March 27: Black Man Killed by White Alabama Congressman On This Date in 1908

0 Posted by - March 27, 2022 - Injustices, LATEST POSTS, On This Date

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Montgomery Advertiser

On March 27, 1908, Alabama Representative James Thomas Heflin fatally shot Louis Lundy, a Black man, on a Washington, D.C. streetcar after he reportedly swore in front of a white woman. After shooting Mr. Lundy in the neck, the congressman claimed that Mr. Lundy’s cursing was “creating a disturbance,” and he got an outpouring of sympathy from the white people and his fellow legislators. He was never found responsible for Mr. Lundy’s death.

Rep. Heflin was apparently on his way to a neighborhood church in Washington, D.C. that afternoon to give a lecture about “temperance.” He focused his attention on Mr. Lundy, who was riding the streetcar with companions, as he boarded a streetcar on Sixth Street with a coworker. Rep. Heflin grew agitated and aggressive after alleging that Mr. Lundy had spoken profanity in the presence of a white lady on the streetcar. He struck Mr. Lundy with the butt of his gun and dragged him off the vehicle.

Rep. Heflin then re-boarded the streetcar and, unhappy with just leaving Mr. Lundy battered on the street, fired two rounds through the streetcar window at the Black man. One bullet wounded Mr. Lundy in the neck, injuring him and requiring him to be sent to a nearby hospital in severe condition.

Rep. Heflin was arrested on the scene but gained quick support from colleagues and local white Washington, D.C. people. Heflin got a bunch of roses from a local Baptist preacher, along with a message noting that the priest “approved highly of his daring gallantry,” according to the newspaper. Rep. Heflin returned to the legislative session the next day after being freed on bail and was welcomed warmly by his colleagues, who promised to “do everything imaginable” to help him. “I merely did what any other gentleman would do,” the congressman said publicly when asked about killing Mr. Lundy.

J. Thomas Heflin made a political career out of upholding white supremacy, as seen by his staunch opposition to interracial marriage and continuous support for convict leasing and segregation. Heflin, an Alabama Constitution drafter in 1901, said that “God Almighty intended the negro to be the servant of the white man,” and bragged that his father enslaved more people in Randolph County than anybody else.

Mr. Lundy had just submitted a bill in Washington, D.C., advocating for segregated seating on streetcars to prohibit Black males from sitting close to white ladies, calling interracial riding on streetcars “an unpleasant and aggravating situation.” Despite the fact that the bill failed, Congressman Heflin’s support for segregation and white supremacy made him popular among his colleagues and his voters. The allegations against Congressman Heflin for killing Mr. Lundy in 1908 were dropped, and he was never charged with the crime.

Congressman Heflin later served as an Alabama Representative until 1920, and then as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1920 to 1931.

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