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Remembrance Planned for Madison County Lynching Victim, Lemuel Penn

Members of the community are invited to a remembrance ceremony, honoring Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn. The Army reservist was lynched in Madison County on July 11, 1964. Penn and two other reservists were traveling from Fort Benning in Columbus back to Washington D.C. when they were targeted by members of the Athens Ku Klux Klan. John Vodicka is a co-coordinator with the Athens Area Court watch Project. He details the events of that night.

“Penn was driving as they left Athens, and the Klansmen trailed the Washington D.C. car,” Vodicka said. “When they got to the Broad River on the Madison County side, the Klan car pulled along side the car being driven by Lt. Colonel Penn and shotgun blasts were fired into the Penn car and Penn was mortally wounded. The other two soldiers managed to keep the car from going into the river.”

The three suspects were acquitted by an all-white jury. Two were trial in federal court and they received five-year sentences. Rally organizers want those attending to be aware of the circumstances surrounding the case.

“The lead organizer Lena Watkins Chandler, who lives in Madison County is really hoping that it can begin a process where residents of Madison County can own this history, admit to this history, recognize this history, in a way that might bring about some sort of reconciling and healing.”

Major Charles Brown and Lt. Col. John Howard survived the attack. The event will be held at the Madison County Senior Center at 10 am on Thursday, July 11.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!