STEP RIGHT UP AND MEET
JAMES T. LANE IS OZIE POWELL
Ozie Powell was born in rural Georgia, near Atlanta, in 1916. His parents separated when he was just a boy. Powell could write his name but not much else. According to his own testimony during the first trial, Powell only had three months of formal education.
When he was fourteen, Powell left home. He worked in lumber camps and sawmills for weeks or months at a time before moving on. A year after leaving home, he headed to Memphis on a Southern Railroad train. Powell was riding alone when the train was stopped and Powell was arrested, along with eight other African American boys.
Following the swift group conviction of “The Scottsboro Boys,” Powell was imprisoned without a retrial for five years. In 1936, while being transported from a trial to the Birmingham Jail, Powell cracked under the constant abuse from the guards. While handcuffed in the back seat, Powell attacked the deputy sheriff. Thinking Powell’s action was an escape attempt, the sheriff shot Powell in the head.
On the operating table, Powell told his mother, “I done give up … ‘cause everybody in Alabama is down on me and is mad at me.” Powell teetered on the verge of death, but survived, suffering permanent brain damage.
Ozie received twenty years for assaulting the deputy sheriff and was sent to Atmore, the prison known as “the murderers’ home.” Powell was finally paroled on June 16, 1946.
Read more about Ozie Powell at Scottsboro: An American Tragedy.
JAMES T. LANE is a native of Philadelphia. Broadway: A Chorus Line (Richie Walters), Chicago (Aaron/Amos). Concerts: Johnny Mercer Tribute (Soloist) – Carnegie Hall (New York Pops), Indianapolis, Ottawa, Baltimore and Naples’ Symphonies. Television: “The View,” “Ellen Degeneres,” “Dancing with the Stars” and James Brown on “One Life to Live.” Marriage Equality!
THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS begins performances October 7 and opens October 31 at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street).
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