68 UMKC L. Rev. 549 (1999-2000)
Without Fear or Favor: Judge James Edwin Horton and the Trial of the Scottsboro Boys

handle is hein.journals/umkc68 and id is 559 raw text is: WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR: JUDGE JAMES EDWIN
HORTON AND THE TRIAL OF THE SCOTTSBORO
BOYS
Douglas 0. Linder
The Tennessee River flows westward from Chattanooga, arcs through the
eight northernmost counties of Alabama, then reenters Tennessee. In the early
1930's, it was a free-flowing river, cutting south through the plateaus and Ap-
palachian foothills of Jackson and Marshall counties before turning toward the
cotton and cattle country of northwest Alabama. On its way out of the state,
the Tennessee plunged 140 feet in thirty miles near Muscle Shoals, making
navigation farther downriver impossible.
In the Alabama towns that dot the broad valley of the Tennessee - Ste-
venson, Paint Rock, Scottsboro, Decatur, Athens - Depression Era drama un-
folded. The case of The Scottsboro Boys launched and ended careers,
wasted lives, divided America's left, created sectional strife, and fueled a
fledgling civil rights movement. It also produced one southern hero: an ob-
scure Alabama circuit judge was turned into one of the nation's most praised
jurists.
Time, like the Tennessee, flows on. The heroism of Judge James Horton
and the Scottsboro Boys trial that brought him fame have receded from pub-
lic memory. The central characters of the legal battle are all dead. The two
women whose accusation of rape against nine black teenagers started it all
died in the early 1980's. The last of the nine Scottsboro Boys died in 1989.
Only a few bit players-an International Labor Defense law clerk here, a na-
tional guardsman who transported defendants to the courthouse there-are left.
Remodelers, developers, urban renewers, highway builders, and national fran-
chisers have erased or buried most of the sets upon which the drama was
staged. Accumulating events have shrunk the case to footnote status in history
texts. The story of Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys should not be al-
lowed to just fade away.
1
James Edwin Horton, in 1857, settled on the Elk River, a tributary of the
Tennessee angling southwest through Limestone County. Until the start of the
Civil War, Horton operated a cotton and cattle farm with the help of several
slaves. Serving as an aide-de-camp to General S. Donelson in the war, Horton
met and wed the General's daughter, Emily, niece of former President Andrew
Jackson. In 1878, James Edwin and Emily had a son, James Edwin Horton,
Jr.1
On an evening fifty-five years later, Circuit Judge James Horton, Jr. was
having dinner with his family in his antebellum home in central Athens,
1. Gillian W. Goodrich, James Edwin Horton, Jr.: Scottsboro Judge 21-25 (1974) (un-
published Masters thesis, University of Alabama-Birmingham) (on file with author).

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