A Black “Gunslinger” in New York ©
By Alton H. Maddox, Jr.
Have Gun Will Travel. There was a Black cowboy before there was John Wayne. This is the way that I viewed attorney Donald Hollowell. His law office was in Atlanta but he traveled Georgia’s myriad judicial circuits. This was no small feat. Georgia has 159 counties. A good lawyer has to master geography.
In Atlanta, GA, Donald Hollowell was known as a “gunslinger.” When he made an appearance, white businesses would shut down in Newnan, GA. It was like a boxing match between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis. The natives were not rooting for Tarzan. It was a “rumble in the jungle.” Their man was the “Brown Bomber.” Jack Johnson would have loved it.
Hollowell was slated to be the first, Black federal judge in the South. White supremacists resented it. No white supremacist needed a Black “gunslinger” on the bench. A gun was an equalizer. This became the legal basis for the Fourteenth Amendment.
In Newnan, GA, Marion Florence was my neighbor. He was employed by a local grocer, for whom he made deliveries. He didn’t return from lunch on time one day and no one could find him. His white employer went “bananas.” He decided to deduct his salary from his “hide” when he finally returned. Marion pulled out his knife and defended himself against his employer and his employer’s son.
Marion’s mother went to attorney Walter Sanders, who was known as the best lawyer in Newnan. He and other white lawyers, along with judges, settled cases in the courtyard of the courthouse over lemonade. Walter Sanders brought up Marion’s case to the judge. The judge replied: “That nigger cut a white man.” Sanders became incensed with his client.
He summoned Marion to his office to tell him the bad news. “Nigger, why didn’t you tell me that you had cut a white man?” Sanders went on to say: “Nigger you are going to prison. Get out of my office before I call the police.” When the victim is white, and the accused is Black is white, justice is not color-blind.
Marion’s mother refused to raise the white flag. Her next stop was at Donald Hollowell’s office, which should have been her first stop. Hollowell went to work to get Marion released on bail and to prepare Marion’s defense. Effective assistance of counsel means “gunslinging.” There has to be a shoot-out at the O.K. Corral.
A jury refused to convict Marion of the felony. The jury only convicted him of a misdemeanor. Afterwards, Hollowell recommended that Marion appeal the jury’s decision. Marion, thankful for what he got, and afraid that the appellate court might reverse the decision, decided to live with spending a year in the county jail, coupled with a reduction of the sentence for good behavior.
In 1976, in Manhattan Supreme Court, white court officers warned me that the front row was reserved for white attorneys. To that revelation, I made two objections. First, I am “an officer of the court.” I don’t take orders from court officers. Secondly, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregated courtrooms on April 29, 1963.
Court officers reported my defiance to the “High Sheriff of Wall Street,” Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. He was incensed. He ordered Charles Rangel and New York Secretary of State, Basil Paterson, to summon me to his office. I asked Rev. Calvin Butts and attorney C. Vernon Mason to be my escorts.
Morgenthau advised me, that “I better learn my place.” I advised him that my mother had never taught me my place. She had made her transition. The statute of limitations had now barred me from learning it. You will have to live with me as a “militant Black.”
Morgenthau would retaliate against me for having talked to a white man with my eyes zooming in on a white man’s eyes. I should have been looking at the ground; scratching when nothing itched and laughing when nothing was funny. These were the mannerisms of a “Negro boy.”
I learned that I was playing with “fire.” Court officers attacked my client, Willie Bosket and me in the courtroom. Both of us were arrested and taken to the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown. There was a jurisdictional tug of war between court officers and police officers. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Billie Holliday had to be the arbitrator. She was Black.
In 1987, when Tawana Brawley, a fifteen-year-old Black girl, was raped by six white supremacists, it was not only a “political crime,” but also a challenge to all Black males. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. said it best: “If a man doesn’t have anything to die for, he has nothing to live for.”
Medical personnel, after examining Tawana, documented that it was a “hate crime.” I had already secured legislation against hate crimes and secured a special prosecutor in Howard Beach and not a public prosecutor in racially-motivated cases. This was unprecedented.
Gov. Mario Cuomo not only erased all of my work in Howard Beach and retaliated against me for ending white vigilantism, but also blamed the messenger for the message. It is still a well-kept secret and shielded from immigrants and Muslims that I am the “architect of hate-crime legislation.” They would know that we are not all the same. This knowledge could only inure to the benefit of Muslims and immigrants.
When I agreed to represent the family of Michael Griffith, inHoward Beach, my intent was not to obtain “hush money” for the Griffith family but rather to end white vigilantism in New York. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 hindered the constitutional right of all Blacks to travel. This was a “badge of slavery.”
Pagones v. Maddox, Sharpton and Brawley (a nominal defendant), Index No. 4595 (Sup. Ct., Dutchess Co., 1988) is discoverable, as of right, under Article 240 of the CPLR and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). This is indisputable proof that New York is “infested with racism.” See alsoCPW Towers, LLC v. Maddox, Index No. L&T 86146 (Civ. Ct., N.Y. Co. 2014) and Matter of Maddox (2nd Dept. 1994). Demand the transcript from public officials of Pagones v. Maddox and Matter of Maddox (2nd Dept. 1990).
Keep the Pressure On!
NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (212-416-8000)
Mayor de Blasio – firstname.lastname@example.org (212) 788-2958
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