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Fri Jun 11, 2021, 01:11 PM

Albert King Is Not Forgotten

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“This case has everything to do with reparations.” — Prof. Margaret Burnham

Albert King Is Not Forgotten

In 1941, the U.S. military papered over the killing of a young Black soldier by a White {NCO}. Can there be justice 80 years later?

By Alexa Mills
MAY 28, 2021

Pvt. Albert King’s body was still warm when his killer’s trial began at 3:02 p.m. on March 24, 1941. Sgt. Robert Lummus faced the charge of manslaughter — of willfully, feloniously and unlawfully killing King. Outside the court-martial room at Fort Benning, Ga., under overcast skies, some 50,000 soldiers were training for the possibility that the United States would enter World War II. ... One day earlier, on Sunday afternoon, King had departed Fort Benning with a good-conduct card in hand. He was dressed in uniform — olive-green slacks, shirt, necktie and field cap — and headed for the nearby city of Columbus, where his grandmother, who’d recently died after a heart attack, had lived in a small shotgun house with a full porch.

King went out that night with a friend, Pfc. Lawrence Hoover, to a beer joint called the Cozy Spot where Black people like them could dance, drink and relax. They met King’s girlfriend of four years, and her friend, while they were out. It was 3:30 in the morning by the time King and Hoover started back for their barracks. They waved down a bus, paid their 15-cent fares and headed toward the back where the other Black passengers sat. The nearly full bus had more White riders than Black.

King, Hoover and the two young women continued the night’s revelry on the bus, sitting on each other’s laps, “hollering and laughing and cutting up,” as the bus driver later described it. King was loud, according to several Black passengers and the driver — shouting and “cussing” at no one in particular, which his friends did not mind.

The bus driver minded. He stopped and started the bus, and sent a second driver — armed with a handheld weapon called a blackjack, often leather with metal inside one end — to hush King, who, when threatened with being kicked off, demanded his fare back. The driver stopped again near the gates of Fort Benning. That’s when Sgt. Lummus, a White military police officer on night duty, rode up on his motorcycle and came onboard. The driver pointed out King. Both men were about 20 years old. Lummus told King to come to the front. King replied, “What do you want with me up there?”


Alexa Mills is a writer in New York. Washington Post researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Design by Christian Font. Art direction by Suzette Moyer. Photo editing by Dudley M. Brooks.

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