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Tom Joyner’s Falsely Executed Relatives Cleared – 94 Years Later
BlackAmericaWeb.com/Jackie Jones—The South Carolina Parole and Pardons Board has unanimously granted Tom Joyner a posthumous pardon for his great-uncles, Thomas and Meeks Griffin, who were executed in 1915 for a crime they didn’t commit.
Officials believe the men are the first in the state to be posthumously pardoned in a capital murder case.
Joyner, his brother, Albert, and two sons, Thomas and Oscar, were joined by Harvard scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and his legal team in presenting their case. The host of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” called in to the program right after the decision came down shortly after 9:30 a.m. to inform co-hosts Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown, along with his nationwide listening audience, who’d been texting their well-wishes for the family all morning.
“They did give my uncles a posthumous pardon,” Joyner said. “We’re getting ready to go now for the signing of the pardon letter.”
Joyner had been on a quest to clear his uncles’ names after learning of their story when Gates announced the results of genealogy research conducted on Joyner’s family as part of the 2008 PBS special, “African American Lives II.”
Joyner, with help from Gates and South Carolina attorney Stephen K. Benjamin, put together the case petitioning the state to exonerate his maternal great-uncles.
The brothers were executed with two other black men for the April 1913 shooting death of John Lewis, 73, a wealthy Confederate veteran living in a town 40 miles north of Columbia.
The Griffin brothers were indicted in July 1913 and given just two days to prepare the case. The family was forced to sell 130 acres of land to finance the defense. Their lawyer sought a delay but the request was denied, leaving just one day to get ready. Later, the state Supreme Court said the denial was insignificant to the outcome of the case.
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African-American Lives 2 – Tom Joyner
The video clip below is poignant moment from the documentary where Dr. Gates stuns Joyner by telling him that his great-uncles were electrocuted by the State of South Carolina, for a murder they didn’t commit. Historically, of the 47 people who were put to death in South Carolina between 1912 and 1920, 44 were Black.
Albany Law School professor Dr. Paul Finkelman, who helped with the research on the case, says he’s never seen a case in which so many white public officials and sentences came forward to try to help black men who had been convicted.
“The Griffin brothers stand for the thousands of people who are unjustly accused, unjustly convicted,“ he said after the pardon was granted. “It’s not just Tom Joyner’s family. This is a much bigger story and there are other stories that need to be told.”
Put Tom Joyner’s life and ancestry in historical context with the PBS Interactive Historical Timeline
Tom Joyner’s Falsely Executed Relatives Cleared – 94 Years Too Late
SC Board Pardons 2 Black Men Executed 94 Years Ago