Timeline: Contained in the case that bankrupt the Klan

2021-04-10 19:00:34

Nineteen-year-old Michael Donald was considerate and accountable — working at night time and watching Perry’s oldest son throughout the day. He’d been with Perry at one other sister’s dwelling in Cellular, Alabama, when he stepped out round 11 p.m. to choose up cigarettes. Because the hour grew later with no signal of him, “all people assumed that he’d gone dwelling to my mother,” Perry says in CNN’s docuseries, “The Folks v. The Klan.”

However Michael wasn’t there. Whereas out on his errand, {the teenager} was kidnapped at gunpoint by two members of the Ku Klux Klan, who viciously beat, killed after which lynched {the teenager}. The subsequent morning, Michael’s physique was discovered hanging from a tree on the residential Herndon Avenue.

The racist hatred that led to Donald’s dying and his mom Beulah Mae Donald’s battle for justice is explored within the CNN Unique Collection, “The Folks v. The Klan,” airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Here is a information to the important thing occasions within the lynching of Michael Donald and the instances that adopted.


March 20, 1981

Within the CNN collection, Michael Donald’s sister Cecelia Perry describes her brother as quiet and well-mannered. The youngest baby of Beulah Mae Donald, he labored within the mailroom of the Cellular Press-Register and was finding out to be a brick mason.

“If he got here dwelling and I used to be mendacity down, he’d do, you recognize, little issues to assist,” Perry says.

“That is the form of boy he was.”

Treated yearbook photo of Michael Donald.

He spent his final night time alive along with his household, watching a basketball sport.

“We had been all gathered at my oldest sister’s home, Betty,” Perry remembers. “We’d at all times sit round on Friday night time, ‘trigger she lived proper not far away from my mother. … My niece Vanessa stated, ‘I would like some cigarettes.’ Michael stated, ‘I will stroll up there and get ’em.'”

March 20 – 21, 1981

Whereas out strolling, Donald was stopped by two White males in a automobile asking for instructions. It was a ruse — as soon as Donald paused to assist, one of many males produced a gun and compelled Donald into their automobile.

The 2 Klansmen, Henry Hays and James “Tiger” Knowles, then took Donald to a secluded location the place they beat him, strangled him and reduce his throat. They then took his physique again to a residential space of Cellular, the place they hung his physique from a tree.

That night time, members of the identical native Klan chapter additionally burned a cross on the garden on the Cellular County courthouse.

March 21, 1981

Phrase unfold shortly by Cellular in regards to the lynching as police arrived on the scene. Donald’s pockets was present in a dumpster, with an ID card inside figuring out the physique that held on Herndon Avenue as Michael Anthony Donald.

Michael Donald.

Police realized that day that Klansmen had been within the space; Bennie Jack Hays, the second-highest-ranking Klansman within the state, owned the property throughout the road from the place Donald’s physique was discovered.

“No person noticed something, no person heard something,” former Cellular murder detective Wilbur Williams says within the CNN collection. “We simply began investigating every little thing we may.”


March 25, 1981

Police arrested three males they believed to be concerned in Donald’s dying: Ralph Eugene Hayes and two brothers named Jimmy and Johnny Edgar (a trio that, as it could end up, had nothing to do with it). The three had been concerned in a home disturbance just a few blocks away, and a tipster named Johnny Ray Kelly claimed to have seen the boys within the space that Friday night time.

Kelly advised police he’d observed what appeared like blood on Hayes’ garments. Kelly stated he requested Hayes about it, and that the person responded that he’d “jumped a Black dude,” former Cellular District Lawyer Chris Galanos remembers within the CNN collection.

The detectives, Cecelia Perry says, started to inquire about whether or not her brother was concerned in medication, which the household knew wasn’t true.

“Cellular had a reasonably important late-night road inhabitants. Speaking about drug addicts,” Williams says. “So we obtained permission to look Michael’s room. And mainly discovered nothing in his bed room.”

Provides Perry, “We needed to simply dwell and work by it as a result of we knew that he was simply an harmless individual. He was harmless on this.”

March 28, 1981

Michael’s mom Beulah Mae Donald held an open-casket funeral, saying that she wished the world to see the horror that had been inflicted on her son.

Beulah Mae Donald attends the funeral for her son, Michael Donald.

“I did not even know what he appeared like as my baby,” Beulah Mae Donald stated. “The undertaker did not need me to see the place they’d made a footprint on his face with their boots.”

April 1981

Alongside along with her legal professional, Alabama state Sen. Michael Figures, Beulah Mae Donald and the native Black neighborhood protested and pushed the Cellular Police Division to not lose sight of justice for Michael Donald. Rev. Jesse Jackson got here to Cellular, serving to the case to realize nationwide consideration.

June 6, 1981

The three males initially charged in Donald’s dying had been launched after a grand jury decided the fees had been primarily based on perjured testimony.

It turned out the important thing witness, Johnny Ray Kelly, had his personal authorized troubles — and the story he’d advised police was a lie.

“It was actually miserable — you could not eat, you could not consider nothing else ‘trigger our life had simply come to a standstill,” Donald’s sister Cecelia Perry says. She provides that regardless of the efforts of the Black neighborhood, “the Cellular Police Division, they sat on it and they might simply name and say, ‘we’ve not forgotten you Ms. Donald, we nonetheless engaged on the case.’ Oh, OK. Do one thing about it.”

Cecelia Perry, Michael Donald's older sister.
Then Sen. Michael Figures and his brother Thomas Figures, on the time an Assistant United States Lawyer, steadily utilized strain on the Justice Division to look at the case.

January 1983

Now retired FBI particular agent James Bodman was tapped to look into the homicide of Michael Donald.

“The pinnacle of the FBI workplace got here as much as me and laid a paper file on my desk and he stated, ‘Jim, take this case. The Justice Division, they won’t permit us to shut the case,'” Bodman says within the CNN collection. “And I requested him, I stated, ‘Sir, what do you suppose I am gonna do with it? I perceive all people on the town’s been interviewed thrice.’ He stated, ‘You’re taking this case and you’re employed it.’ … I get the case. They supposedly saved saying, ‘It was a drug case gone dangerous. It was not a racial case. It was a drug case gone dangerous.’ That was not the problem.”

Michael Donald

Bodman started to analyze. “Donald had been held on a tree, the identical block the place this group of Klan lived and I am pondering, ‘Gee whiz, what higher place to start out?'” the now-former agent stated. “So I began interviewing these individuals and I approached them with the concept they weren’t the topic of that investigation, aside from the very fact I need your data. I need to know what you recognize. And the extra I ask questions, the extra they talked.”

Might 1983

Authorities continued to analyze a number of members of the Klavern 900, the world chapter of the United Klans of America, and known as some to testify earlier than a federal grand jury.

June 1983

One in all Donald’s killers, James “Tiger” Knowles, confessed. He implicated Henry Hays, the opposite Klansman who helped him kill Donald that March night time in 1981, and each males had been arrested. Hays pleaded not responsible.


December 6, 1983

Hays’ capital homicide trial started, with Knowles testifying in opposition to him after pleading responsible to a federal cost of violating Michael Donald’s civil rights.
James Tiger Knowles.

“The settlement was (that), since Tiger had incriminated Henry Hays, Tiger could be allowed to plead responsible to a civil rights violation within the Federal system and was to have been sentenced to a life time period, after which we’d attempt Henry in state court docket for capital homicide,” former Cellular District Lawyer Chris Galanos explains within the docuseries. And by attempting Hays within the state of Alabama, the prosecution was in a position to search the dying penalty.

December 8, 1983

Knowles testified in opposition to Hays, going into element about how — and why — Donald was killed. The identical week of Donald’s homicide, Knowles stated, there was a special felony case that had the eye of Cellular Klansmen: The trial of a Black man named Josephus Anderson.
Anderson was accused of killing a White police officer in an earlier theft. When the jury could not attain a verdict, the case resulted in a mistrial. Knowles testified that he and Hays went “searching” for a Black individual for revenge.
Henry Hays, 29, on trial for capital murder in Mobile, Alabama.

“The Klan wished the message to get again to the Black individuals of not simply Alabama, however the entire United States, that we’d not stand for a Black individual killing a White police officer and getting away with it,” Knowles testified. “Particularly in Alabama. We would gotten the rope, and we obtained the gun, after which I tied the hangman’s noose in Henry’s automobile. We had been out on a hunt.”

December 19, 1983

The jury discovered Hays responsible of capital homicide and really useful life with out parole.

February 1984


June 1984

With Hays sentenced to dying and Knowles dealing with life in jail, the boys who brutally assaulted and killed the 19-year-old had been lastly punished.

However the Klan, the group that bred the hate behind Knowles’ and Hays’ crime, was nonetheless a menace. Beulah Mae Donald’s lawyer, then Sen. Michael Figures, together with Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle, filed an over $10 million civil swimsuit in opposition to the United Klans of America and others.
Mrs. Donald is shown at a news conference with her attorneys, State Sen. Michael Figures, center at podium, and Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“My mom, she say, ‘The worst has already been achieved,'” Cecelia Perry remembers within the CNN collection. “‘My baby is gone. I need to make them pay for what they’ve achieved to my baby.'”

February 12, 1987

After listening to Donald’s case, an all-White jury awarded a $7 million judgment. The sum was so important that it successfully bankrupted the United Klans of America, which was often called one of many largest and most violent KKK factions.
Robert Shelton, in the foreground with a cigarette, was the leader of the United Klans of America.
In an try to pay a few of the damages owed, the United Klans of America turned over its headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Beulah Mae Donald. She bought the constructing and used the cash to purchase her first dwelling.


September 1988

Beulah Mae Donald died on the age of 67. Earlier than her dying, she was honored by Ms. Journal because the publication’s 1987 Lady of the 12 months.
“I wished to know who all actually killed my baby,” she stated in response, based on The New York Occasions. ”I wasn’t even fascinated by the cash. If I hadn’t gotten a cent, it would not have mattered. I wished to understand how and why they did it.”
Beulah Mae Donald took ownership of the United Klans of America headquarters building in Tuscaloosa.

June 1997

Henry Hays was executed in Alabama. It was the primary time since 1913 {that a} White individual had been put to dying for against the law dedicated in opposition to a Black individual within the state.

Might 2006

Herndon Avenue, the road the place Michael Donald’s physique was discovered, was renamed in his honor round 25 years after his dying.

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