAACP’s release of the material to the major newspapers; and it was the determination of White and Harrington to secure not only justice for Woodard, but also maximum publicity for the cause, that led them to Welles. Welles’s access to the airwaves, however relatively small his listenership, meant the possibility of a nationwide campaign. They, like everyone else, never ceased to think of him as the man who brought America to a standstill with The War of the Worlds – radio’s Barnum and Bailey, its unparalleled showman. They also knew him and profoundly respected him for his absolutely consistent and unwavering support for racial equality, not merely as an ideal, but in professional and personal practice, from as early as the Harlem Macbeth ten years before, through his constant sponsorship of black jazz musicians, his plan to film the life of Duke Ellington, and the rumours of how he had intended in It’s All True to feature the black population in the Rio de Janeiro favelas. He was, in a way that few of even his most liberal colleagues were, genuinely ‘colour-blind’.

Welles had long anticipated the growing demand among black people for equal opportunities and eights and constantly – in speeches, in articles and on radio – warned of the lurking dangers of the continuing privation and humiliation of a large section of the populace. The war, as he frequently observed, had changed everything; black servicemen had seen a world in which racial prejudice was not institutionalized, and had fought side by side with their white companions-in-arms, experiencing a proximity and a parity, almost a camaraderie, that they would never have known at home, especially if they came from the South. Moreover, the particular circumstances of war had given black activists at home a lever with which to extract concessions; the establishment in 1941, under threat of a mass protest in Washington, of the first all-black flying squadron, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, at Tuskegee in Alabama (lyrically celebrated on the Broadway stage the following year in ‘Flying Man’ from Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones), was a giant first step towards self-respect. Similarly, but more sombrely, the return from war of veterans accustomed to being treated at the very least as human beings – and no longer prepared to tolerate their former servility – had given rise to a series of incidents of which the Isaac Woodard story was not necessarily the worst, but was certainly the most poignant. The NAACP, keenly aware of the historical moment, was understandably eager to make the very most of it, and looked to Welles to fan the flames.

They knew that he was fearless. After a recent Commentary (7 July 1946) in which he had mildly suggested that, on the face of it, there was no reason why a black man and a white woman might not get married [I have searched for this radio broadcast, and been unable to find it] – a broadcast for which he had received the enthusiastic support of Negro organisations – he had received a letter from a young woman in Los Angeles, Mrs. Edna Fraser, which showed something of what he was up against.

My dear Mr Welles

You are not advocating inter-racial marriages between the Whites and Negroes, are you Mr Welles? Your commentary last Sunday, July 7th, would lead me to believe that perhaps you are. It is very difficult for me, who have believed in you so much, to believe that a man possessing the intelligence that I have credited you with possessing, could be swayed by a trend of insidious propaganda, or would lend his time and talents to championing such an unworthy cause. – No, Mr Welles, I am not prejudiced against the Negroes…but the Negro, as a race, is mentally incapable of taking a place alongside the white man. He is not competent to make intelligent decisions for himself.

[Etc.]


The full text of the letter continues on like this in Hello Americans, but for the purposes of this post, the opening paragraph captures its perspective in its entirety.


The emotions inspired by the case that White and Harrington brought to Welles in his dressing room at the Adelphi were of an entirely different order – both in quality and in intensity – from the petty racism of Mrs Fraser and Miss Houston: for one thing, it happened in the South, which was presently in a state of uproar, bellowing and lashing out wildly like some cornered animal. The profound sense that something had indefinably changed, and that the tide of history was, however gradually, flowing irreversibly away from it, its entrenched world-view dissolving in the wake, sent a wave of terror through the Southern states. It was a time of extraordinary ferment: in February of 1946 the riots in Columbia, Tennessee, had rapidly descended into what the black writer and activist, Langston Hughes, described as “a hate-filled orgy”; twenty-eight Negroes were charged with attempted murder in the first degree, and although (thanks to the NAACP) they were all finally acquitted, it was, as Hughes wrote, “a dangerous, costly and heart-breaking process – one hardly calculated to bolster a returning veteran’s faith in democracy.”

The very day before the NAACP delegation’s visit to Welles at the theatre, there had been a particularly brutal quadruple lynching of two men and their wives in Walton County, Georgia, where the governor-elect, Eugene Talmadge, had called for mob action to “keep negroes in their place”. Walter White, that heroically tireless campaigner against lynching, had issued a statement to the Associated Press denouncing the deaths as “the inevitable, inescapable result of Talmadge’s and the Ku Klux Klan’s advocacy of outright violation of the laws of the Federal Government and human decency”. Describing Talmadge as “a man as brazen as Hitler in his racial theories”, White observed that his election made “other such dastardly crimes” inevitable, calling on the Federal government and public opinion to halt it. “Negroes were the victims yesterday,” he said. “Other minorities and eventually democracy itself will be the victims tomorrow.” The Federal government had failed to stop mob violence.


Welles would single out Talmadge in one of his broadcasts, and a FOIA request in 2007 would uncover that the FBI considered the possibility that Talmadge may have given full license to members of Monroe county to pursue justice however they wished, after Roger Malcom, a black man, stabbed Barney Hester, a white farmer. A day after this incident, Talmadge visited the county and allegedly made this promise, and a day afterwards, the state election was held. Eight days after the election, Roger and his wife, Dorothy Malcom, along with another couple, George and Mae Murray Dorsey, were driving home when they were swarmed by a mob, dragged out of their car, and shot dead. This episode and Talmadge’s possible involvement is described in detail in “FBI Investigated Ga. Gov in Old Lynching” by Greg Blustein. Though I’m often hesitant to link to wikipedia, I think the entry “1946 Georgia lynching” gives a good description of the events.


“What other alternative is left to these citizens, many of whom are veterans?” Other NAACP officials linked the outrage in Walton with what they called “the bestial gouging out of the eyes of veteran Isaac Woodard in South Carolina”; while White forwarded a telegram to the Attorney General, Tom Clark, pointing to suspected police complicity in the lynchings and, by implication, sympathy with the Klan. “At a time when our statesmen are demanding democracy and a restoration of morality in Iran, Germany, China, Japan, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, it seems ironic that Americans are dying because of a lack of this same democracy in Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina (the home of our Secretary of State) and other parts of the South.” Welles had been saying the same thing for years: there were atrocities in America’s own back yard that ranked with the atrocities of the Axis powers.

The NAACP was an organisation after Welles’s own heart: radical without being doctrinaire. Few of its members belonged to any other left-wing grouping, and virtually none was communist (though Oliver Harrington was eventually to leave America in disgust, first for Paris and finally East Berlin, as he recounts in his autobiography, Why I Left America). Welles scarcely needed persuading to take up cudgels on Isaac Woodard’s behalf.

When he heard the full story, and read Woodard’s affidavit describing precisely what had happened to him, Welles knew that he could do full justice to it; moreover he knew it was exactly what he was looking for. “It was on Friday night. When I and my associates read it in my backstage dressing room, we knew we must begin the fight immediately.” Just as the NAACP knew that it was an ideal story to make their case, both human and particular – who cannot respond to a story about a blinding? and the blinding of a soldier returning victorious from war at that – so Welles was aware that it would give sharp focus to his radio programme, which was in danger of becoming a catalogue of complaints against non-right-thinking people; a couple of weeks before he had taken on A-bomb tests and the ending of rent and price controls [both of these episodes are part of “1946 Orson Welles Commentaries”, “The OPA Is Dead”, broadcast date June 23, and “Bikini Atomic Test”, broadcast date June 30], and had struggled to make the programme cohere. Woodard’s affidavit (no doubt composed with a little help from his friends at the NAACP) was a clear and credible statement of events, but was shot through with a sense of bitter irony and injustice, its opening paragraph setting the tone: “I, Isaac Woodard Jr. being duly sworn, do depose and state as follows – that I’m 27 years old and a veteran of the United States Army, having served 15 months in the South Pacific and earned one battle star…when they discharged me from Camp Gordon, I’d given four years of my life to my country. I had survived the war and come home to “the land of the free”. I became a casualty five hours later.”


A scan of this affidavit can be found at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”, “Affidavit, April 1946 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 1012-1013)”. A transcript of this document, along with a transcript of Woodard’s deposition to the FBI, the scan “Statement to FBI, September 1946 (NAACP Papers, REel 28, Frame 911)”, is at this footnote1.


As he described it, on the afternoon of 12 February 1946, Sergeant Woodard had been discharged from the army at Camp Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. That evening he boarded a bus for Winnsboro, South Carolina, where his wife lived. At Aiken, South Carolina, the bus stopped and he asked to be allowed to disembark and use the toilet; the driver was aggressive, accused him of being drunk (which he was not) and told him to sit down. Woodard persisted in asking to use the toilet, which he was finally allowed to do, but when the bus next stopped, he was taken off it by police and arrested. When he protested, he was viciously beaten around the head with a blackjack, a lead-weighted bludgeon, and taken to jail. Next morning, his eyes red and swollen, he found that he was unable to see. Brought to the mayor’s court, he pleaded guilty to being drunk and disorderly, for which he was fined $50; he only had $40 in his wallet, plus another $4 in his watch pocket, which the court accepted. At first they wanted him to cash in the cheque for his army discharge payment, but gave up after ascertaining that he was unable to countersign the cheque because he could no longer see it. From court he was taken to the Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina; three months later, in May, he was discharged, totally blind, the bulb of both eyes having been irremediably ruptured. On leaving the hospital, he was helpfully advised by the doctor to enrol at blind school. After that, he went to New York to be looked after by his sisters. His wife stayed behind; and that was the end of his marriage.

Once in New York, Woodard went to the NAACP, where he met Thurgood Marshall, the chief legal counsel, and his assistants. They approached the War Office which, as we have seen, denied responsibility because Woodard had been discharged – even if only for five hours. After the NAACP broke the story in the Daily Worker, the Post and PM, the FBI finally sent someone to Aiken to investigate, while Woodard himself started to talk publicly about his story, with extraordinary calm and modesty. “Down South they think we are worse than dogs,” he said. “Nobody would treat a dog like they treated me. But the harm’s done now and I’m not near as bitter as my mother and father.” It was the NAACP’s offer of $1,000 for the arrest and conviction of the policeman who beat and blinded Woodard that finally resulted in headlines in the New York Times and the Herald Tribune as well as the Post, which in turn stirred the War Office and the Department of Justice into action at last.

The crucial thing Welles seized on was the fact that no one had yet identified the policeman responsible for the crime, GET THAT COP! the Daily Worker had declared, and that is what Welles set out to do. Working closely with Oliver Harrington, who spent each Saturday night after the show working with him on the broadcasts, and using the latest unpublished on-the-spot reports from the Lighthouse and Informer, Welles wrote what were in effect a series of dramatic monologues, which are among the most deeply felt, revealing and personal utterances he ever made, recklessly outspoken on a subject that, as we have seen, was a matter of deep ambivalence for many (if not most) Americans in 1946. In the broadcasts he plays the role of a kind of omniscient avenger determined to track down the perpetrator of the assault. It is a role – pitched somewhere between The Shadow and Inspector Javert from Les Misérables, with maybe a touch of Captain Ahab thrown in – and yet it is Welles, too, recognisably the same commentator who had been engaged in intense, urgent dialogue with the American public for nearly a year now – passionate, rhetorical, now angry, now lyrical. These weekly fifteen-minute Sunday afternoon programmes had developed a distinct identity, building on the telephonic intimacy of the early programmes (still sponsored by Lear [Les Lear]) to become almost confessional in tone, expounding Welles’s deepest political feelings, communicating his hopes for democracy and his frequent disappointments with it.


The following is the Welles broadcast that is referenced in the text, “Affidavit of Isaac Woodard”, broadcast date July 28, 1946. Transcript for broadcast is at this footnote2.

Times listed in brackets are the sections in the youtube clip where the quote can be found; the link in the starting time in the bracket will take you to the exact point in the broadcast.


From his first words, there can be no question that Welles is deeply and genuinely scandalised by what has happened to Woodard the man, and to Woodard the unwitting representative of his race. Welles starts quietly, evenly, with the affidavit: “I, Isaac Woodard Jr. being duly sworn, do depose and state as follows…” He reads it quickly, almost casually, slowing down only for the doctor’s advice to Woodard to enrol in a school for the blind. Then, leaving Woodard’s statement hanging in the air, he segues, in a characteristic device, into a story – almost a parable – told to him, he says, early that morning when he went for a coffee with Woodard’s affidavit burning a hole in his pocket. The story, told to him as a joke by someone in the coffee shop, concerns a commercial traveller, a white man who stays in a black hotel, sharing his room with a black man. The next day he goes to get on the train, but is refused admission and told to go to the Jim Crow part of the train. He protests, but as he reaches out his hand he realises that he’s turned black, and realises why. “They woke up the wrong man!” [3:05-4:50] Welles then comes back to Woodard [5:55-6:23]:

Now it seems that the officer of the law who blinded the young negro boy has not been named. The boy saw him while he could still see, but of course he had no way of knowing which particular policeman it was who brought the justice of Dachau and Oswiecim to Aiken, South Carolina. He was just another white man with a stick, who wanted to teach him [it’s actually “a Negro boy” in the broadcast] a lesson – to show him [again, it’s “a Negro boy”] where he belonged: in the darkness. Until we know more about him, for just now, we’ll call the policeman Officer X. He might just be listening to this. I hope so.

He continues, “What does it cost to be a negro? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his eyes. What does it cost to wear over your skeleton the pinkish tint officially described as white? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his soul.” [9:42-9:59]

He returns to the question of price. “What are they quoting for one eye? An eye for an eye? You had eyes to see, but you have never seen. You were born in a pit.” [these are two different sections, with “What are they quoting…” 10:17-10:21 and “You had eyes to see…” at 12:32-12:42] Then suddenly, passionately, he asks: “Where stands the sun of common fellowship? When will it rise in your dark country? When will it be noon in Georgia? I must know, Officer X, because I must know where the rest of us are going with our American experiment.” [11:57-12:05] In this phrase, Welles articulates the despairing, underlying quest of his past few years. He returns to Officer X [Callow’s excerpt leaves out a middle section, “a moment from the philosophers”, 7:39-11:22]:

We invite you to luxuriate in secrecy. It will be brief. Go on, suckle your anonymous moment while it lasts. You’re going to be uncovered. We will blast out your name, your so-called Christian name. We will give the world your given name, Officer X. If he’s listening to this, let him listen well: Officer X, after I have found you out, I’ll never lose you. If they try you, I’m going to watch the trial. If they jail you, I’m going to wait for your first day of freedom. You won’t be free of me. I want to see who’s waiting for you at the prison gates. I want to know who will acknowledge that they know you. I’m interested in your future. I will take note of all your destinations. Assume another name and I will be careful that the name you would forget is not forgotten. I will find means to remove from you all refuge, Officer X. You can’t get rid of me. We have an appointment, you and I – and only death can cancel it.

The effect is rousing, certainly, but also somewhat disturbing. Who exactly is speaking, one wonders? The tone is personal, vengeful, obsessive, but also melodramatic, stagy. As if to answer the unspoken question – and to puncture the theatricality – Welles asks: “Who am I? A masked avenger from the comic books? No sir. Merely an inquisitive Citizen of America. I admit that nothing on this inhabited earth is capable of your chastisement. I am simply but quite actively, curious to know what will become of you. Your fate cannot affect the boy in the county hospital for the blind. We want a word to lighten his darkness. You’re sorry for him? He rejects your pity. You are ashamed? He doesn’t care. We want to tell him soon that all America is ashamed of you.” [11:25-12:24] The rhetoric resumes, mounts; the sentences become shorter. There is endless play on the idea of eyes and seeing. Woodard will never see, but the lids are merely closed on Officer X’s eyes. One day, Welles hopes, he will learn “to try the wild adventure of looking…then there will be a shouting of trumpets to raise the dead at Gettysburg. A thunder of cannon will declare the tidings of peace and all the bells of liberty will laugh out loud in the streets to celebrate the good will toward all men. The new blind can hear. It would be very good if they could hear the news that the new blind can finally see. Then, Officer X, you’ll find you can wash off what should be washed, and it will be said of you – yes, even you – that they awakened the right man.” [12:58-13:37] He pants, seems to be shaking with emotion. The programme ends with him broken-voiced as he signs off “Obediently yours.” There is nothing obedient about it: the commentator is no one’s servant, except perhaps blind justice’s.

It is a remarkable performance, both in conception and execution, a passionately eloquent affirmation of human values; but – certainly at this distance – there is a quality of hysteria about it that seems curiously solipsistic. In dramatizing the events, the feelings of the pursuer come to seem as important as those of the victim, while the perpetrator of the crime – however loathsome he might be – is elevated under the weight of this onslaught to an almost sacrificial status.


There is the notable fact here that Welles moves the issue here away from the abstractions of race and differences in treatment before the law, to the immediate. This is not an in-depth essay on racial inequality, but a practical detective thriller: there is a monster on the loose and I am going to find him. Despite his question and answer, “A masked avenger from the comic books? No sir,” it is almost not to think of such figures who are there when justice fails, as well as the necessity of there being something like this. The blinding of Isaac Woodard took place because he believed there would be no justice, that no law would come into effect, and Welles countered that a moral force would be there, and this was not embodied in Welles, but a universal justice which would have to be answered, just as Abel had to answer for his crime.

The other final point is how exotic this approach is to us now, and this lies with the difference between television and radio. Welles has an astonishing power here, but I think that power would vanish were he to give the same speech, word for word, on television, a cold medium. Anyone acting outside a narrow range of calm and temperate feeling on television news comes off as a lunatic. Those who claim this area of emotional hysteria are not from the left flank of the aisle, but on the right, the most notable example being Glenn Beck, a long-time enthusiast of Welles’s radio work, and who is no doubt familiar with the Isaac Woodard broadcasts. That we now find this hysteria on the right is in part due to the convergence of religious feeling with the political right, and we see a precursor of this in the movie Network, which, despite being considered a movie about liberal frustration, I have always thought to be about, first and foremost, the conservative anger of the silent majority which elected Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (for more on this, see “Network: Song for the Silent Majority”). Welles is nearly panting by the end of his monologue, while Howard Beale collapses after one of his speeches hit a fevered pitch. The rightward concentration of unrestrained passion is also a consequence of the simple asymmetry that exists with regard to the ideas of the left and right. Liberals must make thoughtful, rational cases for a higher minimum wage or better working conditions, and still these opinions are barely tolerated to hold space in the room. On the other hand, demagogues are allowed to shout out about welfare cheats, mortgage freeloaders, liberal fascists and criminals, and these ideas are always expected to be heard, and they are heard, for the simple reason that these opinions coincide with the interests of whatever large corporation owns that press, while those arguing for better wages and worker treatment are always the enemy.

We return to Hello Americans:


The impact of the broadcast on his listeners was understandably electric. “Orson,” Les Lear, his former sponsor, wrote in a letter after the first Woodard programme, “I can’t begin to express the profound administration you have won on the part of thinking America for the magnificent manner in which you are championing everything and anything that has to do with the American way of life. I am confident that, should you ever elect to head a world-wide movement to further tolerance, your followers would outnumber all other mankind-benefiting societies a million to one.” Another letter of support, more personal, came from the all-Negro Santa Fe Waiters’ Union: “as soon as your broadcast message were reported to all the waiters and bartenders on the Santa Fe Railroad from LA to Chicago, at union meeting we suggested someone should send our appreciation to such a loyal an [sic] liberal white person…the young negro appreciates people like yourself, Mrs Roosevelt and other liberals in America for fighting peaceful for we believe the pen is mightier than the sword – We thank you very very much for ever your loyal friendship from over 1,500 people we remain yours, Al Laster.”

It was not all roses: someone signing himself A FORMER FAN wrote to Welles that Woodard was trying to get away from flight with another Negro; and the flagrantly reactionary Congressman John Rankin sent a copy of the broadcast to J. Edgar Hoover at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

More disturbingly, at the urging of Police Chief Sprawls, Aiken mayor Odell Weeks wrote to Welles: “Since your Sunday night broadcast went out to the nation, and the locale of the story was wholly untrue, I urge that you have the courage and forthrightness to retract the wrong you have done this city in your broadcast next Sunday night, giving to your retraction the same emphasis that you placed upon your original broadcast of the story.” The city of Aiken, a former health resort, prided itself on its southern charm; once a winter colony for the wealthy, it had become an equestrian sporting centre, and its population included a number of well-heeled socialites. Mayor Weeks was genuinely affronted by the slur on the city’s good name, although the county of which it was the seat was rather less fastidious, boasting as it did a sign on its borders that stated: NIGGER, DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOU IN AIKEN COUNTY. But the mayor had a point. No one had been able to trace either the policeman who had assaulted Woodard, or the incident itself: there was no record of it in Aiken’s jail or its courtroom. In fact, both the FBI and the NAACP had good reason to believe that Woodard had mistaken the place where the bus had stopped, but both were biding their time until they had made thorough investigations; they did not let Welles into their suspicions.

He took to the air again the following Sunday (the day after the closing night of Around the World, which may have affected his mood). It was a typical Commentary, starting with Welles musing on the betrayal of Yalta and the Peace. He denounces all the Allies: Stalin, who has reneged on the terms of the treaty a mere week later in Bucharest; Roosevelt’s party, which follows a Republican programme; the Labour Party in Britain, which is dancing the Dance of Death of Tory ignorance and Tory cowardice; it is the eleventh hour for mankind, as people prepare for a Third World War. He brings to his bitter reflections a tone of scathing despair at the post-war world: is this, he asks, what we fought for? The feeling is very personal and hurt – above all, weary – but it is something of a harangue, and listening to it is like being trapped in a bar with a very gloomy fellow on New Year’s Eve; it is almost impossible to believe that the speaker is only thirty years old. After a general survey of the world and the state of democracy, delivered in a listless monotone (even the jokes are weary: “some people feel Mr Truman should stay out of local politics; some people think he should never have left it”), he introduces Woodard, and suddenly becomes lively.


This full broadcast, “The Peacemakers”, broadcast date August 4th, 1946, can be found at “1946 Orson Welles Commentaries”. The following is the segment devoted to Woodard. Transcript for this segment is available at the footnote3.


Quoting from Mayor Weeks’s letter, Welles turns the tables on him, inviting him to join the manhunt. He hopes, he says, to be able to retract the story and be able to apologise to Aiken. “There are thousands of cities where negro soldiers have not been blinded. I hope that it will be my privilege to announce that your city is one of these…I’ve sent investigators to your city who should bring out the truth, unless it is too skilfully hidden…there is an American soldier who believes that it did happen in your city. And I cannot forget that. It is to him, Mr Weeks, that you should address your first and most indignant letters. They will of course have to be transcribed in Braille.” He is on curious ground here, arguing that there are more important things in life than Aiken’s amour-propre; but if you pose as the champion of truth, it doesn’t do to get your facts wrong – far less to hurl around false accusations. The tone is, again, worrying: “I’ve sent investigators to your city.” Who does he think he is? Aiken was certainly not mollified, and duly delivered to the New York Times a packet of evidence exonerating itself from the indictment, securing itself a front-page headline the day after the broadcast: AIKEN IS ANGERED AT WELLES CHARGE. Welles<s answer was to broaden the terms of the debate in the following week's broadcast. His text was drawn largely from the speech he gave at the great Peace Rally in Chicago in 1943, subsequently published in pamphlet form under the title Moral Indebtedness, as he acknowledged: “I’ve said this before: to be born free is to be born in debt; to live in freedom without fighting slavery is to profiteer.”


The broadcast, “To be born free”, broadcast date August 11, 1946:

Transcript is at the footnote4.


It is fine rousing stuff, delivered with the sweeping rhetorical power that was uniquely his, and it produced a passionate response. “Keep up the marvellous work,” said an anonymous correspondent. “We’re all behind you 100%. Too bad you’re not in politics…we need such men as you.” Another note said: “I wonder if anywhere in the world today [a Sunday, of course] was preached a sermon that was comparable to your expression.” Yet another listener wrote: “I can think of nothing nobler expressed by anyone at any time in world history. You deserve the deep gratitude of everyone that has a spark of nobility and I hope you continue to devote your great ability to the same noble purpose.” Quite separately from his work an actor, writer, director, Welles’s impact as an inspirational non-party-political figure was immense; for many people, he was a beacon.

The momentum in the Woodard case was building inexorably. The NAACP arranged a huge rally in the vast Lewisohn Stadium in New York under the sponsorship of the black newspaper Amsterdam News and the Isaac Woodard Benefit Committee; the singer Carol Brice and the great boxer Joe Louis were prominent members. Thirty thousand people heard Louis read a statement by Welles, who was by now in Los Angeles, preparing the film he was to direct for Harry Cohn:

Isaac Woodard is on the conscience of America. – The sin which was committed against him is the sin committed every day against his race – which is the human race. We cannot give him back his eyes. But we can make tough new laws – laws to drive the concentration camps out of our country – we can make laws to stop lynch law. – We can make prejudice illegal, and see to it that our American Nazis are punished for their crimes. – If Woodard had to lose his sight to show us that we need those laws, the least that we can do for him is to make those laws and make them now and make them stick. – If we don’t, we are more blind than he. – The only defence against the mob is the people.

Woodard himself spoke with his characteristic simplicity and dignity, and then – to what he later said was the most tumultuous reception he ever received. Woody Guthrie sang the specially written “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard” [a cover of this song is on youtube, “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard” by Raymond Crooke], sung to the tune of “The Great Dust Storm” [also on youtube, “Woody Guthrie- The Great Dust Storm”].


A fragment of the speech Joe Louis gave here would later appear in a profile of the man in Jet magazine, from the issue of July 13 1978, now on google books, page 55:

In New York, he made one of his rare public speeches, at Lewisohn Stadium inside the City College to protest the beating of Black war veteran Isaac Woodard, whose eyes had been punched blind with billy sticks of some southern policemen.

“Nobody in America should have to go through second class citizenship,” he told the crowd. “Me and a whole lot of Black guys went out fighting for the American cause, now we’re gonna have to get America to give us our civil rights too. We earned them.”

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Isaac Woodard flanked by Joe Louis and unidentified man. Photo taken from Blackpast.org, “Woodard, Isaac (1919-1992)”


That afternoon from California Welles broadcast the fourth of his programmes devoted to Woodard, armed with a telegram from the NAACP saying that the attack probably took place in Batesburg, South Carolina, nineteen miles from Aiken. HOSPITAL RECORDS AMAZINGLY BRIEF NO MENTION NAMES POLICEMEN WHO DELIVERED VET TO HOSPITAL NOR PLACE WHERE ATTACK OCCURRED THIS EXTREMELY UNUSUAL FBI REPORTS CONFIRM OUR INVESTIGATORS.

Welles starts the broadcast with Aiken.


The broadcast, “Welles film banned”, broadcast date August 18, 1946. Transcript is at the footnote5:

It was on this broadcast that Welles identified Officer X as Lynwood Shull, of Batesburg, South Carolina:

I have before me…wires and press releases to the effect that a policeman of Batesburg…a man by the name of Shaw, or Shore, or Shull, it is given three different ways here…the flash is just before us…

Chief L.L. Shaw. Pronounce it however you want it. Or want to. Has admitted…that he was the police officer, who blinded Isaac Woodard. Thirty miles from Aiken. In South Carolina. This is in Batesburg.

Back to Callow’s Hello Americans.


He repeats another promise in the identical words with which he ended the first programme: “If Chief Shaw or Shawl or Shull is listening – and I have good reason to think that he is – I say: if they try you, I’m going to watch the trial…we have an appointment, you and I – and only death can cancel it.” And then he moves on to deal with the Texan gubernatorial election.

Chief Lynwood Shull (as opposed to Shaw or Shawl) had indeed been found, and admitted to having struck Woodard with his blackjack when he became unruly, taking the stick from him. “I grabbed it away from him and cracked him across the head. It may have hit his eyes.” Thus vindicated, the NAACP took the case to the Department of Justice, which – purely because it was an election year, in the view of the judge who finally tried the case – finally intervened, filing federal charges.


The best background on Lynwood Shull I’ve found comes from NAACP documents at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”, “Background information collected by local black newspaper editor, September 1946 Part 1 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 893-894)” and “Background information, September 1946 Part 2 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 895-896)”, scans at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”. We are not given the convenience of an all-out villain. He, like many children of the South, was raised by a black woman and he played and socialized with the children of the black farm hands. We are told that many of the farm hands think him considerate, and then abruptly the record stops: “some of them admit hearing of several atrocities against other Negroes attributed to him”. We are faced with the stark truth that this cruelty does not stem from who you do or do not socialize with, but who the law protects and who it does not, and what takes place when you may be cruel without penalty or consequence. The Shulls ran a large farm, and they were a major power in the town. The mayor, H.E. Quarles, was an in-law, and considered part of what the NAACP papers refer to as “Shull’s machine”, with Shull’s position as sheriff a consequence of this machine. Except for sundays, the day of rest, the sheriff would always dress in a uniform of blue serge suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes, and black hat. No one can remember the names of his deputies anymore, and refers to them always by their nicknames of “High Pocket” and “Dood all”. The sheriff is kind, considerate, and wordless except: when he is accompanied by his deputies, and then he is “a roaring maniac”6. We have all the elements that might make this into a folk tale, with not simply a wound, but a blinding, and a sheriff who is calm and unthreatening, unless near deputies who are nameless except for their nicknames, who exert almost a magical power to render him into a violent animal. These qualities give us the luxury of seeing all this as unreal, a world only of folk tales, when the violence, the cruelty, the lack of ward or protection for the assaulted man was very much our world, then and now.

Back to Hello Americans.


Oliver Harrington had no doubt about Welles’s influence on the outcome: YOUR TRULY GREAT COMMENTARIES IN BEHALF OF ISAAC WOODARD ARE RESPONSIBLE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE FOR THE APPREHENSION OF THE POLICE TORTURER IN BATESBURG COUNTLESS THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS ARE BETTER HUMAN BEINGS FROM HEARING YOUR BROADCASTS AGAINST FASCIST SADISM NOW SWEEPING A LARGE SECTION OF OUR COUNTRY. Samuel Proctor, a black man who fought in the Second World War, wrote: “The crying need of the minorities, particularly, the colored man, is a spokesman. I believe you can fill that job, even though it means being a martyr…I hope you will accept the enclosed check to help defray expenses involved in making America conscious of its duty and its opportunity” – a phrase that must have moved Welles, because that is exactly what he hoped and believed he was doing. Someone else wrote to say that he had fought in the war, but “it seems that I was fighting in the wrong place”, a common reaction. A nameless fan was even more enthusiastic: “Thousands of years ago/ God gave to the world Moses – the great teacher / Then Jesus the Saviour / Then Abraham Lincoln the Emancipator / The Franklin Delano Roosevelt the great Humanitarian / and now Orson Welles – the most wonderful fighter for the rights and freedom of all mankind.”


I am not the only reader, I think, who is made queasy by some of this sentiment. This grateful feeling arises not just from the heroic actions of Orson Welles – and they were very much heroic, and very much against the norm in 1946 – but the powerlessness of the indivudals requiring help. I think people may well see something of white saviorhood here, and I think we see it arising not out of the self-indulgence or arrogance of Welles, but the asymmetry of power itself, the legacy of a vast and cruel history.

Again, back to Hello Americans.


Aiken felt a little differently. “Please don’t come to Georgia,” said one sinister little note, “we don’t think it would be very healthy for your down this way.” The Republican county chairman John Willingham had issued a ghoulish invitation – COME OVER HERE SOMETIME WE ARE ANXIOUS TO ENTERTAIN YOU – followed by a more explicit threat of a libel suit: YOU MUST REALISE THAT AN IRRESPONSIBLE PERSON OF YOUR CHARACTER CANNOT MERELY HAVE ACCESS TO THE WAVE FREQUENCIES AND DEFAME A WHOLE COMMUNITY WITHOUT PROVOCATION. No doubt it was this that put the wind up Adrian Samish, vice-president of ABC, and his colleagues: OUR NEWS DEPARTMENT HAS BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION, he wired Welles, THE PROBLEMS THEY HAVE BEEN HAVING LATELY ABOUT TRYING TO GET YOU TO WRITE A SCRIPT AND TRYING TO GET YOU TO SUBMIT IT IN SUFFICIENT TIME FOR THEIR REGULAR REVIEW OF ALL COMMENTATORS FOR LIBEL, GOOD TASTE AND APPROPRIATE NEWS AUTHORITY. His script, Samish continued, must be submitted at least two hours before broadcast time. Welles will not be permitted to ad lib; if he persists, they will be forced to cut him off the air, explaining that he is broadcasting material he has refused to submit to ABC. WE ARE HAPPY TO GIVE YOU THE OPPORTUNITY OF UTILISING YOUR GREAT TALENT BUT UNDER THE FCC LAW THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF BROADCASTS ARE ABC’S I AM SURE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND OUR POSITION AND I AM TELLING OUR NEWS DEPARTMENT THAT I PERSONALLY KNOW YOU WILL CO-OPERATE. And he added, a little desperately, PLEASE DON’T LET ME DOWN. It was scarcely to be imagined that Welles would be allowed to get away with it for much longer.

Ignoring Samish and with only the merest nod in the direction of Aiken’s offended civic pride, he returned to the fray the following week. “The place was Batesburg,” he says firmly, then recapitulates what happened the week before in Aiken: the banning of the movie, the stripping down and burning of the posters, the hanging in effigy.


The broadcast, “The Place Was Batesburg”, broadcast date August 25, 1946. Transcript is at the footnote7:

It should be noted that Welles here misidentifies the perpetrator as M.L. Shull, when it was L.L. Shull (for Lynwood Lanier Shull), as he properly named the accused in “Welles film banned”.

It is possible, given the testimony we have, to locate where all this took place in Batesburg. Woodard would testify during a later civil suit against the Greyhound bus company, in detail, on where he was arrested and the beating began. An excerpt from this testimony, “Sworn Testimony for Civil Lawsuit, November 1947” (along with parts two, three, and four), taken from “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”:

I gets up and walks out of the bus and there was two polices standing there when I walked out. He was standing out there talking to the police.

He said, “This soldier has been making a disturbance on the bus,” so I goes to explain to the police that I had not been doing anything for them to arrest me, I was explaining to them what the bus driver said to me and what I said to him, but before I could explain it the police hit me with a billy across my head and told me to shut up. So I hushed, so the bus driver finished talking and after he finished talking the police said to me, “You won’t ride this bus out of here. You will catch the next bus out, otherwise I am going to look you up.” So then he grabbed me by my right wrist and twisted it behind my back and walks me down the street twisting my arm and looking at me just like he wanted to hit me. I don’t know but that is what I was thinking to myself.

So he was not saying anything to me and I was not saying anything to him, and he comes to the corner where one street goes down straight and another goes around a corner this way, and he turned right but instead of him telling me to turn too, he just turned the corner and twisted my arm all at the same time, and so then I lit into him. I still did not say anything, so he asked me, “Have you been discharged?” and I says “Yes,” just like that. So he said, “Don’t say ‘Yes’ to me, say ‘Yes, sir,’ so I begged his pardon and I told him I would say ‘Yes, sir’ to him if he wanted me to, which I did.

So he started beating me all at the same time, just as soon as I said “Yes,” so then I throwed up my left arm and blocked a few licks and he continued to beat me until I had to do something so I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand, and when I did that some other officer throwed a revolver in my back and says, “Drop that billy. If you don’t I will drop you,” so I drops the billy and he picks it up and walked me on up to the jail and started beating me again.

“So he was not saying anything to me and I was not saying anything to him, and he comes to the corner where one street goes down straight and another goes around a corner this way” is the key phrase for the location, the corner of an intersection, at which point Shull jerks Woodard’s arm without warning him of the turn – “he turned right but instead of him telling me to turn too” – and then it begins: “So he started beating me all at the same time”.

We are told what specific corner this is, in the testimony of the bus driver, Alton C. Blackwell, in this same civil suit. From a transcript of this testimony, at “Bus driver testimony, November 1947 Part 1” and “Bus driver testimony, November 1947 Part 2” 8:

Q According to this map, at right angles to North Railroad Avenue appears to be Oak Street and Granite Street down here. In which direction did Officer Shull take Woodard, did they go toward Oak or Granite Street?

A Toward Granite Street.

Q You spoke about seeing them approaching, I believe you said a corner when Woodard was apparently trying to jerk away from Chief Shull or the corner, is that right?

A The corner at Granite and North Railroad Avenue, yes, sir.

Q Did they go around that corner in the direction fo Granite Street?

A Yes, sir, around the corner down Granite Street.

Q Did you see them any more?

A No, I did not.

Q State whether at any time in your presence or so far as you saw, Officer Shull struck Woodard with his hands or with any weapon.

A No, sir, I did not see him strike him at all.

“The corner at Granite and North Railroad Avenue, yes, sir.” Woodard alleges the beating began on this corner, and this is the corner identified by Blackwell as the one at which they turn. I was unable to find anything labeled Granite Street on the Google map of Batesburg – but this is because Fulmer Street is also known as Granite Street, and this Fulmer Street intersects with West Railroad Avenue. That Granite Street is also known as Fulmer Street I discovered from the book South Carolina Postcards Volume 4: Lexington County and Lake Murray. This book is on google books, with a 1912 photo of Granite (Fulmer) Street (page 57):

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Fulmer was a busy thoroughfare of Batesburg. It was where the cotton was sold. Page 55 of South Carolina Postcards:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

This avenue divides in two, a northern strip and a southern strip, and this intersection is with the northern strip of Railroad Avenue, North Railroad Avenue. Oak Street runs parallel to Fulmer alongside it. There appears to something off in the google map of Batesburg – when I try and save the location on North Railroad which is the corner of Fulmer, I end up a block over. This may be due to my inexperience with this app. On Google Street View, this is the corner of Fulmer and North Railroad Avenue.

Here is a screenshot from Google Street View, the intersection of Fulmer and Railroad Avenue.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Many of the buildings in Batesburg are the same structures from a century ago.

This is the corner of Oak Street from 1908, page 58 from South Carolina Postcards:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

This is the building today, where we can see the same half moon windows alongside Railroad Avenue. On Google Street View here:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

This is what used to be the opera house at the end of Oak Street, South Carolina Postcards page 59:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

It’s now a florist’s, and one can see the same windows immediately. On Google Street View here. A screenshot from my Google Street View:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

That I locate this event, is not to provoke any violence, for violence sickens me, and I think it often the cowardly fantasy of those who’ve only enjoyed it at a distance, for the simple purpose of memory. What happened to Isaac Woodard was of historic significance, and where it took place is of historic significance as well.

Back to Simon Callow’s Hello Americans:


Welles sums up his own contribution to the story, returning to his Shadow mode [1:31-2:19, for most of the following, after which he reads the letter from an angry listener then reads his response, with the closing moment, “Well, that’s enough of that for now…” coming in at 6:22-6:31]:

When I stumbled upon this story several weeks ago…the name of the guilty policeman was unknown and it looked as though it always would be. I promised to get that name. I have it now…we won’t let him go. I promised I’d hunt him down. I have. I gave my word I’d see him unmasked. I have unmasked him. I’m going to haunt Police Chief Shull for the rest of his natural life. Mr Shull is not going to forget me. And what’s more important, I’m not going to let you forget Mr Shull. Well, that’s enough of that for now. We’ll come back to Mr Shull next week. And the week after that. And the week after that.

He moves on to a retelling of the story of the Unknown Soldier, one he had already written up for Free World, to which he bring exactly the same degree of emotion as he brought to Woodard’s story. “The people want world government,” he cries, “standing side by side, when the tools of war are put down forever.”

There is no contradiction in this, no insincerity: but in the end it is rather like being at Hyde Park Corner, with Welles, the radical gun for hire, on his soapbox, ready to sound off on the good causes of the week. In fact, he didn’t return to Woodard, or Chief Shull, until the penultimate Commentary some weeks later; after which Samish, true to his word, cut him off the air, selling his space instead to Chimney Sweep, the latest in a long line of ignominious substitutions that had started with Tarzan at RKO. Samish offered him a lifeline: if Welles was interested in doing a Commentary that completely ignored politics, Samish believed he had “a commercial spot where he can be sold”. It was not a proposition Welles cared to entertain.


For the moment, this penultimate Commentary broadcast I have been unable to find.


Then, with justified pride, he quotes the telegram Oliver Harrington had sent him, informing him that Lynwood Shull had been made the target of a criminal information charge by the Department of Justice for violating the Civil Rights Statute, a seldom-used statute passed by Congress in 1870 giving civil rights to black people: ACTION OF JUSTICE DEPT IS HISTORIC MOVE PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS I PERSONALLY FEEL YOU MORE THAN ANY OTHER RESPONSIBLE PLEASE ACCEPT DEEP GRATITUDE OF THE NAACPS 700,000 MEMBERS.

In a letter to radical Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, Welles said that he had had thousands of letters, almost all of which were commendatory, and hundreds of requests for the script. “You will all be disappointed to know,” he said, alluding to the 1870 statute, “that the penalty is only one year and the fine an extremely nominal one…Attorney General Clark has stated that he will ask for an amplification of the penalties…we must hold him to it…and use the publicity generated by this case to guarantee other minorities’ rights.” It was the single most effective political action of his life, though not in its immediate outcome, because as the trial judge J. Waties Waring feared, Truman and his Attorney General – “alarmed at the increased racial feeling in the country” – were more interested in being seen to have done something about the situation than in actually doing it. Waring was none too impressed by Welles’s involvement, either, directing the jury not to be influenced by “publicity seekers on the radio agitating for the prosecution of this case, or by politicians, mindful of the ballot box”. The prosecution case was at best half-hearted, crucial witnesses were not called, defence witnesses were indulge, and despite Waring’s instruction to the jury that they were trying “only one white police officer, not the South’s racial customs”, the defence attorney declared: “If delivering a verdict against the federal government means that South Carolina will have to secede again, then let’s secede.” The judge had to force the jury to discuss their verdict for at least twenty minutes. The instant they re-entered the courtroom, they returned a “not guilty” verdict. Chief of police Lynwood Lanier Shull resumed his job, ending his days, covered in respect and affection, in a retirement home in Batesburg, South Carolina.


This court case and its aftermath is well-described in the book, A Passion for Justice: J. Waties Waring and Civil Rights by Tinsley E. Yarborough, a biography of judge Waring which is scanned at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”, “Tinsley Yarborough, A Passion for Justice, pp. 48-53”, and whose relevant sections devoted to the trial are transcribed here.


The early case which apparently had the greatest influence on Judge Waring’s growing commitment to civil rights, however, concerned Isaac Woodward, Jr., [sic] a twenty-seven-year-old black [sic] whose wife was then living in Winnsboro. On February 12, 1946, Woodward was discharged from the Army at Camp Gordon, near Augusta, Georgia. That evening, he boarded a bus bound for his wife’s Winnsboro home. At Batesburg, a sleepy village thirty miles from Columbia, he was taken off the bus by police and arrested. The net morning, he pleaded guilty to public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in the Batesburg mayor’s court. Mayor H. E. Quarles imposed a $50 fine, but Woodward only had $44. Quarles collected that and suspended the rest of the fine. Woodward’s eyes were red and swollen. Later that day, he was admitted to the veteran’s hospital in Columbia. Three months later, he was released from the hospital – totally blind.

Civil rights groups soon complained that Batesburg police chief Lynwood Shull had gouged the veteran’s eyes with his blackjack, and by late summer, the Woodward case had become a national cause in the black press. Woodward’s parents lived in the Bronx borough of New York City. In mid-August, 20,000 supporters, including a number of prominent entertainment figures, attended a benefit rally at a New York stadium sponsored by the Amsterdam News and the Isaac Woodward Benefit Committee. In a speech read to the gathering in his absence, New York’s Mayor O’Dwyer, honorary chairman of the benefit, condemned the “brutal treatment” to which Woodward had been subjected and announced that New York police had recently been issued a policy statement forbidding discrimination in the performance of their duties. In an interview with reporters the day before the benefit, Chief Shull readily confirmed that he had hit the veteran with his blackjack when he became “unruly.” “I hit him across the front of the head after he attempted to take away my blackjack,” Shull explained. “I grabbed it away from him and cracked him across the head.”

Through the NAACP, Woodward also told his story to the Department of Justice. Ordinarily, federal officials might have considered the incident a state matter, best left to the discretion of local authorities. But 1946 was a congressional election year. In late September, the Justice Department telephoned U.S. attorney Claude Sapp in Columbia, informing him that charges had been prepared against Shull and were being mailed to South Carolina for filing in the district court. Fearing that a grand jury would be unlikely to indict Batesburg’s constable on felony charges, the Department had decided to bring misdemeanor charges against Shull under an information or affidavit of the U.S. attorney. On September 26, Sapp filed the information in the district court, charging Shull with a violation of Title 18, Section 52, of the U.S. code.

A remnant of the Reconstruction era, Section 52 made it a crime for persons acting “under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to interfere with rights “secured or protected” by the U.S. Constitution or federal law. Conviction carried a maximum punishment of one year, $1,000 or both. The information charged Shull with violating Woodward’s

right to be secure in his person and to be immune from illegal assault and battery; the right and privilege not to be beaten and tortured by persons exercising the authority to arrest; the right and privilege not to be beaten, tortured, and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because of having committed any offense; the right and privilege not to be denied equal protection of the laws; and the right and privilege not to be subjected to different punishments, pains, and penalties by reason of his race or color.

Following the filing of federal charges, South Carolinians closed ranks behind Chief Shull. In October, the state law enforcement association adopted a resolution protesting the “high-handed” interference of federal authorities in a “purely local matter,” and a movement was begun to raise a defense fund in the constable’s behalf. Three prominent Batesburg citizens, including Mayor Quarles and a former state highway commissioner, posted his bond. Civil rights groups continued to give the case extensive attention.

The trial was set for November 5, election day in Columbia. Shortly before it was to begin, however, Claude Sapp visited Judge Waring’s chambers and told the judge that he had been directed by the Justice Department to file the information against Shull, that the department had furnished him with no witnesses, and that the attorney general was now instructing Sapp to seek a continuance in the case.

Judge Waring now suspected that the filing of charges had been a mere election-year ploy, and that, following the election, the charges would be quietly forgotten. He was shocked and furious. He told Sapp that he would deny any motion for a postponement of the trial. Instead, he would dismiss the charges against Shull and issue an order detailing his reasons.

After Sapp left his chambers, Judge Waring prepared a rough draft of a memorandum order. Nothing that the charges against Shull had been prepared in Washington and forwarded to South Carolina “for immediate filing,” he asked: “Why this haste in [the] start of a prosecution and reticence in trying it?” Then, appearing to answer his own question, he observed:

I am not unmindful of the fact that this matter has attained unpleasant and undesirable publicity. It is probable that agitators for prosecution and agitators against prosecution are not averse to the publicity which they themselves receive from the advocacy of these measures. I am also aware of the fact that a national election is impending.

Such factors, he asserted, should have no influence on the judicial process.

I do not believe that a criminal prosecution in the courts of this country should be influenced one way or the other by the desire of any of such parties for publicity and the resultant benefit to seekers for public exhibitionism or for political preferment. I am of the opinion that justice in the courts should [be] administered irrespective of race or color and that judges and jurors must be color-blind in rendering justice. If this case is based upon facts and the defendant committed the acts as charged, he is guilty of a heinous offense and prompt trial should be had. If these charges cannot be sustained, then he is being subjected to grave injustice to allow the case to continue upon the calendar of the court. I am unwilling that a matter of this kind should be allowed to drag on and perhaps disappear after the national election. And I do not believe that this poor blinded creature should be a football in the contest between box office and ballot box. The case must be tried or dismissed and the government announcing that it is not ready for trial, accordingly it is ordered that the cause be dismissed for want of prosecution. The defendant is hereby discharged and his bail bond exonerated.

It is not known whether Judge Waring shared his draft order with Claude Sapp. After conferring further with the Justice Department, however, the U.S. attorney reported to Waring that a department attorney and several witnesses would be available and that the case would go to trial on schedule. On Monday, November 4, the first day of the term, Judge Waring disposed of near fifty cases including nineteen revenue violations, three cases of automobile theft, and an embezzlement count. On Tuesday, a jury heard the Shull case.

Isaac Woodard was the government’s principal witness. Dressed in a brown suit and wearing sunglasses with green lenses, the slim black veteran testified that a few miles outside Augusta, when the bus made a stop to pick up passengers, he asked the driver to wait while he went to a restroom. The driver, he said, cursed him and told him to return to his seat. “[T]alk to me like I’m talking to you,” Woodard said he retorted. “I’m a man just like you.” Woodward then went to the restroom. When he returned, the driver said nothing. When the bus reached Batesburg, however, the driver summoned Woodward off the bus to meet “someone I want you to see.” Once outside, Woodward encountered Chief Shull and another policeman. Woodward testified that when he attempted to explain his difficulty with the driver, Shull told him to “shut up” and hit him on the head with his blackjack. Then he twisted Woodward’s arm behind his back and led him up a street and around a corner, out of the view of the other bus passengers. Approximately a hundred feet beyond the corner, according to Woodward, Shull asked him whether he had been discharged from the Army. When Woodward indicated that he had, the police chief began beating him with his billy club and shouted, “You don’t say ‘yes’ to me, say ‘yes sir!'” Woodward complied but then struggled with Shull, wresting the blackjack from the officer. Another policeman ran up at this point, Woodward testified, and threatened him with his pistol until Woodward dropped the blackjack. Woodward conceded that he had “a drink or two” but denied that he used profane or abusive language on the bus, or that any passenger had complained to the driver about his behavior. After his appearance in the Batesburg mayor’s court, he added, he had been returned to his jail cell; no physician had examined him until his transfer to the veteran’s hospital.

Two passengers on the bus, a University of South Carolina student and a white veteran, testified that they had not seen Woodward drinking, that he was simply the one among many Army dischargees “jollying around” on the bus who had been singled out for arrest. The testimony of most witnesses, however, differed markedly from Woodward’s version of the events. Bus driver A. C. Blackwell of Columbia testified that Woodward was drinking on the bus and offered a drink to a white soldier. “He was drunk,” Blackwell said, “he was pretty drunk,” and had “caused commotions” at several points along the bus route. “Boy,” Blackwell said he told Woodward at one stop, “I’m going to leave you somewhere.” The black’s language had been so profane, Blackwell added, that an offended white couple had asked that he be removed from the bus.

Lynwood Shull, dressed in a blue suit and appearing clean-cut, pleaded self-defense in the line of duty. Shull conceded that he may have “bumped” Woodward lightly with his nightstick at the bus station but insisted that he had hit the defendant only when Woodward attempted to seize his blackjack.

I kept trying to hush him…The next thing I knew he caught the loose end of my blackjack and pulled me right into him. I didn’t have time to pick a spot. I’m sorry I hit him in the eyes and blinded him. I had no wish to blind anyone. I had no tention of hitting him in the eyes, but I had to hit him in self-defense because he was advancing on me.

Had Woodward “hushed up” his cursing, Shull said, he would not have arrested him. When Woodward first declined the police chief’s offer to seek a physician following his court appearance the next day, moreover, the policeman had bathed the soldier’s swollen eyes with warm water and a cloth.

Other witnesses backed Shull’s position. Another policeman testified that he had not been present when the defendant and Woodward were struggling for the nightstick. But he agreed that the veteran had been cursing. Mayor Quarles reported that Woodward had admitted in his court to being drunk and disorderly. A Batesburg physician, who said that he had examined Woodward at the jail before his transfer to the veteran’s hospital, testified that the injuries to both Woodward’s eyes could have been caused by one blow, as Shull had testified. Under questioning from a government attorney, the doctor did concede that such a blow would have to be “perfectly timed.” Three character witnesses, including the county sheriff and a black Methodist minister, declared that Shull was a man of fine character and reputation.

Throughout the trial, Judge Waring attempted to thwart the appeals to racism of Shull’s counsel. In his charge to the all-white jury, moreover, he observed that the case’s racial elements had attracted “unwanted and undesirable” publicity and urged the jurors to “put aside prejudice and give due justice…You are trying only one police officer,” he warned, not the South’s racial customs or “black against white.” In their summations to the jury, however, Shull’s attorneys used a distinctly different approach. One claimed that Woodward belonged to “an inferior race” and that his “vulgar” talk was “not the talk of a sober South Carolina Negro…If Lynwood Shull is convicted today,” he warned, “you will be saying to the public officers of South Carolina that you no longer want your home, your wife, and your children protected.” Another of Shull’s counsel alluded heavily to the Confederacy and the Civil War. If delivering a verdict against the federal government “means that South Carolina’ll have to secede again,” he told the jurors, “then let’s secede!”

Judge Waring doubted that the jury would deliberate more than a few minutes before returning to the courtroom with a verdict of acquittal, but he wanted to give the proceedings, ” a little more atmosphere of respectability.” “I’m going out for a walk,” he told the bailiff ager discharging the jury, “and I’ll be back in twenty minutes’ time.” “But Judge,” the bailiff responded, “that jury ain’t going to stay [out] for twenty minutes.” “They’re going to stay out twenty minutes,” Waring countered, “because they can’t come in until I come back, and I’m not going to be back here for twenty minutes.” Judge Waring briefly walked the streets of Columbia, then returned to the courtroom. The bailiff met him at the door. “Judge, the jury’s all ready; they’re rapping on the door and say they want to come in.” The case had gone to the jury at 6:30 P.M.; its verdict was delivered at 6:55. That verdict, as Judge Waring expected, was acquittal.

Like other white-owned South Carolina newspapers, the Columbia State applauded the jury’s decision. Evidence presented in the case, The State editorialized, established that “the Negro had caused trouble on the bus all along its route…that he was boisterous and caused offense by unseemly language,” and that Shull had “struck the veteran in discharge of his duty and in self-defense.”

A special prosecutor was sent to Columbia from Washington to try the case. This may have been an implied insinuation that the case would not receive fair and unbiased treatment in the South, but it also removes the possibility of any possible future implications of the sort….

Such intercession on the part of the central government in the affairs of the states can lead only to a renewal of argument over states’ rights. It is therefore an unwholesome influence against unity in the Union, and something to be studiously avoided whenever possible.

While hardly agreeing with The State’s assumption that justice had been served, Judge Waring had no quarrel with the Shull jury’s verdict. “I made no comment,” he later recalled.

I have no comment or criticism of them now. I couldn’t ask them to find [Shull] guilty on the slimness of that case, but I was shocked at the hypocrisy of my government and your government in submitting that disgraceful case before a jury. I was also hurt that I was made a party to it, because I had to be a party to it, however unwilling I was.

Isaac Woodward’s plight, the racial appeals of Shull’s counsel, and the Justice Department’s failure to pursue the prosecution aggressively had a tremendous impact on Judge Waring. The case was also, he would later say, Elizabeth Waring’s “baptism in racial prejudice.” Partly to escape the increasingly chilly atmosphere of Charleston, Elizabeth often accompanied here husband when he heard cases in Columbia and other communities where they were still graciously received by the local bar. A March 1946 society column in the Columbia State noted, for example, “Mrs. J. Waties Waring, attractive wife of Judge Waring, lending a breath of spring to the federal courthouse yesterday with a lovely silk dress and charming straw hat.” Elizabeth heard the Woodward case, then returned to their hotel room in tears. She told Judge Waring that she had “never heard such a terrible thing and had no idea how bad the situation was.” When she confessed her shock to a Columbia matron, her acquaintance wearily responded, “Mrs. Waring, that sort of thing happens all the time. It’s dreadful, but what are we going to do about it?”


We return to Callow’s Hello Americans:


The event nevertheless had a considerable long-term effect. Among other things, it politicised Judge Waring, who became a close associate of the NAACP; he lived to be the first judge of modern times formally to declare segregated schooling unequal. The path to racial integration, the bare minimum for civilised interracial relations, was a long and stony one, and one that has perhaps not ended, but the Woodard case was a valuable step along it. His testimony illustrated as vividly as anything could have done that the issue was, above all, one of the right to respect. The whole incident had begun in the bus when the driver had cursed him for making him stop so that Woodard could use the toilet. “Talk to me like I’m talking to you,” the mild Woodard had said. “I’m a man just like you.” It was for this outrage that the driver reported him to the police. And when he got off the bus at Batesburg to meet “someone I want you to see”, and Shull had hit him on the head with his blackjack, Woodard answered the question as to whether he’d been discharged from the army with the single word “Yes”. “Don’t say yes to me,” Shull had said, “say yes sir.” And then, enraged by Woodard’s impertinence, he laid about him again with renewed vigour.

Welles did not often speak of his involvement in the case, but some years later, in London in 1955, he recounted the story on his television programme Orson Welles’s Scrapbook. And having recounted it, he observed:

We’re told that we should co-operate with the authorities. I’m not an anarchist. I don’t want to overthrow the rule of law, on the contrary, I want to bring the policeman to law. Obviously individual effort won’t do any good. There’s nothing an individual can do about protecting the individual in society. I’d like it very much if somebody would make a great big international organisation for the protection of the individual. It would be very nice to have that sort of an organisation, be nice to have that sort of card. I see the card as fitting into the passport, a little larger than the passport, with a border around it in bright colours, so that it would catch the eyes of the police. And they’d know who they were dealing with…and it might read something as follows. “This is to certify that the bearer is a member of the human race.”

This mellow and rueful tone was not available to Welles in the forties. Too much was at stake.


Callow is a superb and thorough researcher, but here he gets a detail wrong. In his first volume, he eloquently describes the abilities of Welles as a painter and sketcher, able to draw up easily the appearance of a character, with this sketch carrying a succinct essence of the character, and this programme for the BBC was not a memory book, but a tribute to the skills of the director in this area, Orson Welles’s Sketchbook, with each episode featuring Welles sketching various episodes and characters while telling his stories. This episode, along with the rest of the Sketchbook series, is currently on youtube: “Orson Welles Sketchbook – Episode 3: The Police”. The opening of the episode is devoted to the Woodard case, with Welles sketching the man, and his description leaving no doubt of the importance of the case to him. During this opening, he appears to commingle details from the case. The policemen did wish to make Woodard appear drunk, and they offered him something to drink, and they poured water over his head to wash the blood from his wounds, but here they now pour alcohol from a bucket on his head. Full transcript of this program is at the footnote9:

I was, uh, many years, a radio commentator…in America. During that time, of course, I had occasion to speak on a great variety of subjects. *tears paper out of sketchbook* Of all those subjects, one of the most interesting stories, the one that sticks most vividly in memory, had to do with a Negro soldier. Here he is:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Boy had seen service in the South Pacific, he was on his way home. Home was in one of the Southern states…he was on a bus, on the way he felt ill, he asked the bus driver to let him off. Bus driver refused, abusively. There was an argument, at the end of which a policeman was called in, who dragged the boy out of the bus, took him behind a building, and beat him viciously. And when he was unconscious, poured gin over him, put him in jail, charged him with drunkenness and assault. When the boy regained consciousness, he discovered that he was blind. The policeman had literally beaten out his eyes. Now, of course, that sortof policeman is the exception. That’s when a policeman is a criminal in uniform. I had the satisfaction of being instrumental in bringing that particular policeman to justice. Case was brought to my attention, and I brought it to the attention of the radio public, and we did finally manage to locate this man, and bring him into a court of law.

This episode would be an ending for the Welles in the venue which allowed him to make such an extraordinary debut in movies, the medium of radio. The crucial importance of radio for Welles in shaping his sensibility and his movies is often understated, if not ignored entirely, because the medium of episodic radio was moribund – if not extinct – for decades until its revival by This American Life, a revival further sustained by programs like The Moth. These, however, are still a different creature than what Welles was working with, fictional drama in contrast to non-fictional reporting, essays, and memoir. Radio had sustained Welles in between his film work, and though it is now entirely forgotten, one can count the Woodard case among his greatest triumphs, a result of his genius for this medium. That his film career would go into an advancing and steep decline with the end of radio is a possible connection to any reader of Callow’s Hello Americans, yet one seemingly little noted by many. Hello Americans:

The Commentary of 1 September was not only Welles’s last appearance in the series, but his last appearance on American radio, the medium in which he had earned a living for most of his professional life, and which he had loved in so many and various ways – some admittedly not wisely, but too well. He had understood its possibilities from the moment he started to work in it; he had brought what he learned there to the theatre and to film. Latterly, he had seemed to lose his youthful interest in it as a medium per se; he had become captivated rather by its possibilities as the most direct means of conveying his ideas, unmediated by production of any sort, to the American people. It was a very pure form: just his voice and the listener’s ear.

Lynwood Shull would outlive both Woodard and Welles. The legendary film director would die in 1985 (given his celebrity and status, there is no question of the date of October 11 1985, and his New York Times obituary is here: “Orson Welles is Dead at 70; Innovator of Film and Stage”), while Woodard would die at 73, on September 23, 1992, a date which I get from the less reliable wikipedia and the entry, “Isaac Woodard”, which carries no citation for the date of death. Lynwood Shull would die at age ninety-five in 1997, a detail which can be found alongside a description of the Shull descendants in The Grace of Silence: A Family of Memoir. This memoir by NPR correspondent Michele Norris focuses on her own family, and her father being shot by the police during the same era of Isaac Woodard’s blinding. While exploring her own family history, Norris investigates the Woodard case and interviews surviving family members. From Grace of Silence:


The man accused of blinding Isaac Woodard, Police Chief Lynwood Shull, pretty much disappeared from the historical record after his acquittal in November 1946. He stayed in and around Batesburg for most of his life. He had a daughter and worked for a time as the county road commissioner. He died in December 1997, at the age of ninety-five. Eager to know more about him, I called up some of his relatives: not a one had a clue that Lynwood Shull had been a figure in the national news for his involvement in the Woodard case. They had no idea that Shull had been the subject of a series of radio tirades by Orson Welles, the creator of Citizen Kane and The War of the Worlds. Most were dumbfounded to discover that their relative had been accused of a crime so heinous as to prompt executive action by a sitting U.S. president. Some were eager to get me off the phone, but others wanted to hear more.

Patsy Quarles, who married into the family, learned of the story from news clippings she discovered while cleaning out her in-laws’ farmstead. “It was hush-hush,” she said. “I was married thirty years before I even heard it mentioned. At that time a newspaper article turned up and I said what was this about and [my husband] said it is not something the family talks about.” Quarles told me that she wants to know more but is afraid to press the subject.

Hugh Shull, who lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a nephew of Shull’s. His father, Cothran, was the youngest of six Shull siblings; Lynwood was the oldest. When I asked Hugh if he had ever heard of Isaac Woodard, he said, “Never heard a word of any of this, and I am fifty-seven years old.” In one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve been party to, I read Woodard’s affidavit to Hugh Shull on the phone; he gasped time and again at the other end of the line.

“He is my uncle Lynwood,” Hugh Shull said. “It is a shock to me. Yes, ma’am. Not so much a shock that things like that happened in that period. But a shock that he would do that.” I explained that my father was a black veteran also wounded in a police shooting, and that he, too, had kept the story to himself to avoid passing his pain on to his loved ones. Shull told me, “They say that was the greatest generation, the ability to try to protect their family, and I guess that is what they did. They protected their families.” The Shull family had also been burdened, it appears, and in some ways shaped, by the weight of silence. Hugh Shull seemed conflicted about what he’d heard. “It makes me feel ashamed that something like that happened, and I don’t know if I should apologize or what, but I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

Davis and Betty Shull live in nearby Aiken County, South Carolina. They were not close to Lynwood Shull; they last saw him at a livestock market years before his death. They, too, were in the dark about Lynwood, but, as they see it, the connection of their family name to the Woodard scandal is no cause for apology. “It does not bother me,” Davis Shull, Lynwood’s cousin, said. “I did not know it. I would assume the man could have been at fault. If he [Shull] was acquitted, [Woodard] probably did something.”

Davis Shull is troubled by the notion that all Shulls – all southerners, for that matter – should be besmirched by any one incident. “We’re all supposed to be haters,” Davis said. “But hey! We have relatives who are black. We know who they are. Goes back to my great-granddaddy. We knew who they are and one of them was even raised up in the same house with my grandmother. In some way we see things clearly.” His wife, Betty, noted that the South’s tortured history vis-a-vis race makes it hard for whites to wade into racial discussions. “Nowadays everything is racist,” she told me. “No matter what you say. You can’t tell the truth without being racist. You can’t say anything.”

Listening to Davis and Betty Shull, I couldn’t help but think of the newsreels from the civil rights era’s most vicious conflicts. Lynwood Shull is dead, but many of the people who threw bricks at college students, or spat at ballplayers, or yelled awful things at schoolchildren are still alive. And if America is as determined as it appears to be to have a frank conversation about race, those very people, who’ve been denounced and derided – demonized – must have a seat at the table, so that they can be a part of the dialogue. For often discussions about race are one-sided, driven only by those who have experienced directly or through family ties the burden of rampant and vicious discrimination. The “success despite oppression” trope is quite common in politics, business, and the media. Less common – more muted, perhaps – are the viewpoints of people who enforced, enjoyed, or evolved past presumed white privilege. Their stories and sentiments, too, must be considered for greater understanding, as all of us try to explore and explain a country that has moved from the legislated marginalization of people of color to their predicted attainment of majority status in less than forty years.


The voice of Isaac Woodard, his own voice, is almost entirely missing from all these accounts. The closest I have come is his testimony as part of a lawsuit against the Greyhound company. He would lose the lawsuit, as described in the contemporary piece, “Greyhound Not Liable For Beating” by A. H. Calloway, and for which I am grateful to “jimgaines” for clipping. What follows is Woodard’s testimony. Nutter is T. Gillis Nutter, attorney for plaintiff, while Morris is Stanley C. Morris, attorney for the defendant. This testimony is transcribed from the scan, “Sworn Testimony for Civil Lawsuit, November 1947” (along with parts two, three, and four) at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”.


Q I wish you would turn to the jury there on your left and state in your own language what occurred or what happened to you between Augusta, Georgia and Batesburg, South Carolina.

A What occurred after I boarded the bus?

Q Yes.

A Well, a few miles out of town, about an hour’s ride, the bus driver stopped the bus. I asked him did he have time to wait until I go to the rest room, I mean the latrine. He says to me, “Hell, no.” He said, “God damn it, go back and sit down. I ain’t got time to wait.” I says, “God damn it, talk to me like I am talking to you. I am a man just like you.” He said, “Go ahead then and hurry back.”

Well, I goes ahead and hurried back and takes my seat again. That was all of that. So he did not say anything more to me and I did not say anything more to him until we come into Batesburg, South Carolina. He gets in Batesburg and he stops and gets off the bus and I don’t know what he got off the bus for, but he came back to the bus and walks up to me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Get up, some one outside wants to see you.” He turns around and walks back out of the bus. I gets up and walks out of the bus and there was two polices standing there when I walked out. He was standing out there talking to the police.

He said, “This soldier has been making a disturbance on the bus,” so I goes to explain to the police that I had not been doing anything for them to arrest me, I was explaining to them what the bus driver said to me and what I said to him, but before I could explain it the police hit me with a billy across my head and told me to shut up. So I hushed, so the bus driver finished talking and after he finished talking the police said to me, “You won’t ride this bus out of here. You will catch the next bus out, otherwise I am going to look you up.” So then he grabbed me by my right wrist and twisted it behind my back and walks me down the street twisting my arm and looking at me just like he wanted to hit me. I don’t know but that is what I was thinking to myself.

So he was not saying anything to me and I was not saying anything to him, and he comes to the corner where one street goes down straight and another goes around a corner this way, and he turned right but instead of him telling me to turn too, he just turned the corner and twisted my arm all at the same time, and so then I lit into him. I still did not say anything, so he asked me, “Have you been discharged?” and I says “Yes,” just like that. So he said, “Don’t say ‘Yes’ to me, say ‘Yes, sir,’ so I begged his pardon and I told him I would say ‘Yes, sir’ to him if he wanted me to, which I did.

So he started beating me all at the same time, just as soon as I said “Yes,” so then I throwed up my left arm and blocked a few licks and he continued to beat me until I had to do something so I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand, and when I did that some other officer throwed a revolver in my back and says, “Drop that billy. If you don’t I will drop you,” so I drops the billy and he picks it up and walked me on up to the jail and started beating me again. He hit me and knocked me unconscious and I fell; so when I come to myself he hollered to me to get up, and when I went to get up he knocked me back to the ground. He had the end of his billy driving it into my eyeballs. So when he did that I gets up and he grabbed me by the left shoulder and shoved me inside the cell and shut the door. So I walked over to the bench and leaned up on the bunk there and in a few minutes he come in, opened the door and said “Here’s your wallet,” and passed my wallet in and it fell near my feet, which I could still see a little at that time. So I picks up my wallet and puts it in my pocket, so I scuffled around and lay down on the bunk, so after a while I goes to sleep. The next morning —

Q Let me interrupt you there. How many times did he hit you, if you know, between the bus station and the turn of the corner?

A Well, I can’t say just about how many but my estimate about it is at least six or seven times, I know.

Q That was before you got to the jail?

A That is right.

Q After you turned the corner there facing the jail how many times did he hit you then?

A I wouldn’t know about how many times he hit me then, but it was more than one or two times. I know that.

Q You spoke of him punching you in the eyes. When did he do that?

A That is when I was right in front of the jail.

Q How many times did he punch you in the eyes?

A I don’t know how many times he punched me in the eyes, but I do remember that he was jabbing into my eyes when I come to myself.

Q Did he jab you more than once in the eyes?

A I believe he did.

Q What do you mean by jabbing you in the eyes; what did he do?

A He had the end of his billy longways driving it into my eyes like that (demonstrating).

Q Now, you say you lay down on the bunk. Then what did you do after that?

A So I goes to sleep, so the next morning he came in and said, “All right, come on out. Let’s go up and see what the judge has to say to you.” I says, “I can’t see.” He says, “You can feel, can’t you?” So I did not make no move to come out, so I guess he saw then that I could not see anything, so he walks on back to me and catches me by my left arm and leads me up to the fosset [sic] and tells me to wash my face. So I washed my face. He leads me on up to the judge and he told the judge, he says, “This soldier was making a disturbance on the bus last night, drunk and disorderly.” The judge asked me, “Do you have anything to say?” I says, “Yes, sir.” So I explained to him what I asked the bus driver and what the driver says to me and what I said to him, about him cursing me and me cursing him. When I said that the judge said, “Well, I will tell you, we don’t have such stuff like that down here.”

He says, “I find you fifty dollars and give you thirty days hard labor on the road.” I says, “I will pay the fifty dollars but I don’t have it all at the time.” The Chief of Police says, “You have some money in your wallet though,” so he took my wallet and I had forty dollars in it. He took the forty dollars out and he said, “Is that all the money you have?” I said, “No, I have some more in my watch pocket.” I had four one-dollar bills in my watch pocket and I pulled it out and they took that. So I had a check in my pocket for $694,73 and he pulled that out and he says, “I see you have a check from the Government. Sign your name here.” I said I could not sign my name because I never had tried to sign my name without seeing, so he gave me that check back, so the judge told the police to carry me back and lock me up then.

Q When you were taken for trial there did you have an attorney in the court that morning, a lawyer to represent you?

A No, sir.

Q Did you have any friends there?

A No, sir.

MR. MORRIS: I do not believe that is material, Your Honor.

THE COURT: It is not prejudicial to give the background of the entire affair.

MR. NUTTER: We also allege in our bill of complaint that he was afraid, that he did not resist.

THE COURT: Very well, you may go ahead. The objection is overruled. (Exception)

MR. NUTTER: You say you paid forty-four dollars?

A Yes, sir.

Q Why did you pay it?

A Because I was scared. He had done beat me up so bad I couldn’t see, so I paid it.

MR. NORRIS: We object to that last question and the answer, and move to strike them out.

THE COURT: That is the explanation of why he paid the fine. In your opening statement, Mr. Morris, I believe you said that he pleaded guilty. I think it is proper for the witness to say why he pleaded guilty, if he did so plead, and why he paid the fine. The objection is overruled. (Exception)

MR. NUTTER: After your trial where did you go then?

A I goes back down and in a few minutes, after I am back in the cell and laying down, the Chief of Police he comes in and he says to me, “We have some whiskey upstairs. Here, take a drink,” but I did not accept, so he goes out comes back and says he brought me a hot towel to put across my forehead. He says, “I am going to get a doctor for you.” So he goes out to get the doctor and come back and said, “I did not find no doctor but I have some eye wash,” so he poured that into my eyes, so I lie back down until later on they brought my lunch in and set it down beside the bed and said, “There is your lunch,” so I tasted it but it made me sick, so I did not eat it, I left it there.

Q Then what happened?

A So then about 5 o’clock that evening he come in and he says, “Get up and put your clothes on. I am going to carry you to the hospital.” I asked him what hospital and he said he was going to take me to the Veterans’ Hospital at Columbia, South Carolina, so I gets up and puts my clothes on and he leads me out and puts me in the car. I asked him just as we left the jail house, I says, “What town is this?” He said, “It is Aiken, South Carolina.” He carries me then on to the hospital, so the doctor went in and he lays me down on the bench or a chair or something, anyway I know I lies down. So one of the nurses or a clerk or somebody, anyway, she commenced quizzing me, asking me where I was born and things like that, and I told her. After a while the doctor came in, and the doctor says to the police, “What is the matter with this fellow here, this soldier?” The police says, “He was drunk and disorderly last night on the bus.” so the doctor asked the police where he was from and he told him Batesburg, South Carolina — I mean Aiken, South Carolina, is where he told him he was from. So he asked me was I drunk and I told him no. So he had the nurse take me on into the room and put me to bed. In a few minutes after that the nurse come around and started giving me shots; so I stayed there for two months.

Q You were there two months, you say?

A yes. So when I got ready to leave the doctor told me that I was permanently blind and the best thing to do is to go ahead and join a blind school, and one fellow come in and took out a pension for me for fifty dollars a month, but I never did receive it, I don’t [know] what become of it.


The question of any great issue is always, “What is to be done?” I do not believe that remembering necessarily requires an immediate answer to this question, or that the simple act of remembering is contingent on providing an answer. I believe the first step in any resolution will always, and can only be, remembering.

(Substantial edits, including new material and spellchecking were made on September 3rd, 2014, though no doubt further additions will still be made.)

FOOTNOTES

1 Woodard’s affidavit, transcribed from “Affidavit, April 1946 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 1012-1013)”:

I, ISAAC WOODARD, JR., being duly sworn, do depose and state as follows:

THAT, I reside at 1100 Franklin Avenue, Bronx, New York, Apartment 2. I am 27 years old, and a veteran of the United States Army, having served from the 12th of October, 1952, to the 12th of February, 1946, when I received an honorable discharge from Camp Gordon, Georgia. I served for 15 months in the South Pacific with the 429th Port Battalion. I served in the Philippines and in New Guinea and earned one battle star.

I was discharged about 5:30 P.M. on February 12, 1946, from Camp Gordon, Georgia. At 8:30 P.M. at the Greyhound Terminal in Atlanta, Georgia, while I was in uniform, I purchased a ticket to Winnsboro, South Carolina and took the bus headed there to pick up my wife to come to New York to see my father and mother. About one hour out of Atlanta the bus driver stopped at a small drug store. As he stopped, I asked him if he had time to wait for me until I had a chance to go to the rest room. He cursed and said, “No.” When he cursed me, I cursed him back. After I cursed him, he said, “Go ahead and get off and hurry back,” so I got off, hurrying back as he said.

About half an hour later, when the bus got to Aiken, he stopped again and got off and went and got the police. I did not know what he was doing and thought it was just a regular stop. He came back and came in the bus and came to me and said, “Come outside for a minute,” and I got off the bus. When I walked out, the police were there. As I walked out, the bus driver started telling the police that I was the one that was disturbing the bus. When he said that, I started explaining to the police that I was not raising a disturbance on the bus, but they didn’t give me a chance to explain. The policeman struck me with a billy across my head and told me to “shut up.” After he finished talking he said to me, “You won’t catch this bus out of here, you catch the next bus.”

After that, he grabbed me by my left arm and twisted it behind my back, and walked me down the street, continually twisting my wrist. I figured he was trying to make resist. I did not resist against him. He asked me was I discharged, and I told him, “Yes.” When I said, “Yes,” that is when he started beating me with the billy; hitting me across the top of my head. After that, I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand. He ran behind my back and grabbed my arm again. I had him by his right shoulder. After that another policeman came up and throw [sic] his gun on me and told me to drop the billy or he would drop me, so I dropped the billy.

After I dropped the billy, the second policeman hold his gun on me while the other one was beating me as we were walking down the street. I did not see anyone on the street. When we got to the door of the police station, he struck me again and knocked me unconscious. After I commenced to come to myself, he hollered, “Get up.” When I started to get up, he started punching me in my eyes with the end of his billy. I finally got up, and when I got up, he pushed me inside the jail house and locked me up. I could still see for a few minutes as I can remember, because I was hardly conscious.

A few minutes after he locked me up, he came in and threw me my purse. He went back out and locked the door. I picked out a cot and lied down.

I woke up the next morning and could not see. Someone brought me my breakfast to the bed. After that, a policeman came to the door and opened the door and told me to come out. He said, “Let’s go up here and see what the judge wants.” I told him that I could not see how to come out, I was blind. He said, “Feel your way out.” I did not make any move to come out, so he walked in and led me to a sink and told me to wash my face, and said that I would be all right after I washed my face. He then led me up to the judge, and the judge said to me, “You were raising sand on the last night – – – stubborn.” So I said to him, “No, sir,” and I told him what happened. After I told him what happened, he said, “We don’t have that kind of stuff down here.” After he said that, the policeman spoke and said, “He wrung my billy out of my hand, and I told him that if he did not drop it, I would drop him.” That is how I knew it was the same policeman as had beat my eyes out.

After that, the judge spoke and said, “I fine you $50.00 or 30 days on the road.” I said I would pay the $50.00 but I did not have the $50.00 at the time. So the policeman said “You have some money there in your wallet.” He took my wallet and took all I had out of it, which was a total of $40.00 and took $4.00 form my watch pocket. I had a check for $694.73, which was my mustering out pay and soldiers deposit. He said to me, “Can you see how to sign this check — you have a government check.” I told him, “No, sir”. So he gave it back to me after that.

He took me back and locked me up in jail. I stayed in there for a while and after a few minutes he came in and asked me if I wanted a drink of whiskey — if I took a drink of whiskey I would probably feel better. I told him, “No, sir,” I did not care for any. He went and got some kind of eye medicine and came back and poured it in both my eyes. He went and got a hot towel and spread it across my head. I stayed there for the rest of the day until about 5:30 that evening. I could tell about what time it was because I asked a policeman and he told me it was late. I do not know if that was the same policeman. At that time he came in and get me and told me that “We’re going to take you to the hospital.” I did not hear anyone else in the room.

He took me to the Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, S.C. When I got there, the doctor was not in at the time, so he laid me on a bench. A nurse took my name and asked me where I was from and everything, so I told her I was from Winnsboro, N.C.

The doctor came in and he questioned the policeman and asked him what was the matter. The policeman told him that I was raising a disturbance on the bus and drunk. The doctor asked the policeman was I drunk then, and he said “No.” So the doctor had an attendant carry me in a room, and the attendant undressed me and put me to bed.

About 5 or 10 minutes after I was in the bed, the nurse came around and started giving me shots in my arm.

One of the contact men came around one day and said to me they were going to take out a pension for me. I believe that the doctor who cared for me was named Dr. Clarence. I told him what had happened to me. He made no comment, but told me I should join a blind school.

I stayed in the hospital for two months — I went in on the 13th of February and came out on the 13th of April. My sisters came down to see me, and since they discharged me while they were down there, they brought me back up to New York to my father’s home in the Bronx, where I am still staying.

Sworn to before me
this 23rd day of
April, 1946.

Woodard’s FBI statement, transcribed from “Statement to FBI, September 1946 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frame 911)”:

New York, N.Y.
Sept. 25, 1946

I, ISAAC WOODARD, Jr. make the following voluntary statement to Leon C. Kelmer and Edward F. Stiles whom I know to be Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No threats or promises of any kind have been made to me in connection with this statement. I realise it may be used in a court of law.

I was discharged from Camp Gordon, Georgia, between 6 and 6:30 pm on February 12, 1946. At about that time I boarded a bus for Augusta, Ga. On the bus were about 30 passengers, including about 10 civilians and about 20 soldiers. The soldiers I believe were discharges. The bus was driven by a white civilian. I did not recognize anyone on the bus which was en route to Augusta, Ga. I observed no drinking on the bus. The ride to Augusta, Ga. took about 1 hr. and we arrived there between 7:15-7:30 pm. on February 12, 1946. I went to the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Augusta and purchased my ticket for Winnsboro, South Carolina. I sat down in the terminal for about 5 or 10 minutes and then went to the restaurant next door where I purchased 10 Hot Dogs. I had nothing to eat or drink in the restaurant and took the Hot Dogs out with me. I ate 5 or 5 [sic] of the Hot Dogs and later gave the rest away on the Greyhound bus to some colored soldiers. I did not take any intoxicating beverage while I was waiting for my bus, nor did I take any such beverage at any time that day of Feb. 12 nor later that evening when I rode from the rear, next to a colored soldier, whose name I do not know. I know nothing about this soldier or any other passenger on the bus which could assist in identifying them. About 30 or 40 minutes after the bus left Augusta, a colored girl came on the bus and the soldier who was seated next to me offered her his seat. I do not know this girl’s name or address. On the opposite side of the bus from me 5 or 6 white soldiers were passing a bottle of liquor among themselves. I did not observe any of the colored soldiers on the bus drinking or passing a bottle of whiskey. I was never offered a drink from a bottle of whiskey on the bus nor did I take any such drink. I was absolutely sober on the bus.

I have had the above statement read to me by Special Agent Kelmer in the presence of my brother Saul Woodard and it is true and correct.

(*) ISAAC WOODARD, JR.

Witnessed:
(s) Leon C. Kelmer, FBI, NYC, 9-25-46
(s) Edward F. Stiles, FBI, NYC.
(s) Saul Woodard

2 Transcript for “Orson Welles Commentary: Affidavit of Isaac Woodard”:

Good morning, this is Orson Welles speaking.

I’d like to read to you…an affidavit. I, Isaac Woodard Jr, being duly sworn to depose and state as follows: that I am twenty seven years old and a veteran of the United States Army, having served fifteen months in the South Pacific, and having earned one battle star. I was honorably discharged on February 12, 1946, at Camp Gordon, Georgia, at 8:30 pm at the Greyhound terminal at Atlanta, Georgia. While I was in uniform I purchased a ticket to Winnsboro, South Carolina, and took the bus headed there to pick up my wife to come to New York to see my father and mother. About one hour out of Atlanta, the bus driver stopped at a small drug store, as he stopped I asked if he had time to wait for me until I had the chance to go to the restroom. He cursed and said no. When he cursed me, I cursed him back. When the bus got to Aiken, he got off and went and got the police. They didn’t give me a chance to explain. The policeman struck me across the head with a billy, and told me to shut up. After that, the policeman grabbed me by my left arm and twisted it behind my back. I figured he was trying to make me resist. I did not resist against him. He asked me, “Was I discharged?” and I told him, “Yes”, when I said “Yes”, that was when he started beating me with a billy, hitting me across the top of the head, after that I grabbed his billy and wrung it out of his hand. Another policeman came up and threw his gun on me and told me to drop the billy or he’d drop me, so, I dropped the billy. After I dropped the billy, the second policeman held his gun on me while the other one was beating me. He knocked me unconscious. After I commenced to recover myself, he yelled “Get up!”, I started to get up, he started punching me in my eyes with the end of the billy. When I finally got up he pushed me inside the jailhouse, and locked me up. I woke up next morning, and could not see.

A policeman said, “Let’s go up here and see what the judge says.” I told him that I could not see, or come out, I was blind. He said, “Feel your way out.” He said I’d be alright after I washed my face. He led me to the judge, and after I told the judge what happened, he said, “We don’t have that kind of stuff down here.” Then the policeman said: “He wrung the billy out of my hand, and I told him if he didn’t drop it, I’d drop him.” That’s how I know it was the same policeman that beat my eyes out. After that the judge spoke and said, “I fine you $50 or thirty days in the row.” And I said I’d pay the fifty dollars, but I did not have the fifty dollars at the time, so the policeman said, “You have some money there in your wallet.” He took my wallet and took out all I had, it was a total of forty dollars, and took four dollars from my watch pocket. I had a cheque for six hundred and ninety four dollars and seventy three cents, which was my mustering out soldiers’ deposit. He said to me, “Can you see how to sign this check? You have a government cheque.” I told him, “No, sir.” So, he gave it back to me after that. Took me back, locked me up in the jail, the policeman did, I stayed in there for a while, and after a few minutes, he came and asked me if I wanted a drink of whiskey. If I took a drink of whiskey, I’d feel better. I told him, “No, sir.” I didn’t care for any.

At 5:30 that evening they took me to the veterans’ hospital, in Columbia, South Carolina, one of the contact men came round one day and said to me they were going to take out a pension for me. I believe that the doctor who cared for me was named Dr. Clarence. I told him what had happened to me, he made no comment. But told me I should…join a blind school.

Sworn to me, on this 23rd day of April 1946.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I had that affidavit in my pocket a few hours before dawn when I left off worrying about this broadcast long enough for coffee at an all-night restaurant, I found myself joined at the table by a stranger. A nice, soft-spoken, well-meaning, well-mannered stranger. He told me a joke. He thinks it’s a joke. I’m going to repeat it, but not for your amusement, I earnestly hope that nobody listening will laugh. This is the joke.

Seems there’s a white man who came on business to a southern town, it could be Aiken, South Carolina…and found he couldn’t get a bed in any of the good hotels. He went to the bad hotels and finally the flophouses, but there was no room for him in any of the inns reserved for white folks, in that southern city, so at last, in desperation, he applied to a Negro hotel where he was accepted with the proviso that he would consent to share a double room with another guest. In rueful gratitude, this white man paid his bill left a call for early in the morning, he rested well, quite undisturbed by the proximity of the sleeping colored man beside him, and he was awakened at the hour of his request. After breakfast, he left for the railway station where he boarded his appointed train, but the conductor would not let him into any of the regular coaches. The man was told quite rudely to go where he belonged, the Jim Crow car. The hero of this funny story allowed he hadn’t washed in the morning, and the dust of travel must be responsible for the conductor’s grievous social miscalculation. He went to the washroom, he started to clean his hands.

They were black. An even hued black. Then he looked into the mirror. His face was the same color. He not only looked darker than white, he was quite visibly a Negro. A great oath precedes the final line which is presumed to be the funny part of this little anecdote: “I know what’s happened,” are the next words of the man. “It’s very simple.” “They woke up the wrong man!”

I left the teller of this tale in the coffee shop, but I found I couldn’t leave the tale itself. Like the affidavit I read at the start of the broadcast, it seems to have become a permanent part of my mental luggage. I sketched in my imagination a sequel to the stranger’s funny joke. I saw the man of business who’d gone to bed a white man getting into an argument with a conductor, I saw a policeman boarding a train at the next station, and taking the man of business out on the platform, and beating the eyes out of his head, because the man thought he should be treated with the same respect he’d received the day before when he was white. I saw a man at the police station trying to make him take a drink, so the medical authorities could testify that he was drunk. I saw the man of business bleeding in his cell. Reaching out with sightless hands through unseen bars, gesturing for help that would not, could not ever come. And I heard his explanation echoing down the stone hallways of the jail: “I know what’s happened, it’s very simple.” “They woke up the wrong man.”

Now it seems the officer of the law who blinded the young Negro boy in the affidavit has not been named. The boy saw him while he could still see, but of course he had no way of knowing which particular policeman it was. Who brought the justice of Dachau and Oswiecim to Aiken, South Carolina. He was just another white man with a stick, who wanted to teach a Negro boy a lesson – to show a Negro boy where he belonged: In the darkness. Till we know more about him, for just now, we’ll call the policeman Officer X. He might be listening to this. I hope so. Officer X, I’m talking to you. Officer X, they woke up the wrong man. That somebody else, that man sleeping there, is you. The you that god brought into the world. All innocent of hate, a paid up resident member of the brotherhood of man. Yes. Unbelievably enough, that’s you, Officer X. You. Still asleep. That you could have been anything, it could have gone to the White House when it grew up. It could have gone to heaven when it died. But they woke up the wrong man. They finally came for him in the blank grey of dawn, as in the death house they come for the condemned. But without prayers. They came with instructions. The accumulated ignorance of the feudal south. And with this particular briefing they called Cain, for another day of the devil’s work. While Abel slept. Wash your hands, Officer X. Wash them well. Scrub and scour, you won’t blot out the blood of a blinded war veteran. Nor yet the color of your skin. Your own skin. You’ll never, never change it. Wash your hands, Officer X. Wash a lifetime, you’ll never wash away that leprous lack of pigment. The guilty pallor of the white man.

We invite you to luxuriate in secrecy, it will be brief. Go on. Suckle your anonymous moment while it lasts. You’re going to be uncovered! We will blast out your name! We’ll give the world your given name, Officer X. Yes, and your so-called Christian name. It’s going to rise out of the filthy deep like the dead thing it is. We’re going to make it public with the public scandal you dictated, but failed to sign.

We pause now for a word from the philosophers. A short reminder regarding the matter of payment and cost. Nothing is paid back. That does not happen. Not on earth. A favor cannot be paid back, neither can a wrong. We say a criminal pays for his crime, when we lock him up, a murderer pays for his murder when the state murders him, but really the state is hiding an unsightly object. Society is merely sweeping its dirt under the carpet. We may sometimes manage to cure the thing called “crime”…but the man called a criminal is never punished; he can be inconvenienced, or tormented, or done away with, but he can never pay for what he has done. If the ledger is ever balanced, it is not by him, but by some other man having nothing to do with him. It is balanced by deeds of virtue. By unrelated good works. The evil-doers agony doesn’t show up in the books. Only that fiction known to us as money can be paid back. The true debt, the debt of a friend to a friend, or a foe to a foe outlives the principles involved. So much for payment.

Price. That’s something else. There’s a price for everything. There’s nothing that does not have its cost. Joy and inspiration and mere pleasure have a market value precisely computed in terms of their opposites. The cost of youth is age, the cost of age is death. You want love? The cost of love is independence. You want to be independent, do you? Then pay the price, and know what it is to feel alone. Your mother paid for you with pain. Nothing nothing in this living world is free. The free air costs you the life consuming effort of breath. Freedom itself is priced at the rate of the citizenship it earns and holds. What does it cost to be a Negro? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his eyes. What does it cost to wear over your skeleton a pinkish tint officially described as “white”? In Aiken, South Carolina, it cost a man his soul.

Officer X may languish in jail. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible he’ll serve as long a term as a Negro would serve in Aiken, South Carolina, for stealing bread. But Officer X will never pay for the two eyes he beat out of the soldier’s head. How can you assay the gift of sight? What are they quoting today for one eye? An eye for an eye? A literal reading of this Mosaic law spells out again only the blank waste of vengeance. We’ve told Officer X that he’ll be dragged out of hiding. We’ve promised him a most unflattering glare of publicity. We’re going to keep that promise. We’re going to build our own police line-up to line up this reticent policeman, with the killers, the lunatics, the beastmen, all the people of society’s zoo. Where he belongs. If he’s listening to this, let him listen well. Officer X. After I’ve found you out, I’ll never lose you. If they try you, I’m going to watch the trial. If they jail you, I’m going to wait for your first day of freedom. You won’t be free of me. I want to see who’s waiting for you at the prison gates. I want to know who will acknowledge that they know you. I’m interested in your future. I will take careful note of all your destinations. Assume another name and I will be careful that the name you would forget is not forgotten. I will find means to remove from you all refuge, Officer X. You can’t get rid of me. We have an appointment, you and I. And only death can cancel it.

Who am I? A masked avenger from the comic books? No sir, merely an inquisitive citizen of America. I admit that nothing on this inhabited earth is capable of your chastisement. I’m simply but quite actively curious to know what will become of you. Your fate cannot affect the boy in the country hospital for the blind, but your welfare is a measure of the welfare of my country. I cannot call it your country. How long will you get along in these United States? Which of the states will consent to get along with you? Where stands the sun of common fellowship? When will it rise over your dark country? When will it be noon in Georgia? I must know where you go, Officer X, because I must know where the rest of us are going with our American experiment. Into bankruptcy? Or into that serene tomorrow, that plenteous garden that blind soldier hoped for when he had his eyes, and with eyes open, he went to war. We want a world that will lighten his darkness. You’re sorry for him? He rejects your pity. You’re ashamed? He doesn’t care. We want to tell him soon that all America is ashamed of you. If there’s room for pity, you can have it, for you are far more blind than he. He had eyes to see and saw with them, they made out if nothing else, at least part of the shape of human dignity, and this is not a little thing, but you have eyes to see and you have never seen.

He has the memory of light. But you were born in a pit. He cannot grow new eyes to open the world again for his poor bruised ones. Never. No. The only word we can share with the martyr to carry him from the county hospital to the county grave is word concerning your eyes, Officer X. Your eyes, remember, were not gouged away. Only the lids are closed. You might raise the lids, you might just try the wild adventure of looking. You might see something, it might be a simple truth. One of those truths held to be self-evident by our founding fathers and most of us. If we should ever find you bravely blinking at the sun, we’ll know then that the world is young after all. That chaos is behind us and not ahead. Then there will be shouting of trumpets to rouse the dead at Gettysburg. A thunder of cannon will declare the tidings of peace, and all the bells of liberty will laugh out loud in the streets to celebrate goodwill towards all men. The new blind can hear, and it would be very good if they could hear the news that the old blind can finally see them. Officer X, you’ll find that you can wash off what should be washed, and it will be said of you, even you, they awakened the right man.

Now it’s time to say goodbye. Please let me call again. Next week, same time. Until then, I am always…obediently yours.

3 Transcript for “Orson Welles Commentary: The Peacemakers”:

Last week, I read you an affidavit from a Negro soldier named Isaac Woodard. You remember he was taken off a bus in South Carolina by a policeman and beaten until he was blinded in both eyes. I have a formal letter from a Mr. H. Odell Weeks, who, it seems, is the mayor of the city of Aiken in the state of South Carolina. Where, according to the soldier’s affidavit, he was blinded. The mayor encloses affidavits of his own, sworn to by the city recorder, by the city chief of police, by a couple of patrol officers. Now, these gentlemen deny all knowledge of the incident.

“It is indeed unfortunate,” writes Mr. Weeks, and these are his exact words, quote that you did not fully verify this story. Before you broadcasted it. Unquote. The mayor goes on to say that since my broadcast went out to the nation, and since, according to the affidavits, whose accounts are wholly untrue, he the mayor urges that I have the courage and forthrightness to retract the wrong I’ve done his city. Giving to my own retraction the same emphasis that I’ve placed on the original broadcast. Well, Mr. Weeks…I hardly know how to make affidavits of your city recorder and city policeman as emphatic as Mr. Woodard’s in the hospital for the blind. If it turns out to be true that the city of Aiken is blameless of this hideous scandal, it is my duty to make that innocence as public as possible. I hope to be able to. But: I must warn you that denials are never dramatic. And if I’m to say something exciting about Aiken will have to be something better than that a Negro boy was never blinded in its streets.

I look forward to giving the subject of Aiken all the emphasis it deserves. But I am bound to fail without some affirmative material. There are thousands of cities where Negro soldiers have not been blinded. I hope it will be my privilege to announce that your city is one of these. But since the broadcast is going to go out, as you put it, to the nation let’s spice up the retraction with a little good news. I won’t ask you what the city of Aiken has done for Negro soldiers, or for Negroes, or for the blind. I’ll only ask you if you’re willing to join with me in a manhunt. A man dressed as a policeman blinded a discharged veteran. The blinded boy swears that his tormenter told him he came from the Aiken police. It is surely a more urgent matter for you to apprehend this impostor before he commits further outrages in your city’s name, then it is to exact from a commentator the cold comfort of apology.

You’ll get the apology when the facts are clear. Until then you must understand why it must be deferred. After all, Mr. Weeks, I have not only the affidavits of your policemen, I have also the affidavits of the blinded soldier. Working on the meagre clue that there’s also an Aiken county, I’ve sent investigators there and to your city. Who should bring out the truth. Unless it is too skillfully hidden. The soldier might easily have made a mistake, but there’s a man in a policeman’s uniform who made a worse mistake. And all the retractions in the world won’t cleanse the name of Aiken. Till we find that man. I assure you Mr. Weeks, I do not doubt the word of your police chief. Your patrol officers, or your city recorder. But neither do I doubt the word of the blinded Negro boy. His suffering gives his oath a special validity. And I would take it against the Supreme Court and the President of the United States.

Let us say he misunderstood what was said to him. Or let us say he was lied to. But just saying that isn’t enough. Your city’s honor is certainly more important than my pride. But honor and pride are piddling trifles beside a pair of eyes. If it is your point that the boy was lied to, it is my point that we must refuse to rest until we’ve unmasked the liar. If you want me to say that this awful thing did not happen in your city, then there’s an American soldier who believes that it did happen in your city. And I cannot forget that. It is to him, Mr. Weeks, that you should address your first, and most indignant letters. They will of course need to be transcribed in braille.

And now I see my time is just about up. That’s all I have to say to you, for the moment, Mr. Mayor of Aiken. And you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming to this part of your dial at this part of a Sunday. Please let me join you next week at this same time and…
let me hear from you. Your letters are much appreciated, I like reading them on this program. Till next week then, same time, same station. I remain as always, obediently yours.

4 Transcript for “Orson Welles Commentary: To be Born Free”:

This is Orson Welles. I’ve spoken these words before, but not on the radio. To be born free, is to be born in debt. To live in freedom without fighting slavery, is to profiteer. By plane last night, I flew over some parts of our Republic where American citizenship is a luxury beyond the means of the majority. I rode comfortably in my plane above a sovereign state or two where fellow countrymen of ours can’t vote without the privilege of cash. I bought my breakfast this morning where Negroes may not come except to serve their white brothers. And there I overheard a member of some master race or other tell all those who listened that something must be done to suppress the Jews.

I have met southerners who expect and fear a Negro insurrection. I see no purpose in withholding this from general discussion. There may be those in that outcast ten percent of the American people who someday will strike back at their oppressors, but to put down that mob, a mob would rise. I’d like to ask please, who will put down that mob? The scaly dinosaurs of reaction, if indeed they notice what I’m speaking here, will say in their newspapers that I’m a communist. Communists know otherwise. I’m an overpaid movie producer with pleasant reasons to rejoice, and I do, in the wholesome practicability of the profit system. But surely my right to having more than enough is cancelled if I don’t use that more to help those who have less.

My subject today is the question of moral indebtedness. So, I’d like to acknowledge here the debt that goes with ownership. I believe, and this has very much to do with my own notion of freedom, I believe I owe the very profit I make to the people I make it from. If this is radicalism, it comes…automatically to most of us in show business, it being generally agreed that any public man owes his position to the public. That’s what I mean when I say I’m your obedient servant. It’s a debt payable in service and the highest efforts of the debtor. The extension of this moral argument insists no man owns anything outright since he owns it rent free. A wedding never bought a wife. And the devotion of his child is no man’s for the mere begetting. We must each day earn what we own. A healthy man owes to the sick all that he can do for them. An educated man owes to the ignorant all that he can do for them. A free man owes to the world’s slaves all that he can do for them. And what is to be done is more, much more, than good works, Christmas baskets, bonuses, and tips, and bread and circuses. There is only one thing to be done with slaves. Free them.

If we can’t die in behalf of progress, we can live for it. Progress, we Americans take to mean, a fuller realization of democracy. The measure of progress, as we understand it, is the measure of equality enjoyed by all men. We can do something about that. The way our fighting brothers and sisters looked at it, some of them dead as I speak these words, the way they looked at it: we’re lucky. And they’re right, we’re lucky. We’re lucky to be alive. But only if our lives make life itself worth dying for. We must be worthy of our luck, or we are damned. Our lives were spared, but this is merely the silliest of accidents. Unless we put the gift of life to the hard employments of justice. If we waste that gift, we won’t have anywhere to hide from the indignation of history.

I wanna say this. The morality of the auction block is out of date. There is no room in the American century for Jim Crow. The times urge new militancy upon the democratic attitude. Tomorrow’s democracy discriminates against discrimination. Its charter won’t include the freedom to end freedom. What is described as a feeling against some races can’t be further respected. Feeling is a ninnyish, mincing way of saying something ugly. But the word is good enough for race hate when we add that it’s a feeling of guilt. Race hate isn’t human nature, race hate is the abandonment of human nature. But this is true: we hate whom we hurt. And we mistrust whom we betray. There are minority problems because minority races are often wronged. Race hate distilled from the suspicions of ignorance takes its welcome from the impotent and the godless. Comforting these with hellish parodies of what they’ve lost. Arrogance to take the place of pride. Contempt to occupy the spirit emptied of love of man. There are alibis for the phenomenon, excuses, economic and social, but the brutal fact is simply this: where the racist lies are acceptable, there is corruption. Where there is hate, there is shame. The human soul receives race hate only in the sickness of guilt.

The Indian, the Red Indian, is on our American conscience. The Negro is on our conscience, the Chinese and the Mexican American are on our conscience. The Jew is on the conscience of Europe. But our neglect gives us communion in that guilt. So that there dances even here the lunatic spectre of anti-semitism. This is deplored. But it must be fought. And the fight must be won. The race haters must be stopped. The lynchings must be stopped. No matter who’s going to be governor of Georgia, the murders in Monroe must be avenged. Gene Talmadge might call it foreign meddling, but the governor-elect who, you remember, campaigned on the Bilbo platform of race-hate needs to be told: that all the states in the Union and all the people in them are concerned. Immediately, personally concerned when a mob forms in the sovereign privacy of Georgia. The mob said it was taking care of things in its own way, well then, we’re going to have to take care of the mob. In our own way.

Those who take the law into their own hands are going to learn about some laws that’ll tie their hands. We’ll write those laws, and we’ll enforce them. To do him justice, old Gene went and issued himself a statement. After the killings in Monroe were public knowledge, he said the killings were regrettable. But old Gene’s made it plenty clear, he doesn’t figure any foreigner has the right to poke around asking embarrassing questions. I am sending old Gene a copy of the dawn sermon of the tolling bell, but I don’t suppose he’ll get the point. The point is, of course, that no man, even Gene Talmadge, is an island entire of itself. Point, of course, is that even Georgia is a piece of the continent. The American continent. And if a clod be washed away by the sea, or if a colored man and his wife are murdered on a dusty country road, America is the less.

And then there’s the soldier in the hospital. The blind soldier. The soldier said he was blinded, and the mayor and the chief of police in the place where the soldier says it happened, are most indignant with me for repeating what he said and swore to. The Times the other day was full of their official protests. Sent under seal all the way up to New York City via the inviolable borders of Aiken county, in South Carolina. My investigators are still hard at work on the case. If the soldier was wrong about the place, I’m going to do something about it. But he isn’t wrong about his eyes. He lost them. I’m going to do something about that. All the affidavits from all the policemen in the world won’t protest his eyes back in his head. Somebody, somebody who called himself an officer of the law, beat that boy with a stick, until he lost his sight. Now, that somebody is nobody. He’s vanished, he’s never been heard of, he hasn’t any name, well…he’s going to be heard of. The blind soldier has my promise of that. That somebody is going to be named. Editorials, and lots of newspapers, and lots of people, are writing me to demand to know what business it is of mine. God judge me if it isn’t the most pressing business I have.

The blind soldier fought for me in this war. The least I can do now is fight for him. I have eyes. He hasn’t. I have a voice on the radio, he hasn’t. I was born a white man. And until a colored man is a full citizen, like me, I haven’t the leisure to enjoy the freedom that colored man risked his life to maintain for me. I don’t own what I have until he owns an equal share of it. Until somebody beats me and blinds me, I am in his debt. And so I come to this microphone not as a radio dramatist, though it pays better, not as a commentator, although it’s safer to be simply that, I come in that boy’s name, and in the name of all who in this land of ours have no voice of their own. I come with a call for action. This is a time for it. I call for action against the cause of riot. I know that to some ears, even the word “action” has a revolutionary twang, and it won’t surprise me if I’m accused in some quarters of inciting to riot. Well, I’m very interested in riots. I’m very interested in avoiding them. And so I call for action against the cause of riots.

Law is the best action, the most decisive. I call for laws prohibiting what moral judgement already counts as lawlessness. American law forbids a man the right to take away another’s right. It must be law that groups of men can’t use the machinery of our republic to limit the rights of other groups. The vote can’t be used to take away the vote. It’s in the people’s power to see to it that what makes lynchings and starts wars is dealt with. Not by well-wishers, but by policemen. And I mean good policemen. Oh, for several generations there may be men who can’t be weaned away from the fascist vices of race hate. But we should deny such men the responsibility in public affairs exactly as we deny responsibility to the wretched victims of the drug habit. There are laws against peddling dope, there can be laws against peddling race hate. But every man has a right to his own opinion as an American boasts, but race hate is not an opinion, it’s a phobia. It isn’t a viewpoint, race hate is a disease. In a people’s world, the incurable racist has no rights. He must be deprived of influence in a people’s government. He must be segregated, as he himself would segregate the colored and semitic peoples. As we now segregate the leprous and the insane.

Anything very big is very simple.ΒΈ If there’s a big race question, there’s a big answer to it. The big answer is simple. Like the word no. This is my proposition: that the sin of race hate be solemnly declared a crime. What makes this difficult is the conservative fear of raising issues. Well, let’s admit that this fear is often no more sinister than an honest dread of going to the dentist, but let’s respect the effectiveness of reactionary manipulations of that fear, which is the fear of anarchy and revolution. It is put to wicked use against the same general welfare conservative opinion seeks to protect. Forced to acknowledge Hitler’s enmity, conservatives are loathe to admit that even as he surrendered in Europe, he succeeded in America. Let conservatives evaluate the impudent candor of fascism in Argentina today. And be reminded that the heroic survival of our liberty is no proof of its immortality. Our liberty every day has to be safe from marauders whose greed is for all things possessed by the people. Care of these possessions is the hope of life on this planet. They are living things, they grow. These fair possessions of democracy. And nothing but death can stop that growth. Let the yearners for the past, the willfully childish, learn now the facts of life.

The first of which is the fact of that growth. In our hemisphere, the growing has begun, but only just begun. America can write her name across this century, and so she will, if we, the people, brown and black and red, rise now to the great occasion of our brotherhood. It will take courage. It calls for the doing of great deeds, which means the dreaming of great dreams. Giving the world back to its inhabitants is too big a job for the merely practical. The architects of freedom are always capable of hope. The lawmakers of true democracy are true believers. They believe quite simply in the people, in all of them. Only the devout deserve the trust of government, for only the devout can face the unimaginable vistas of man’s destiny. God grant them steadfast hope and the rest of us enduring patience. For we must not expect from any leadership a shiny ready made millennium in our time. No one of us will live to see a blameless peace. We must strive and pray and die for what will be here when we’re gone. Our children’s children are the ancestors of a free people. We send our greetings ahead of us to them.

To history yet unmade, our greetings.To the generations, sleeping in our loins.Be of good heart. The fight is worth it.

That just about means that my time is up. When my time’s up, it’s time for me to say goodbye, and to invite you please to join me, the same time, the same station. Next week. Until then. Thank you for your attention. I remain as always…obediently yours.

5 Transcript for “Orson Welles Commentary: Banned Film”:

This is Orson Welles speaking. A motion picture in which I play a part was scheduled for a couple days running last week in Aiken, South Carolina. But the film was banned. Well, I’m used to being banned. I’ve been banned by whole governments. The Nazis in Germany have banned me, and the fascists of Italy and Spain have banned me. Here at home, the merest mention of my name is forbidden by Mr. Hearst to all his subject newspapers. But: to be outlawed by an American city is a new experience.

The movie in question is neither controversial, nor obscene. But I’m in it, and for the taste of Aiken, that makes any movie too offensive to be endured. Not only was the actual celluloid driven out of the city limits, as with a fiery sword, but in defense of civic sensitivities and to protect the impressionable of Aiken’s youth from the shock of my name and likeness, a detachment of police officers working under the direction of the city council itself solemnly tore down such posters as the local theatre manager had been rash enough to put up by way of advertisement. And burnt same, together with all printed matter having reference to me, in a formal bonfire in the public streets.

I’m also informed I’ve been somewhat less officially “hanged” in effigy. And while I have an apology to offer Aiken, it’s been suggested that I would be ill advised to deliver it in person. Since I brought to your attention the case of Isaac Woodard, the case has grown to an issue of the most heated popular concern. It deserves all the national interest it’s getting. Isaac Woodard is the veteran whose eyes were beaten out of his head by a policeman, in the streets of a place in South Carolina, that Isaac Woodard thought was Aiken. He said so in an affidavit, and when I read his affidavit on this program, the mayor of Aiken, the chief of police and others, subsequently preoccupied with the public burning of my name and picture, sent affidavits of their own protesting innocence.

My problem was the choice of affidavits. The boy had been blinded. That was the one clear, brutal fact. And I stuck to that with a promise to Aiken’s officialdom that I would apologize for publishing the veterans’ testimony when and if my investigators could show a decent doubt. The records were amazingly brief. The policeman who delivered Woodard to the hospital was not named. This is most unusual. The place where the attack occurred was not mentioned in the report. This is almost unheard of.

But my investigators, the investigators of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the investigators of the FBI, have together, narrowed down the search to the town of Batesburg, some nineteen miles from Aiken. And this morning comes word that the search has been narrowed still further. I have before me…wires and press releases to the effect that a policeman of Batesburg… a man by the name of Shaw, or Shore, or Shull, it is given three different ways here…the flash is just before us…Chief L.L. Shaw. Pronounce it however you want it. Or want to. Has admitted…that he was the police officer, who blinded Isaac Woodard. Thirty miles from Aiken. In South Carolina. This is in Batesburg.

I give you a few more of the facts. He has corroborated an army statement. Has police chief Shull or Shaw. That ex-serviceman Isaac Woodard was struck on the head with a blackjack. Chief Shull or Shaw says he was called to the bus one night last February to arrest Woodard who, and I’m reading from a Press Association, he said was drunk. Shaw claimed to have hit Woodard across the head when Woodard tried to take away his blackjack. He added that the blow may have landed in the veteran’s eyes. Shull or Shaw, the police chief, described the eyes as swollen the next day when Woodard was fined and the record’s his court, and says he then drove Woodard to a veterans’ hospital, at a doctor’s suggestion. Now, you remember from the affidavit, and from further reports of our investigators, that Woodard said he’d been offered liquor, after he was attacked by the police, which he refused. And investigators at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples, have discovered three other occupants of that bus. All of whom claim, in affidavits, that Woodard was not drunk, nor was he drinking. Woodard, you might remember, appealed for medical aid. And also according to the UP, Shaw, or Shore, or Shull, brands these stories as lies. He has volunteered no information, for this, he was unearthed by investigation. Well, the good citizens of Aiken must be surely so glad to hear this, that my apology tendered here with and as promised, most abjectly, will come as merely incidental comfort.

Batesburg, unlike Aiken, has turned out to be to blame. The search is narrowed down. We’re getting close to the truth, we have the admission of a man that he was the officer, the officer whom I call X. I would like to remind Officer X, otherwise known as Shull or Shaw, of another promise, a promise I made to the blinded Isaac Woodard. If Chief Shull or Shaw is listening to me now and it’s more than possible that he is, it gives me pleasure to repeat that promise. Officer X. We know your name now. Now that we’ve found you out, we’ll never lose you. If they try you for your crime, I am going to watch the trial, Chief Shull. If they jail you, I’m going to wait for your first day of freedom. You won’t be free of me. I want to see who’s waiting for you at the prison gates. I want to know who will acknowledge that they know you. I’m interested in your future, I will take note of all your destinations. Assume another name, and I will be careful that the name you would forget is not forgotten. Officer Shull or Shaw. Police chief of the city of Batesburg. I will find means to remove from you all refuge. You can’t get rid of me. We have an appointment. You and I. Only death can cancel it.

6 From “Background information collected by local black newspaper editor, September 1946 Part 1 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 893-894)” and “Background information, September 1946 Part 2 (NAACP Papers, Reel 28, Frames 895-896)”, scans at “Resonant Ripples in a Global Pond: The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”. These documents refer to Lynwood as “Leonard”, the only documents to do so – “Leonard” may have been his familiar name, while Lynwood was his formal one.

MEMORANDUM FOR ORSON WELLES’ PROGRAM

From: John H. McCray
10322 Washington Street
Columbia 20, S.C.

LIGHTHOUSE and INFORMER
John H. McCray, Pub.

Leonard L. Shull

SEP 19 1946

Leonard L. Shull, son of Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Shull was born 41 years ago in Lexington county, South Carolina — not more than eight miles from Leesville nor more than 10 miles from Batesburg, where he now serves as chief of police.

Leonard is the oldest of five children and was nursed and cared for by a colored woman, Eunice Summers, who is still in the employ of the elder Shull, who is now 49 years of age and has worked with the Shull family without respite since she was 8.

Leonard Shull grew up under the care and friendship of the colored farm hands about his father’s farm. He played ball, games, hunted, fished and occasionally fought with the young boys of his father’s tenants. And although today he has achieved greater success than they, he visits the few still alive who work for his father, the children of others whom he knew and is most cordial with the tenants who came after he grew up.

The older hands think well of him and his father. They speak of him as being considerate, as having always been good to them, some of them admit hearing of several atrocities against other Negroes attributed to him but react differently. One woman said: “Maybe it’s because some people feel they have to act mean when they’ve got a certain job.” Another, an elderly attendant of cattle and other stock owned by T.H. Shull, said, “He’s always been good to me. I hear how he done that soldier (Isaac Woodard) and some other people but I don’t know for sure. He has been good to me personally but maybe he had a reason for not hurting me”.

Leonard Shull had no “bad habits”. To this day nobody will say that he either drinks or smokes. To this day nobody will say that he either drinks or smokes. This is perhaps accounted for in the rather strict upbringing of T.H. Shull. All of the Shull children had to attend Sunday School and services in the Methodist Church near Leesville. Today, Leonard is a member of the Methodist Church at Batesburg. His father and other members of his family belong to the Methodist Church in Leesville, a town just two miles away. Persons who have been arrested by chief Shull in Batesburg describe him as of two characters. If Shull is alone, he is nice, civil and “hardly says a word to you”. If, on the other hand, either of his two aides is present, he is more often than not a roaring maniac.

It is interesting that none, or at least a negligible few, of the colored residents in Batesburg know the actual names of either of the two officers working under Shull. They have assigned their own names and have used them so long that the real names are forgotten. One of the men is known as “High Pocket” and the other, “Dood all”.

Leonard Shull attended the Batesburg-Leesville high school, at Batesburg, after which he worked on his father’s farm, whiling away his idle time around the train stations, alternately at Batesburg and at Leesville. In this manner he came to learn many of the people in the two towns and laid the groundwork for his present position.

About 16 or 17 years ago he married a young woman he met in Batesburg but who is a native of Charleston county and had moved here with her family. Today, Mamie Shull is about 35 years of age, sort of plump, has brown hair and blue eyes. To this union was born a daughter, Heloine, who is about 14 years of age and attends the Batesburg-Leesville School. Having acquired much of her father’s obesity, she appears older and larger than her actual age.

Leonard Shull, himself, is about 5 feet 9 in height, weighs about 225 pounds; has blue eyes, brown hair which is slightly grey-stroked.

He dresses plainly, come Sundays when he doffs his customary uniform, he dons the only attire he has been known to wear for years: blue serge suit, white shirt and black tie, black shoes and tops it off with a black hat. Last year, the TWIN CITY NEWS, weekly newspaper published for the two towns, listed his weight at 215.

The chief has always loved Ford cars. Presently, his is a 1946 Ford sedan (black) model in which he usually rides Heloine to and from school in, and give the family a Sunday outing in or shuttles back and forth between his father’s present home, located on U.S. Highway No. 1 between Batesburg and Leesville, where he visits his mother and two brothers who live with their parents.

Leonard’s brothers are Shuford and Carson. Both are veterans of World War Two, Carson having been wounded in action in Europe, Carson is also married but Shuford isn’t, Leonard’s two sisters are both married. One married a man by the name of Charles and makes her home with him now in Edgefield county. The other married a man from Orangeburg county, where she now lives.

The older Shull, while credited by his farm hands and house servants as being a “good white man”, doesn’t enjoy a similar reputation from men released from the Leesville camp of the Lexington county chain gang system. For a number of years, T.H. Shull has been superintendent or supervisor Captain of the Louisville camp which enjoys a reputation as unsavory as any other of several camps in the county. His office is located in the county courthouse at Lexington. Officially, he is listed as one of three county commissioners for Lexington county, renominated to the office in July’s democratic primaries.

Leonard’s present position, while probably accentuated by his own elbow rubbing, is attributed to his father’s political influence. It is believed that his father had a direct hand in his appointment. It is known, however, that mayor Quarles of Batesburg, an in-law of Leonard’s is a part of the elder Shull’s machine and owes his office largely to Shull’s interest.

Servants report having heard the elder Shull counsel his son to “be careful” several times after rumors spread that a Negro had been mistreated by Batesburg officers. They quote the younger Shull as saying his men were “too hard”. When news of the Woodard blinding broke, the younger Shull, after conferring with his father, left Batesburg for a “vacation” and stayed away a month, Mayor Quarles also took a sudden vacation but stayed away about fifteen days.

Leonard consulted his father on his return and was told “things have died down but for goodness sake, be more careful the next time”. No serious incidents have been reported at the hands of any Batesburg officer since that time. However, residents still plead with you to “be careful” and “don’t let them (police) know you are here”. These people believe that Batesburg officers operate under an extensive “stool pigeon” system, in which in return for safety to themselves, Negroes “stool” on other Negroes.

NOTE: Please protect identity of Denice Summers mentioned in this memorandum. Others involved, from whom much of the information contained herein came, are A.C. Bernos [maybe – this last is very difficult to read in the original], stockyard attendant for the older Shull who, by the way has extensive land and dairy holdings in the county, Mrs. Archie Beacham, Mrs. Annie Mae Cortmann and Mr. Amos, the town’s undertaker. Some of came also from a filling station attendant, a packer [again, maybe – this last is very difficult to read in the original] a few doors from the Shull home and several other persons.

Leonard Shull and his family live in a beautiful bungalow in front of the Batesburg post office and diagonally across from the Batesburg railroad station.

7 Transcript for “Orson Welles Commentary: The Place Was Batesburg”:

This is Orson Welles speaking. The place was Batesburg. Isaac Woodard thought it happened in Aiken. He was wrong. I’ve repeatedly explained Woodard’s mistake, and repeatedly apologized. But I broadcast his affidavit, and now the city of Aiken having banned my movies burned the posters in the streets, and hanged me in effigy, is threatening to sue me for the sum of two million dollars.

Well, if I had all that money, honestly, I wouldn’t mind owing it to Aiken for the pride of having finally put the blame where it belonged. The blame belongs, as I say, in Batesburg. Batesburg, South Carolina. It was Monday, February 13th, 1946. A minister and several workmen saw the police chief of Batesburg and a highway patrolman, pouring buckets of water over the head and body of a soldier who’d been arrested the night before. What the policemen were washing away was blood. And between each bucket they stopped and asked the soldier, “Can you see yet?” Each time the soldier answered, “No.”

The soldier was a Negro. We know now that his name is Isaac Woodard. And that the police chief had beaten him the day before. And blinded him. With a blackjack. When I stumbled on the story several months later, and brought it to public attention on this program, the name of the guilty policeman was unknown and it looked as if it always would be. I promised to get that name, I have it now. The minister and the workmen provided our investigators with one clue, and there were other clues, all led to a single man.

All clues led to Mr. L. L. Shull. Chief of police in Batesburg, South Carolina. Now we have him. We won’t let him go. I promised to hunt him down. I have. I gave my word I’d see him unmasked. I’ve unmasked him. I’m going to haunt police Chief Shull. For all the rest of his natural life. Mr. Shull is not going to forget me. And what’s more important, I’m not going to let you forget Mr. Shull.

Now, here’s a letter. It goes like this: Well, Mr. Welles. You’ve just lost yourself an ardent fan. That little speech you made on the radio about that Negro got his eyes poked out did it. You don’t know a thing about this case, and I’m quite sure I heard the correct side of the story. Being as I live in the very state in which it happened. And proud of it. But it seems as if the Yankees always have to pick on somebody about something, and especially the South. Well, I’m going to put you wise for once. If the North would let the South alone a while, and not try to bully them, everything would soon turn out just right for everybody concerned. We want the Negro to have a fair chance, we don’t believe the two races should mix. However, it seems as if the North is trying its darndest to make a mulatto nation of the whole South. Well, it isn’t going to work. I believe that we would all die fighting – men and women, side by side. Before we would let a calamity like this happen to the glorious homeland of gallant men and their women, who have certain well-founded beliefs, and never take anything from anybody. Now to get back to that story. I’ve been around associating with the policemen, or round about, and I happen to know the Negro who received the eye injury was extremely insolent, very unruly, tried to make a getaway from a police officer. Seems like you all want to give the Negro a better chance than you would a white man. And my dear man, I shall present a startling fact to you: the policeman in question did not cause the eye injury to the Negro, it was due to a fight the Negro had with another Negro. And he is trying to put the blame on the officer so he will draw a pension. Think that over, Mr. Orson Welles. Doubtless you have lost quite a few fans from that little dramatic speech you made so full of emotion and tragic tears for the man. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Signed, Your former fan.

Well, we’ve been getting a lot of those anonymous letters since we broke the Isaac Woodard case on this program. But this answer answered them all. Dear former fan, You say the north is bullying the south. That if the yankees would stop always picking on somebody for something, everything would turn out just right for everybody concerned. I’m afraid you’re missing the point. Batesburg isn’t another battlefield of the civil war. The sides contending over the scandal of Isaac Woodard, aren’t the blue and the gray. They are the right and the wrong. And on your side of the Mason Dixon line, as on mine, most of the people are on the right side of that argument. Course you’re proud to live in South Carolina, you ought to be. I think you’ll find that most of your neighbours in South Carolina are ashamed of Mr. M. L. Shull, the police chief, who beat out the Negro soldier’s eyes with his blackjack. I’m proud to live in America, but I’m ashamed of Chief Shull and his blackjack. I’d be ashamed of him if I was a citizen of Tibet. Isaac Woodard was not involved in a conspiracy to make a mulatto nation of the South. He was just taking a bus trip to Winnsboro to meet a young woman who belongs to his race and who bears his name. But Isaac Woodard never got to see his wife. He’ll never see her. Never. Isaac Woodard is blind. Why? Because the North is bullying the South? My dear former fan, your startling fact about the eye injury, “eye injury”, those are your words, “eye injury”, being the work of another Negro is meaningless. In the face of Chief Shull’s own confession, he did it himself. And even Chief Shull doesn’t claim he was defending the sanctity of white womanhood. Even Chief Shull doesn’t claim he was keeping Isaac Woodard from marrying his sister. Well, that’s enough of that for now. We’ll come back to Mr. Shull next week. And the week after that. The week after that.

My time remaining is dedicated to a man whose name we’ll never, never know. Before the year now generally called “Munich”, perhaps a season or so earlier, there was a treasure hunt, in Paris. Please visualize the celebrants, not as Parisians, but as notables as they mostly were of a very publicly gay wing of international society. You may know that a treasure hunt proposes a number of unlikely quests. When the list is imaginative, it can be fun. Here was a treasure hunt for the history of the game. There was no limit to the mad invention of it, one item was something unmentionably intimate, and that’s all I know about it, a possession of the mistress of a cabinet minister. Another prize was a legal certificate of marriage binding between a couple who hadn’t considered any such solemnity. There were a dozen more of these treasures, all as extraordinary, and for a climax, nothing less than a cigar still smoking lit at the flame which burns forever, by the tomb of the unknown soldier. Now, decency expects of a tomb that it guard for the lifetime of stone what was once the habitation of the spirit of man. The conscience of the world defends the memorial of those who in the last war, as in this, died for peace. You agree we catch a glimpse here of something worse than mere bad taste, picnicking on an old grave, something…perverse. Wickeder than any casual defilement of god’s image. Only another bad peace could make anyone laugh at a dead soldier again.

‘Course, whoever lit his cigar from that flame may have thought the unknown soldier wasn’t anybody he knew. It’s true there isn’t anyone in particular to mourn for the man who is buried there, so…everybody mourns for him. The marker can’t have known that he profaned his brother’s grave. But how could he forget? The sense of man’s brotherhood is all that can sustain the human spirit for the loss of god. And this man had no god. By what did he live? The loss of faith is the condition of despair and the alternative to despair is the worship of Caesar. What’s sure is the marking of sacrifice cannot survive elsewhere, but in that evil climate of the soul where fascism prepares its subjects. Very probably the man with the cigar was one of these pre-fabricated pagans who rode the joyless carousel of the twenties and thirties, one of those, you know, who doubted if anything is ever really bad or really good. If the man with the cigar is alive then he might have changed his mind, he found something bad enough to fight. He might even think something good is real enough to defend. I think we know these things, but never say them enough. Bad and good have been at war, god knows, since the first morning of the world. Men do the fighting, if they didn’t, this planet would be nothing better than a zoo.

Faith is the tinder of man’s greatness. So long as he shields it from despair, he is going to keep the gift of fire. There is one choice, no more. One choice, and no exemptions. Those who believe this recent war can be the last, are those who won it. Those who lost suppose that war itself breeds without cure in the nature of all people. These are the same who fattened on this war, they’re the same who plan the next one. The slaves doubt their kind’s capacity to learn and change. The slavers curb with doubt the people’s righteous will to abide by its own laws. They are all the same, we have this to be glad of them. These who are of little faith, the blasphemers, experts in chaos, or the sick in spirit, these who can’t or won’t affirm the plain magnificence or decency of human folk, all such on this our brightening world, are rallied in the shadows now, under the banners of despair. Defeat if their profession. And their destination. Victory rises even today. Before the men of faith.

This last war might have been the last war. If it was, and only if it was, we’ll know the world’s first peace. But let’s have an end, to the old stalemates and manipulations. The people want a government of all their nations, the chance to know each other better, to visit neighbors and make friends. They want open borders. They want everything printed in the newspaper, so they know whether they like what’s going on or whether they don’t. They’re tired the people are, of secrets and spies, they’re tired of striped pants. The people want their own diplomats. And all these things, the people are going to have. Unless they’re cheated out of them. Paris notwithstanding. If free men who fought for freedom, aren’t going to be allowed to destroy fascism, if anything that looks like fascism is suffered to sit down among us, the cynics will be right again, an ordered world where everyone is free to prosper and improve is still a far off dream. The fuhrer gave his sway a thousand years. His doom was sure. He lost. But those who fought him know they might not win.

That thousand years of his was a good guess. At least a thousand years waits on the chance of another war, another war means worse than the leveling of all the cities, we know that. It means retreat, a setback longer than the quarter of a century, wasted since the unknown soldier died for us. A thousand years is a long march. We are the ancestors of unknown soldiers who must go that bloody length again. Unless we who are weary of marching, go on marching. Forward is the way, forward, beyond peace, on into the free world which depends on it. A free world means just that, we must refuse all substitutes. A free world depends on that refusal. Liberals have a lot to say these days about the dangers of reaction. Reaction is no danger, it’s a certainty. Maybe it won’t amount to much, maybe it’s going to be a tidal wave, the answer isn’t written in the stars, it’s up to the democratic man. He must stand fast now. This time he daren’t lose, or nothing will be left. Nothing even to start with. And they’ll build a new war monument, not to the unknown soldier, but to the unknown cause.

Maybe they’ll keep an enigmatic flame alive, to show where freedom died. But nobody will start a cigar on that sepulchre. Wouldn’t even be funny. The alternative, of course, is civilization, a bookish and uneasy word, that civilization. Our languages will bare fairer names for it when we’ve struggled closer to what we describe. Peace then will go as unremarked as the free air. Peace after all is no more than the victory of the farm over the wilderness. As probable as that, no more hard earned. But never think our work is over when we’ve won that peace. We’ll know better. And even when the world is free, we’ll know we’ve just begun. Here it is: here is the peace, we’ll say. Standing in the midst of it, like ploughmen, content with the good order of their fields. Standing together, since mankind will be every man’s family. When the tools of war are put away for good. Here is peace. Here is peace, we’ll say to each other. Proudly, undismayed. Nobody will confuse it with the millennium. Then the abundance of the human spirit will be ready for harvest.

And even the children will see the final peace, is merely history’s first important date.

Now I see my time’s up. Thank you for letting me come to call, please make a date for next Sunday at this same time. Until then. I remain as always, obediently yours.

8 Transcript from “Bus driver testimony, November 1947 Part 1” and “Bus driver testimony, November 1947 Part 2”. T. Gillis Nutter is the attorney for the plaintiff. Stanley C. Morris is the attorney for the defendant:

ALTON C. BLACKWELL, having been first duly sworn as a witness, testified as follows:

DIRECT EXAMINATION

BY MR. MORRIS:

Q What is your name?

A Alton C. Blackwell.

Q Where do you live?

A Columbia, South Carolina.

Q What is your age?

A Thirty-four.

Q What is your occupation?

A Bus driver for the Atlantic Greyhound Corporation.

Q How long have you been a bus driver for the Atlantic Greyhound Corporation?

A Approximately 5 years.

Q Please state whether or not at or about the time you were employed, or early in your employment, you were given a course of training in that work.

A Yes, sir, I was trained.

Q Did you attend one of their drivers’ schools?

A Yes, sir.

Q At what place?

A Charleston, West Virgina.

Q What was the lighting in the bus at that time? Were there some dim lights on?

A A small light across from the emergency door was burning.

Q All right, what happened as you went on toward Edgefield or as you got to Edgefield or after you got there?

A After I got to Edgefield stepped off the bus directly behind me and requested that I wait for him.

Q Did he assign any reason?

A Yes, he said he had to go around the corner and take a piss.

Q Was that the language he used?

A That was the language he used exactly.

Q Did he speak that in confidential tones or loud tones?

A Well, it was loud enough that anybody could hear it in front of the bus, I don<t know whether they could hear it in the back or not, but they could in the front.

Q Did he get off the bus then?

A Yes.

Q Was he back as soon as you were ready to go?

A Just a few minutes later.

Q What happeend then after you left Edgefield?

A I said, "Boy, go on back and sit down and keep quiet and don't be talking out so loud. Everybody can hear you."

Q Did he say why he wanted you to stop?

A Yes.

Q Did he use the same kind of languge?

A He used the same language.

Q What did you say about his opportunity to releive himself at Batesburg or get off later?

MR. NUTTER: Your Honor, I object to all these leading questions.

MR MORRIS: Q Well: did you tell him anything else besides telling him to go back and sit down?

THE COURT: Yes, that question was leading, Mr. Morris.

MR. MORRIS: Very well, Your Honor.

Q Did you tell him anything else other than to go back and sit down, on that occasion?

A I believe I told him he could get out at Batesburg, that it would not be but a few minutes before we got there.


Q According to this map, at right angles to North Railroad Avenue appears to be Oak Street and Granite Street down here. In which direction did Officer Shull take Woodard, did they go toward Oak or Granite Street?

A Toward Granite Street.

Q You spoke about seeing them approaching, I believe you said a corner when Woodard was apparently trying to jerk away from Chief Shull or the corner, is that right?

A The corner at Granite and North Railroad Avenue, yes, sir.

Q Did they go around that corner in the direction fo Granite Street?

A Yes, sir, around the corner down Granite Street.

Q Did you see them any more?

A No, I did not.

Q State whether at any time in your presence or so far as you saw, Officer Shull struck Woodard with his hands or with any weapon.

A No, sir, I did not see him strike him at all.


Q All right, now did you go back to the sidewalk or where did you go from there, you and Officer Long?

A I believe I went back outside the bus to check the bus before leaving.

Q What was happening at that time as between Chief Shull and Woodard?

A They were leaving, I believe, going on to the jail.

Q Going away from the bus?

A That is right, and I could see them rounding the corner down there and he was puling back, resisting arrest.

Q Where was that?

A And he was using loud and boisterous talk. That wasn’t the corner down from the drugstore and the bus station.

Q Have you examined this map sufficiently to identify where the bus stopped there in Batesburg?

A Yes, sir.

9 Transcript from “Orson Welles Sketchbook – Episode 3: The Police”:

I was, uh, many years, a radio commentator…in America. During that time, of course, I had occasion to speak on a great variety of subjects. *tears paper out of sketchbook* Of all those subjects, one of the most interesting stories, the one that sticks most vividly in memory, had to do with a Negro soldier. Here he is:

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Boy had seen service in the South Pacific, he was on his way home. Home was in one of the Southern states…he was on a bus, on the way he felt ill, he asked the bus driver to let him off. Bus driver refused, abusively. There was an argument, at the end of which a policeman was called in, who dragged the boy out of the bus, took him behind a building, and beat him viciously. And when he was unconscious, poured gin over him, put him in jail, charged him with drunkenness and assault. When the boy regained consciousness, he discovered that he was blind. The policeman had literally beaten out his eyes. Now, of course, that sortof policeman is the exception. That’s when a policeman is a criminal in uniform. I had the satisfaction of being instrumental in bringing that particular policeman to justice. Case was brought to my attention, and I brought it to the attention of the radio public, and we did finally manage to locate this man, and bring him into a court of law.

But there is, another sort of police abuse. Of which I think we all suffer, more or less. We suffer it at the hands of good policemen. Decent policemen. Policemen doing their duty. These are all the little petty annoyances, that don’t seem very important, but add up to an invasion of our privacy, and assault against our dignity as human beings. I’m brought in mind by all this, because just now I had my passport renewed. That made me think of all the forms, police questionnaires we have to fill out. One of the unpleasant things about your passport, getting a new one of course, is that you have to get a new picture, in which you invariably look older, and sometimes, a little worse than older.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

I wonder why it is that so many of us tend to look like criminals in a police line-up when we have our picture taken for our passport. I suppose it’s the unconscious foreknowledge of the…scrutiny to which our likeness will be subjected that gives us the hangdog guilty look. Really, theoretically, a passport is supposed to be issued for our protection. But on how many frontiers, and how many countries I’ve handed over my passport with all the emotions of an apprentice forger trying to fob off a five pound note on the Bank of England. A guilty conscience, I suppose. But, there’s something about being ticketed and numbered, that gives a man the feeling of being a piece of baggage, a convict. You can’t help thinking of our fathers’ day, when the world hadn’t grown so small. You could move about in it without being watched so closely.

Nowadays of course, we are now treated as demented or delinquent children. And the eyes are always on us. In our fathers’ day, of course, there weren’t any passports. The only countries that required an entry visa were Montenegro and Russia.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Here I am in the hands of the police. This is an illustration of a story. It happened in a country that I think had better remain nameless.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Enough trouble in the world as it is. First of all, I better explain that I carry, or at least carried, what Mr. Roosevelt once described when I showed it to him as the cheapest diplomatic passport in the world. In an American passport, I don’t know whether it’s true in an English one, on the front page there’s a place that says: “In case of death or accident, please notify…” and then you usually put the name of some near or dear one. In my case, I put “In case of death or accident please notify Franklin D. Roosevelt, Washington, D.C.” But at the time of this story, when I was stopped by the police, Mr. Roosevelt had died, Mr. Truman was president, and an election was coming up in which Truman was running against Dewey. Now, I made the mistake that a great deal of my fellow countrymen did, that Mr. Dewey was going to win. And because I wasn’t very fond of Mr. Dewey, I had written in my passport, “In case of accident, please notify Thomas Dewey, Washington, D.C.” My thought being, the least I could do to devil Mr. Dewey was to arrive in a coffin some morning. And it was therefore that passport that I handed to the police at eleven o’clock one wintry night in the mountains. And they jumped out of the road which, as I say, is going to be nameless, and with drawn guns, demanded what I had in my baggage.

Now there wasn’t any frontier, there couldn’t be any question of customs, so I asked them cheerfully, by way of conversation, whether this was a raid on dope smugglers, black marketeers, or whatever; they didn’t feel like joking, they said “It is not for you to converse with the police. Open your bag!” And I said, “Well, I’m afraid to, because the bag will blow up.” And they asked me what I meant by that, and I explained I had an atom bomb, a small one, in the bag – so wired to the catch that if you opened the bag, there would be a dreadful explosion. Why? I said I was going to La Scala, that I didn’t like the opera, and I was angry at the management, I was going to make an outrage, and that was what I had in my bag. And they said, you mustn’t joke with the police, the argument went on some time, very unpleasant, it got to be about two in the morning, one of those long drawn out practical jokes that you’ll regret, and finally they got around to looking at my passport. I was, of course, grateful, most grateful that they did, because when they saw the name Thomas Dewey, they said, “Oh! Excuse us Mr. Dewey, please continue!” And I don’t know quite what that story illustrates, except that it shows that a passport does have its purpose.

I don’t want you to think from this story that I’m an anarchist, or that I’m against the police…on the principle that I believe in fighting them with practical jokes, much less by lawlessness, just the contrary.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

Now, I know I was wrong to make all that trouble for those police, in the mountains of that…nameless country. But, you see, I do a lot of travelling, I’ve been travelling all my life in fact. I was born in America, raised partly in China, and sent about the world a good bit before the war, and a great deal during it, and more afterwards. An office in one country, a studio in another, the last film, for instance, was made in four countries. So I have a good deal of experience in crossing borders, and coping with the coppers all over the world. And it is true, you know, that we’re invited in the travel posters be tourists, but once we attempt it, we do discover we’re guilty until proven innocent.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

That being so, I think a word or two on red tape-ism and bureaucracy, particularly as it applies to freedom of movement, might be in order. Sure that’s true of all of us. Think of all those forms we have to fill out, for example, you know what I mean by police forms, we get them at hotels and frontiers, in every country all over the world. We’re asked, state your sex, male or female, for example. Well, obviously I’m a male, I’m a man, why should I have to answer that? State your race and religion in block letters…well now, why should I have to confide my religion to the police? Frankly, I don’t think anybody’s race is anybody’s business. I’m willing to admit a policeman has a difficult job, a very hard job. But it’s the essence of our society that a policeman’s job should be hard. He’s there to protect…protect the free citizen, not to chase criminals, that’s an incidental part of his job. A free citizen is always more of a nuisance to the policeman than a criminal. He knows what to do about the criminal. I know it’s very nice to look out of our window in our comfortable home and see the policeman protecting our home, we should be grateful to the policeman, but I think we should be grateful too…for the laws which protect us against the policeman. There are those laws, you know, they’re quite different from the police regulations.

But the regulations do pile up. Forms keep coming in. We keep being asked to state our grandmothers, fathers’ name in block letters, and to say whether we propose to overthrow the government, in triplicate, why, that sort of thing, but you see, the bureaucrat, and I’m including the bureaucrat with the police, is part of one great big monstrous thing. The bureaucrat is really like a blackmailer, you can never pay him off, the more you give him, the more he’ll demand. You fill in one form, he’ll give you ten. And what are we going to do about it? Obviously, we can’t go on giving into this thing. Well you say just a minute, why shouldn’t we give into it, why should we make trouble for the policeman? Well, the truth is, why should the policeman make trouble for us? Why should he ask these things that are stated quite clearly enough in our passport? Our passport tells us everything that the policeman doesn’t need to know. Why should we make trouble, well…we don’t, because we don’t want to get into trouble with the police.

We’re told that we should co-operate with the authorities. I’m not an anarchist. I don’t want to overthrow the rule of law, on the contrary, I want to bring the policeman to law. Obviously individual effort won’t do any good. There’s nothing an individual can do about protecting the individual in society. I’d like it very much if somebody would make a great big international organisation for the protection of the individual. That way there could be officers at every frontier. And whenever we presented with something unpleasant, instead of having to fill out one of these idiotic questionnaires, we could say, “I’m sorry, it’s against the rules of our organization to fill out that questionnaire.” And when they say, ah, but it’s the regulations, we could say, “Very well, see our lawyer, because if there are enough of us, our dues would pay for the best lawyers in all the countries of the world.” We could bring to court these invasions against our privacy and test them under law. It would be very nice to have that sort of an organisation, it would be nice to have that sort of card. I see the card as fitting into the passport, a little larger than the passport, with a border around it in bright colours, so that it would catch the eyes of the police. And they’d know who they were dealing with, something like this.

Isaac Woodard Officer X Orson Welles

The card should look like a union card, the card of an automobile club, and since its purpose is to impress and control officialdom, well, obviously it should be as official looking as possible, with a lot of seals and things like that on it. And it might read something as follows. “This is to certify that the bearer is a member of the human race. All relevant information is to be found in his passport…and except when there’s good reason for suspecting him of some crime, he will refuse to submit to police interrogation on the grounds that any such interrogation is an intolerable nuisance. And life being as short as it is, a waste of time. Any infringement on his privacy or interference with his liberty, any assault, however petty against his dignity as a human being, will be rigorously prosecuted by the undersigned, I.S.P.I.A.O.,”…and that would be the International Association for the Protection of the Individual Against Officialdom.” If any such organization is ever organized…you could put me down as a charter member.

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