First Legal Case of NAACP: Pink Franklin Trial

2 Posted by - July 4, 2022 - LATEST POSTS

The first major legal case of the NAACP was the Pink Franklin Case. Pink Franklin, a South Carolina sharecropper accused of murder. Franklin did not show up for work one day after receiving an advance on his pay. A warrant was quickly sworn for his arrest, and armed police set out to his home to find out what was going on. The police arrived at Franklin’s small cabin before dawn to serve the warrant on him. As they approached the door gunshots were fired, and one of the officers were killed by Franklin.

Franklin was arrested and convicted, but he always claimed self-defense. He was sentenced to death. After hearing about Franklin’s sentence the NAACP got involved. What came to light with the case was that Pink Franklin did shoot Valentine, and the constable died later that day from the wound. But it was Officer Valentine who opened fire as he burst unannounced into the cabin of 22 year-old Pink Franklin and Patsy Franklin, Franklin’s 21-year-old wife. Both were wounded, and Franklin returned fire with his pistol, which killed Valentine. At the time the local magistrate, Valentine’s brother, issued the warrant for Franklin’s arrest at the request of the land owner Jake Thomas were Franklin lived.

Following the shooting, Franklin and his wife managed to evade a lynch mob, thanks to the efforts of ex-state Sen. Stanwix Mayfield of Denmark, Orangeburg Sheriff John H. Dukes and Gov. Martin F. Ansel. Franklin was taken to the state prison in Columbia. Both Pink Franklin and Patsy Franklin were put on trial. The trial lasted for one day on Sept 9, 1907, in the Orangeburg courtroom. Black lawyers Jacob Moorer of Orangeburg and John Adams of Manning defended Franklin, arguing that he had fired in self-defense, unaware that Valentine was an officer of the law or that he had a warrant. It did not take the jury long to find Pink Franklin guilty. The judge sentenced him to death by hanging and Patsy Franklin as found not quality. However, the case didn’t end there.

Attorneys Moorer and Adams appealed to have the verdict overturned, first to the South Carolina Supreme Court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals were rejected. The NAACP then took on the Franklin case with the assistance of Thomas E. Miller, the president of South Carolina State College and a lawyer by profession. This was the NAACP’s first legal case in 1910. The executive secretary of the NAACP, Frances Blascoer, a white woman, collaborated with Miller in a desperate attempt to get Franklin’s death sentence commuted to life in prison.

On Jan. 5, 1911, Gov. Ansel commuted Franklin’s sentence to life in prison. By 1915 Franklin was toiling on the chain gang in Bowman. Then in 1919, after a persistent campaign by the NAACP, Gov. Richard Manning pardoned Pink Franklin. A free man after 12 years of incarceration, he changed his identity to Mack Rockingham and lived the rest of his life as a farmer with wife Patsy and two sons in Blackville. He died in 1949.





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