Florida Branches of the NAACP have been quite busy with legal battles during the past few weeks. Several cases that involve the fundamental rights of Negro citizens are being handled by our branches in various sections of the state.
On Sept. 7, 1947, A. C. Hopkins, a Negro veteran of Miami, was fatally shot by R. O. Weignad, white policeman of South Miami. The policeman claimed that he shot Hopkins in self defense as the Negro was attempting to draw some kind of weapon from his shirt. Officer Weignad also claimed that Hopkins was drunk and acting disorderly. Although several Negro witnesses declared that Hopkins was shot in the back as he walked away from the policeman, the first coroner's inquest accepted Officer Weignad's side of the story and returned a verdict of "justifiable homicide". The Miami Branch of the NAACP then entered the case and employed Atty. Leo Sheiner, liberal white lawyer of Miami, to assist with the prosecution. As a result of this action, Justice of the Peace Sutton ordered Officer Weignad to be held on a charge of second-degree murder.
In August Aaron Quince, 19 year old Negro of Daytona Beach, was charged with the first-degree murder of a white woman near Holly Hill. It was claimed that Quince had made some kind of "confession", and apparently everything was "all set" for his arraignment and conviction. Just a few hours before the hearing the Court had appointed counsel to defend Quince. We are told that the Court-appointed counsel had not talked with the prisoner, and no doubt had not even seen Quince, until he was brought into the courtroom.
Fortunately, however, officers of the Daytona Beach Branch, NAACP, had decided that there was no doubt as to the guilt of this boy, and Atty. L. E. Thomas, brilliant Negro lawyer of Miami, had been engaged to enter the case. There was great surprise in the Court the next morning when Atty. Thomas walked up and presented a motion for delay. Atty. Thomas next made an attack on the all-white Grand Jury that had indicted Quince. So ably did Thomas attack the systematic exclusion of Negroes from Jury service in Volusia County that Judge Jackson suddenly postponed the Quince Case "indefinitely". On Sept. 30 Judge Jackson upheld the defense plea that "Negroes were unlawfully, arbitrarily and systematically excluded from the Grand Jury". He then quashed the murder indictment against Quince and directed the County commission to purge the entire 1947 jury box and refill it "as provided by law".
Early in September two Negro school girls were attacked by two white men in Washington County, near Chipley, Fla. Miss Elizabeth Jenkins was raped by one white man, while another white man attempted to rape her sister. The Washington County Branch of the NAACP quickly went into action and employed Atty. W. Flournoy, able white lawyer of the De Funiak Springs, to assist with the prosecution of these men. As a result, the white man who actually committed rape is being held in jail without bond, and the other man is also in jail in default of a bond of $5000.
It is interesting to note also that recent attacks on the Southern "white primary", led by the St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Brevard County Branches of the NAACP, have brought victorious results. St. Petersburg Negroes were able to vote in their City Primary last summer, and on Sept. 2, several thousand Tampa Negroes voted in their City Primary as members of the "White Municipal Party". The Brevard County Branch launched its attack against the Titusville "White Primary", and on Sept. 2 Negro citizens of that little town cast their first ballots in a city primary.
Thus our fight for Justice and equal rights continues. For 38 years the NAACP has led this fight against the various forms of prejudice and discrimination heaped upon Negro citizens. Are you playing our part in this noble fight? If not, you should decide now to join the NAACP and help to support its great work. Join your local branch to-day and help Florida to reach its goal of 25,000 members for 1947. If there is not a branch in your community, write us a card and we shall be glad to help you get one started there. You need only 50 members to get a chartered branch. Remember the old proverb: "He who would be free must himself strike the first blow".
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